PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Little Rocco Mastramico was one of 30 children who, along with their families, attended Penguins practice Tuesday morning, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Marc-Andre Fleury was there, as were the two most popular Pens, according to the children: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Right by Rocco’s side was Philip Angelo Gaito, who has an esophageal disease and autism.
“Oh my god, it’s amazing,” said his mother Roxanne. “He is with his best friend Rocco, he loves sports, he gets a little scared of all the noises, but he’s really working through his challenges. He’s just memorized, he can’t stop looking at the ice.”
But watching practice was only just half of the fun, because once they left the ice, the went up to the Lexus Club to have lunch with the kids.
It was an opportunity, not just to see their favorite Penguins players, but to meet them, talk to them and get some autographs.
And while most players gave out autographs, Joe Vitale, with a brand new cast, got some as well.
“I was telling some of the guys, I got more autographs received today than given out, so one of the kids though it would be a good idea to sign and all the other kids kind of saw it and it was like a frenzy,” he said. “Yeah they had fun doing it, obviously I’ll have to find some other room for my daughter to decorate it, but I’m glad the kids had fun doing it.”
“All the kids have a big smile on their face, they’re happy to see guys up close whether it be here at practice or afterward up at lunch, so it’s fun for everyone,” said Crosby.