Not only does Sidney Crosby melt the ice with his lightning-speed hockey skills, but he and his fellow Penguins melted the hearts of guests at the annual Pittsburgh Penguins' Skates & Plates benefit on Thursday at the Consol Energy Center. Dressed in black tuxes, the Penguins played waitstaff instead of hockey at the sold-out dinner that raised $300,000 to support the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and the Mario Lemieux Foundation.
Although the running side bet of the evening was whether any of the Penguins would spill wine on their 360 guests, the dinner went off without a hitch. Top tip honors and bragging rights went to Penguins' defenseman Simon Despres -- in case he ever wanted to give up his day job. The real star of the night, however, was Sydney Willig of North Huntingdon, 10, who spoke of her own experience with cystic fibrosis, an inherited life-threatening disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
"I want people to know that I am a lot more than my illness. I am a soccer player and a downhill skier, too," she said. During dinner, the Penguins mingled and took pictures with guests while patrons bid on an array of auction items. "This is such a great night for such fantastic causes. What really gets to you is meeting the kids over the years and seeing how they grow and change. It is so memorable and makes this night so special," said Ray Shero, Penguins general manager.
Seen bidding on auction items were Tom Grealish, president of the Mario Lemieux Foundation; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Francis Muracca; Cindy and Rob Citrone and Domenic Dozzi.