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Saturday, May 28, 2016
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Sparky, Dina rally Wheeler students
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
Wheeler Avenue School students did some exercises in their seats to learn how they could stay fit and healthy.

Sparky the Dragon has a lot of fans. Even for kids who aren’t fans of the New York Islanders, they get a kick out of a big blue and orange mascot visiting their school.

That was the case on Feb. 1 at the Wheeler Avenue School, when the Islanders I.C.E. Tour stopped by with Sparky and Dina Tsiorvas, a.k.a. Dina the Arena Hostess. Dina talked to the students about the importance of eating healthy, regular exercise, doing well in school and teamwork. She showed them a video touching on these topics, featuring several Islanders coaches and trainers.

Sparky picked two children and one teacher from the audience during each session and brought them up on stage for a teamwork demonstration. The two students together had to stack orange foam hockey pucks on one of their foreheads, while the teacher had to do it all by herself.

Dina, a Valley Stream native and Central High School graduate, said the Islanders’ school program has expanded over the years. It used to just center on teamwork but has expanded to include lessons on healthy lifestyle choices. At the end of the program, students were given some Islanders goodies, including an application for free tickets to a hockey game if they do well in school. “What better incentive is there?” Dina said.

During the NHL lockout which ended last month, the Islanders I.C.E. Tour continued even though hockey wasn’t being played. And when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2015, Long Island schools will still get visits from Sparky and Dina.

Students Joe Kelly, Michael Houlihan and Bella Barriga said they learned a lot and were excited to see Sparky at their school. The most important lesson for them was the value of teamwork. “You can’t always get everything done by yourself,” Bella said.


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