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AILING BOY GETS WISH TO MEET LAFONTAINE

Because of a life-threatening heart condition, 6-year-old David Schrey will never be able to play hockey.

But that has not kept him from loving the Buffalo Sabres -- particularly former Sabres star Pat LaFontaine.

When the Make-a-Wish Foundation recently asked what he'd like most of all, the answer was as predictable as a patented LaFontaine rush to the goalmouth: To see the Sabres play his hero's current team, the New York Rangers.

And so, here was David before Friday's Sabres-Rangers game in Marine Midland Arena, having the time of his young life in the Sabres Store. He excitedly donned a jersey bearing the name of his other favorite player, Dominick Hasek, and fired make-believe wrist shots in the aisle with a sawed-off hockey stick. The shopping spree was paid for by Make-a-Wish.

And the best was yet to come -- VIP seats for the game for David, his parents, Charles and Molly, and brother, Michael, 3, followed by a post-game locker room visit with LaFontaine. David and his idol were introduced by Rob Ray, the popular Sabres defenseman who, with LaFontaine, has worked closely with Make-a-Wish to help seriously ill children realize their dreams.

The family was treated to dinner before the game at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, and rode a limousine to the arena.

With luck, and the best medical help Children's Hospital can provide, David's dreams will continue to come true.

He was born with a serious heart defect that so far has required three major surgeries, including the implantation of a pacemaker.

But he doesn't dwell on his condition, or complain, Molly Schrey said.

"He knows he had heart surgery, and goes to see the cardiologist often, but he doesn't talk much about it."

In fact, David leads an active existence at the Ohio Street School in North Tonawanda, where he is in first grade. He also plays soccer and is a Cub Scout.

Yet David has learned his limitations.

"He knows when to slow down," his mother said. "His doctor says he's smart enough to restrict himself."

The parents hope medical advances will help David's heart grow stronger in the years ahead.

"The prognosis is good, especially with the way technology is improving," Charlie Schrey said.

Around the Schrey household, the emphasis is always on the positive, David's father said.

"We want him to feel like any other kid," he said.

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