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Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner speaks at the Organ Donor Enrollment Day kickoff event at Stony Brook University Hospital Oct. 6. Photo from Bonner’s office

By Rebecca Anzel

Registered organ donors are hard to come by in New York state compared to the rest of the United States, and for one elected official in Brookhaven, that’s not going to cut it.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) did not hesitate when her friend Tom D’Antonio said he needed a kidney. She decided right then, at the Huntington Lighthouse Music Festival in Huntington Harbor in September 2015, that she would share her spare.

She underwent comprehensive medical testing at the end of the next month to determine if she would be a viable donor — a blood test, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, CT scan, MRI, psychological evaluation and cancer screening, to name a few.

“It’s the ultimate physical you’re ever going to have, and by the blood test alone several people were disqualified,” Bonner said. “For once in my life, it turned out that I was No. 1. And it worked out really, really well.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and her friend Tom D’Antonio after their surgeries to transplant her kidney into his body in April. Photo from Jane Bonner
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and her friend Tom D’Antonio after their surgeries to transplant her kidney into his body in April. Photo from Jane Bonner

The surgery was April 26, a Tuesday, at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Bonnor was home that Friday and missed only eight days of work. She said she just had her six-month checkup and she is in good health.

“Jane didn’t just save my life, she saved my family’s life,” D’Antonio said. “Donating an organ doesn’t just affect the person getting the organ — although certainly it affects them the most — it affects everyone’s life.”

Bonner said she takes every opportunity to share her story to bring awareness about the importance of being an organ donor.

“I want to be a living example to show that it can be done because it’s life changing for the recipient and only a little inconvenient for the donor,” she said.

There is a large need for organs in New York. More than 9,700 people are on the organ waiting list, and someone dies every 18 hours waiting for one, according to LiveOnNY, a federally designated organ procurement organization.

New York ranks last among the 50 states in percent of residents registered as organ donors, despite surveys showing 92 percent of New Yorkers support organ donation. Only 27 percent of New Yorkers are enrolled in the state registry, versus the average of 50 percent registered across the rest of the country.

Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University hosted the Organ Donor Enrollment Day event Oct. 6, including Bonner, in a statewide effort to boost the number of registered organ donors.

“Our residents need to be reminded about the importance of organ donation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “Along with stressing how one organ and tissue donor can save multiple lives, understanding and debunking the social and religious myths about organ donation are also critical to turning the tides in New York as we currently rank last in registered organ donors in the nation.”

Dawn Francisquini, transplant senior specialist for the hospital, said volunteers enrolled 571 people.

“New York has a very large population, so it’s going to take a lot to get us up to where the other states are,” she said. “But we’re making progress.”

There are two ways to become an organ donor. One is to be a living donor, like Bonner. A potential donor does not have to know someone in need of an organ to donate a kidney, lobe of liver, lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas or part of an intestine.

“I’ve been able to accomplish really amazing things, but this is a step above that. Satisfying is not even the word to describe it.”

— Jane Bonner

“Living donation is so important because not only are you giving an organ to someone, so you’ve saved that life, but you’ve also made room on the list,” Francisquini said. “So you’ve saved two lives by donating one organ.”

The most common way is by registering when filling out a driver’s license registration or renewal form to be considered as a candidate upon death. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, though, only about three in 1,000 deceased people are suitable for organ donations.

Doctors determine whether organs like kidneys, livers, bones, skin and intestines are medically viable for a waiting recipient and they typically go to patients in the same state as the donor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation Aug. 18 allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to register as organ donors. If they die before turning 18, parents or guardians are able to reverse the decision.

“By authorizing 16 and 17-year-olds to make the selfless decision to become an organ donor, we take another significant step to grow the state’s Donate Life registry and create opportunities to save lives,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Francisquini said she thinks this new law will make a big difference. Previously, because those under-18 were not allowed to express their wishes when filling out a driver’s license form, many would not register as donors until years later when renewing their license.

Since her surgery, Bonner has shared her story in speeches, panel discussions and on social media using the hashtag #ShareTheSpare.

