By Peter Schwartz
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Every holiday season, Islanders left wing Anders Lee and his teammates visit hospitals and see first-hand what pediatric cancer patients go through.
They are days the players look forward to so that they can spend time with the kids and see the bravery and courage they have.
"Going through such tough circumstances at such a young age … the kids are absolutely inspiring," Lee told WFAN.com. "After being able to do that for a couple of years and see them, it was definitely something I had in my head that I wanted to help with."
Last spring, Lee decided it was time to figure out a way to do more. He thought about putting together a foundation or a fund, but felt that he wasn't ready for something like that. What he needed was an idea for an event to help raise money for pediatric cancer.
And that brought Lee to Jam Kancer in the Kan, an organization created in 2014 that raises money through an annual "Kan Jam" tournament. Kan Jam is a game created in the 1980s in which participants earn points by throwing and deflecting a Frisbee into a can.
Lee had played the game growing up in Minnesota and decided that this was an event he wanted to get involved with.
"I just thought it was something that lined up exactly with what I wanted to do," he said.
So what the former Notre Dame star has done is create his own event called the Anders Lee Kancer Jam. This year's fundraiser is scheduled for March 18 at Barclays Center following the Islanders' 1 p.m. game against Columbus. The tournament will feature 32 teams -- 64 people participating along with Lee and all of his teammates.
In order to participate, teams must pledge to raise at least $2,000 by signing up at www.crowdrise.com/jamkancerinthekan.
Each team sets up its own fundraising page that can be sent to family and friends in an effort to raise money for pediatric cancer. All donations will go to the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation and then be distributed to the Cohen's Children's Medical Center on Long Island, one of the hospitals that Lee and the Islanders visit each year.
"(Lee has) met the kids in their cancer center, and that was part of the reason why he wanted to do this event and raise money for them," said Jamey Crimmins of MMB Marketing Enterprises, which is coordinating the fundraiser with Lee.
While Lee is focused on and excited about his event, his mind is also on the Islanders' push for the playoffs and a nine-game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Detroit. The Islanders are in a crowded race in the Eastern Conference and sit two points back of the Bruins for the second wild-card spot. The nine-game excursion will likely determine whether they remain in the race or drop out of it.
"We understand the gravity of the situation where every night is a playoff game," Lee said. "It's an extremely important couple of weeks here where we're going to have to be focused and ready to go each night."
The Islanders have always been focused on being active in the community with events such as golf outings, poker tournaments and school visits. But this fundraising event being organized by Lee is different than perhaps any other in the franchise's 45-year history.
What makes this event so unique as opposed to others is that just about everyone can participate because just about everybody can throw a Frisbee. Many celebrities organize a golf tournament to raise money, but not everyone plays golf.
"I played in school all of the time and outside in the backyard," Lee said. "It's a simple game. It was just something different that hadn't been done before. We can do a quick 32-team tournament with a pretty intimate setting where it's just the players and the teams that are able to sign up and raise some money."
The goal for each team is $2,000, but there are incentives to raise even more than that. All of the teams will get tickets to the Islanders' game that day, but the top four fundraisers will sit in the owners' suite. The team that raises the most money will also get a Zamboni ride and be able to high-five the Islanders when they step onto the ice.
"We want people to raise as much money as they can," Crimmins said.
After the game, the teams will head downstairs for a private reception in the Calvin Klein Club before they mix it up with Lee and the Islanders in the Kan Jam tournament. Hockey players are naturally very competitive on the ice, but that also carries over to events off the ice. This will be no different.
In fact, the Islanders have the Kan Jam game set up in their weight room, and they've been known to fool around with it when they have some free time. You know Lee is motivated to do well, but there's another player on the team who is really taking this tournament seriously.
"Josh Bailey is talking a pretty big game," Lee said. "He's been scouting guys to see how they throw the Frisbee because he wants his partner to be the ringer. I think he has the lead going into it."
Lee, his teammates and all of Islanders country are hoping that March 18 turns out to be one of the great days in team history. There is the possibility that the Islanders will be continuing their playoff push, and Lee's event will be generating lots of money for pediatric cancer.
"It's really shaping up to be a fun Saturday afternoon," Lee said.
A fun Saturday afternoon that could put smiles on the faces of Islanders fans as well as many children who are going through some difficult times.
Don't forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @leeberr09 and @jamkancer.
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