There are nights when Michael Tracey is able to bring his fiancé Sara Forte to an Islanders game. Sometimes she is physically able to make it to either Barclays Center or Nassau Coliseum and there are times when Sara agrees to go when it’s probably not a good idea. There are times when the atmosphere and the noise can be just too much but there are also times when she can’t pass up a chance to see her beloved Islanders and scream “YES YES YES” when they score a goal.
Sara was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease in December of 2014, an ailment that had gone misdiagnosed for twenty years. A couple of years before that, she received a gift…a reunion with Michael, who she had gone to school with.
“Sara and I were best friends since high school, but we went our separate ways,” said Tracey, who resides in Brooklyn. “In 2012 we reconnected, and have been together ever since. We just didn’t know at the time Sara would soon be fighting for her life.”
The disease forced Sara to step away from her job as a pre-school teacher. Her situation worsened once she started attacking the Lyme which was not done right away. So, once she started fighting the disease, she had to take a step back from just about everything. With Lyme disease, the situation gets worse before it gets better. Sara told her job that she would be back, but six years later, she still can’t work.
Tracey has been inspired by Sara’s fight to give back to those who are less fortunate. Not everyone has the financial ability to attend an NHL game so Michael, an Islanders season ticket holder, gives away his two seats to random followers via his Twitter account @Isles_Life. He still goes to games, some with Sara, but gives away his tickets to approximately 25 games each season.
Michael also draws inspiration from his Uncle Robert Tracey, an Islanders season ticket holder since the first Stanley Cup season in 1979-80. He always brought Michael to games, but when the Islanders left the Coliseum for Brooklyn in 2015, Michael wanted to have his own season tickets.
“Even though my Uncle is now 40 years going strong, I wanted my own,” said Tracey. “I was in a good position to finally make this dream of mine come true. The Barclays Center was just two (subway) stops away from my job and it was only a twenty-minute drive from my house on the weekends. It all was working out great.”
That was until Sara’s diagnosis and that’s when everything changed. There have been times when she is bed ridden and there have been times when she has been given a small chance of survival. Committed to taking care of her, Michael just can’t make it to many games so he found a way to make sure that deserving people can come to an Islanders game by using his tickets.
He also wanted to emulate his Uncle who is a giving man himself.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” said Tracey. “I grew up watching my Uncle give away tickets to people who had hard times. I watched my fiancé fight for her life and my job is all about helping people in financial hardships get out of debt. I knew that I wanted to give away all the tickets for free that I couldn’t attend.”
For two years, Michael’s season tickets were in section 204 and then he eventually moved to section 228 where the Blue and Orange Army sits. He originally gave away his tickets to friends at www.lighthousehockey.com, but then he joined Twitter and started to giveaway his Islanders tickets there. In the blink of an eye he had a thousand followers and then it became two thousand.
Tracey’s followers would re-tweet his posts with directions on how to win the tickets, a process that is completely random. At first, he would hand his phone over to Sara who would pick out a winner, sometimes just from seeing a picture that she liked, from those who entered the contest by re-tweeting the post. Sometimes, Michael gives away the tickets without a drawing.
“Some people message me and tell me their story and I give them away,” said Tracey. “And then there’s people in my hockey league that just can’t afford to go, so I send them their way. My goal is always the same and that is to give away roughly 25 games a year. I usually hit that goal, sometimes more.”
Michael’s love for the Islanders started in 1994 when his mother signed him up for a local hockey league in Brooklyn. Once he started playing for the Kings Bay outdoor roller hockey league, Tracey fell in love with the sport. Since his Uncle Robert was a huge Islanders fan, Michael gravitated towards the blue and orange even though he started playing hockey the same year that the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
Imagine that! A kid from Brooklyn, growing up in the middle of Rangers Country where he still lives, becomes a die-hard Islanders fan!
“My Uncle would take me to about 10-15 games a year,” said Tracey. “We sat in section 107 row F every season until they departed for Brooklyn. Going to an Islanders game was what I looked forward to most.”
Michael still enjoys going to games, especially the ones that he is able to bring Sara to. Because of his responsibilities which include taking care of Sara, there aren’t many that he can go to but takes pride in the fact that he is able to give other loyal Islanders fans the opportunity to go to a game. He’s received a tremendous amount of support from Islanders fans, especially the one earlier this season that came up to him in the parking lot to thank him for the tickets.
“A random person comes up to me and says Isles Life?” said Tracey. “And I was like yeah how did you know it was me? He just responded with I just knew and thanked me for what I did. Things like that mean the world to me and that’s why I do it. I get pictures from people attending their first game and people who just otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go. It really is something rewarding, more so than I would have ever imagined.”
Michael and Sara, who are set to get married next September 12th (how about a wedding gift of seeing the Islanders raise a Stanley Cup banner at next season’s home opener?), feel blessed that they are able to provide these tickets to deserving Islanders fans. She is always telling him that there’s someone out there that has it worse that her and that has helped Michael continue to provide this amazing act of kindness for other people. Sara continues to get through her illness by having a strong faith a family support system.
“Watching her struggle to survive and still maintain the attitude that people have it worse than us has really brought me to this point and is the reason I do this,” said Tracey. “I am blessed to have the opportunity to do this and have the opportunity to help Isles fans get to games.”
We live in a world today where we wake up everyday hoping not to hear some of the bad news that continues to garner a lot of the headlines. We want to hear about the heroes and those who do good work in the community. We want our kids to grow up in an environment that is safe and we want them to be respectful of others, cherish what they have, and to just enjoy life.
Michael Tracey is one of those good ones and not just because he gives away his Islanders tickets. He loves his fiancé Sara and does everything in his power to take care of her as she continues to battle Lyme Disease. But what makes him special is that they both try their best to be happy and to embrace what they have but to also make sure that others can have an experience that they normally would not be able to.
Michael gives the gift of Islanders hockey and he does so for his love of Sara and also to emulate his Uncle Robert, the man who taught Michael how to love the Islanders and to give back.
For more information about Lyme Disease, Michael and Sara would like you to visit www.lymelightfoundation.org.