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Athletes: Real Champs

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Athletes from the Big Apple’s major sports teams turned out last night for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Muscle Team 2001 Gala in Manhattan. The Muscle Team pairs athletes, like Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Mets hurler John Franco (who was recruited to work with the charity by his teammate Al Leiter), with youngsters who suffer from muscular dystrophy. The jocks not only correspond with their charges, but in several cases build ongoing relationships. “It’s my third or fourth year, and we’ve gotten to be good friends,” Adam Graves, a forward for the New York Rangers, told PEOPLE about his muscle teammate Steven Swarztrauber, 15. “It’s a big night not just for Steven but for me too. We talk on a regular basis.” Graves has Steven come down to Rangers games. (Young Steven was on hand last night too, decked out in a Rangers jersey). “He’s been to quite a few games,” said Graves. And when Steven does show up to root for his favorite player, “he’ll come down to the locker room and say hello.”