NEW YORK — Anders Lee spoke from the heart and dragged some tears out of eyes, including his own.
Lee, the New York Islanders captain, gave an emotional speech about life, friendship and doing great deeds for others in need prior to kicking off the third annual Anders Lee Kancer Jam following the Islanders 6-2 loss against the Dallas Stars at Barclays Center on Sunday.
Lee had to speak because his close friend and his inspiration for the event, Fenov Pierre-Louis, couldn’t.
Fenov, a native of Roselle, New Jersey, died at the age of 17 from stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer on July 18. He was diagnosed in the second grade and was in attendance for the first two Kancer Jam events at Barclays Center.
“Fenov was one of those people that came into my life and really just changed me right away, changed my perspective on things,” Lee said. “He just made that much of an impact on me in such a short amount of time. It’s amazing what you can learn from a 17-year-old kid. He was wise beyond his years. His friendship is something I’ll never forget and I cherish every day we had. Now we get to honor him as we continue this foundation event and do our best to not only help kids with cancer but their families and try to find a cure for this disease.”
Fenov’s presence was felt by those in attendance Sunday, both inspirationally and visually. A banner showing Fenov and inspiration he would use was draped across the side of the Brooklyn Nets’ practice court, where the event took place.
“Even the smallest amount of help and sympathy you can provide to a child with kancer will mean the absolute world,” the quote read.
Lee’s Kancer Jam, an event where teams throw a Frisbee and try to land it into a can with the help of a teammate, has raised more than $300,000 since it began in 2016. Lee’s wife, Grace, said this year’s total was up to $117,00 and more donations were likely to come in.
“It’s amazing how much we’ve actually raised just from a little Frisbee game,” Lee said.
There were 32 teams in the event Sunday. They all had to raise $2,500 to join.
The money raised goes to charities and organizations that support families affected by cancer. Lee said they are also starting an academic scholarship in Fenov’s name that will go to a student at his high school, Academy of Information Technology in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
Lee said there would likely be more scholarships or grants available through the money raised.
“Fenov was so focused on school and considering how often he missed school for treatments when he was in Philadelphia coming back to New Jersey, he was still getting straight As and really cared about his schoolwork,” Lee said. “The scholarship is going to be aimed toward kids that not only work hard in the classroom but also do stuff in the community for kids with cancer.”
The event was attended by approximately 250 people, including every Islanders player, who participated in the Kan Jam games.
“I think we were both dreading and looking forward to this day for a while because we wanted to represent Fenov in the best way possible and that’s a challenge if you ever heard him speak and the way he holds himself,” Grace Lee said. “Just seeing all of Anders’ teammates and their wives and their families come here, and just seeing even them get emotional really shows how linked and how understanding people are becoming of cancer. Everyone wants to participate and help out and it’s truly touching.”
Fenov’s family members were also in attendance, including his mother, Mathilda, and his sister, Sciaska, who is a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania.
“When Anders was speaking, everyone was tearing up,” Sciaska said. “Not everyone knew Fenov personally, but just to see that they’re really able to be empathetic and sympathetic with what Anders was saying, it just shows that you don’t have to know someone who had cancer personally to know what they were going through and what the family was going through.
“The hardship is transferrable. Everyone can feel the pain. It means a lot to know that we’re not alone, we’re not by ourselves, there are other people outside of our family who care about us.”
Lee is also thinking about expanding his charitable efforts to benefit kids and families impacted by cancer, including potentially adding more Kan Jam events. They’ve also began working with the Marty Lyons Foundation to grant wishes to kids impacted by the disease.
“We’ll take it as far as we can,” Grace Lee said. “There’s no limit on how much help and how much you can raise.”