By Dave Lozo | NHL Insider | nhl.com | July 28, 2012
ITHACA, N.Y. – When Dustin Brown finally learned when he'd spend his official day with the Stanley Cup, his first thought wasn't about how he'd like to party with it at local bars.
His first thought wasn't about how he'd love have his three sons, Jake, Mason and Cooper, drink chocolate milk from its top, like they did in Los Angeles.
His first thought wasn't about all the places he would take it in his hometown so he could relive his high school glory days as a state champion in ice hockey.
His first thought was about family.
Christopher Bordoni, the cousin of Dustin's wife, Nicole, was critically wounded during an attack by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in January and died from his injuries 10 weeks later in San Antonio. At the time of the attack, Brown was on an off-day preparing for his Los Angeles Kings to play host to the Calgary Flames the following night.
Brown was away from his hometown then, but he made sure to do what he could for servicemen like Bordoni and their families during his day with the Cup on Saturday.
"The whole community rallied around the Bordoni family at that time," Brown said. "When we talked about doing a public event, the first thing me and my wife thought – we always do a lot of charity stuff – we had Semper Fi right at the top of the list. It was a good fit."
Semper Fi is short for The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
"They provide relief in any way you can imagine," said Carol Sprague, Bordoni's mother, who lost her job while taking care of her son. "They'll provide support with lost wages, if family members have to leave their jobs to take care of their injured service member. If we had a need, all we had to do was ask. Financially, I couldn't have done it without Semper Fi."
So when the Browns had a chance to use the Stanley Cup to help, they did.
The first order of business for the Kings captain Saturday morning was a three-hour photo session at the Ithaca High School football field. About 1,000 people showed for the event, some of whom arrived as early as 4 a.m. to get a spot at the front of the line for the 9 a.m. start.
Brown didn't charge for the photo opportunity, but he made one request: Help out if you can.
Donations were requested from anyone taking a photo, and raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win a miniature replica Stanley Cup and a personal photo with Brown at $5 apiece and $20 for five tickets.
The rain-soaked attendees donated $12,176 to the cause, a total that doesn't include private donations given to Brown by the Ithaca Police and Fire Departments later in the day.
For the Bordoni family, they know exactly how important that money will be. The family said some of the ways Semper Fi provided assistance were flight reimbursements for trips from New York to Texas, help with paying for rental cars while visiting Christopher at the military hospital in San Antonio, and countless other ways, including achieving a sense of normalcy in a time when nothing is normal.
"They think of things we need before we needed them," Sprague said. "These guys are coming home without their limbs. There were a lot of organizations that helped us, but primarily it was Semper Fi that helped us."
Tim Bordoni, Christopher's father, said, "Semper Fi has been amazing. They have the experience. We didn't know where we were or anything."
Casey Bordoni, Christopher's brother, added, "They're not just helping us – they're helping every single family they can help. They need the funds from today and they need fundraising to help our most valuable heroes."
Brown helped not only with money, but also emotionally.
After the Stanley Cup paid a visit to the police, fire and rescue branches, Brown, his wife and the family of Christopher, including his widow, Jesse, visited his grave site at Calvary Cemetery in Ithaca. The media, which was included in every aspect of Brown's day with the Cup, was asked to respect the privacy of everyone involved.
The Bordoni family did not want to discuss the visit, but Christopher's father described what it meant to have the Brown family immediately think of them during a time when most hockey players would be celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"The first thing that Dustin thought of, which is awesome, was how to help out," Tim Bordoni said. "Throughout Dustin's whole career, they helped out charities. This is personal to them because it's their cousin. That's the person they thought of after everything – not this party, not any other public event. Helping out Semper Fi was the first thing they thought of."