“I really feel like this is much better than anything I could accomplish in my professional career,” she said. “Through the support of the people that keep electing me, I’ve been able to accomplish really amazing things, but this is a step above that. Satisfying is not even the word to describe it.”

Young members of the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force smile with their flag as they prepare to walk in a parade. Photo from Anthony Ferrandino

By Victoria Espinoza

The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force received more than half a million dollars in a grant from the federal government to help further educate the youth in the community about the dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.

Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said the group has had their eyes on the Drug Free Communities grant for five years, and applied last year, so he was “ecstatic” to finally receive it.

The grant is part of the Drug Free Communities Support Program, a White House project that works to reduce youth substance use by promoting communitywide participation and evidence-based practices.

“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now.” — Chuck Schumer

Ferrandino said the federal grant is extremely competitive, which makes him even prouder the task force was selected to receive it.

“I was so happy,” he said in a phone interview. “This is something I know Northport will benefit from.”

The task force worked with the Central Nassau Guidance & Counseling Services, a not-for-profit behavioral health safetynet organization, to help apply for, win and administer the funds. The task force will receive $125,000 per year for the next five years.

The not-for-profit will provide both administrative oversight in the future, as well as clinical and subject matter expertise on substance-use prevention and treatment.

Jeffrey Friedman, CEO of Central Nassau, and a Northport resident, said the grant helps ensure students will have a plethora of resources to help them deal with the increase in substance abuse throughout Suffolk County.

“This funding from the federal government infuses urgently needed financial resources to one of the strongest grassroots movements on Long Island — to save the lives of youth who are using drugs and alcohol, starting at very young ages,” he said in an email. “Even as heroin and prescription opioids are destroying L.I. families at unprecedented rates, this community-focused grant provides a new opportunity to break the cycle of abuse and ‘business as usual’ — and to spark community-level change.”

The federal grant enables the hiring of a full-time task force coalition leader, and supports a range of coordinated practices and evidence-supported activities aimed at prevention. The programs include parent-education, social media initiatives, pharmacist/youth collaboration and stricter law enforcement practices.

Ferrandino said the task force is currently interviewing candidates for the coalition leader position, and they want someone who can communicate and educate the community, run multiple subcommittees and manage the emotional aspects of the growing drug problem.

The co-chair said that when applying for the grant, the task force wanted to use the money to focus on two specific problems; underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.

New York legislators are proud of the progress the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force has made.

“The prescription drug abuse crisis on Long Island is symptomatic of the larger opioid epidemic that New York State and the entire country is facing, and we need to fight back now,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said in a statement. “These grant recipients have been on the front lines of combatting the disturbing drug abuse uptick among our Long Island youth and this investment will provide them with the resources they need to continue their lifesaving work.”

The task force was first created in 2006, and has designed programs to reach out to students in the Northport/East Northport community, including sponsoring a film premiere this year about drug abuse recovery, organizing Narcan training sessions, and more.

Suffolk County has statistically been one of the greatest areas of concern in New York for heroin and opioid deaths in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the county has had more than 100 opioid-related overdoses for several consecutive years.

The issue is not just in New York. According to the CDC, from 2005 to 2014, drug overdose deaths have risen by 144 percent to 2,300 deaths in New York, and 58 percent to 47,055 deaths in the nation.

'Desolate' by Alex Cartwright, Grade 11. Image courtesy of HAC
‘Pearl’ by Alex Cartwright (grade 11). Image from HAC
‘Pearl’ by Alex Cartwright (grade 11). Image from HAC

Just in time for Halloween, the Huntington Arts Council presents a perennial favorite, Nightmare on Main Street, a student art exhibit that opens today at the Main Street Gallery and runs through Nov. 5. Now in its fifth year, students in grades 6 to 12 were asked to submit original artwork reflecting their interpretation of Halloween, “be it dark, light-hearted or just plain scary!”

“Once again the students did not disappoint. It’s exciting to see the response from such a wide age range of students with over 80 submissions. The talent of these artists is evident across the board and shown in a variety of media choices from photography to sculpture,” stated Marc Courtade, executive director of the Huntington Arts Council.

‘Medusa’ by Melissa Roy (grade 12). Image courtesy of HAC

The exhibit was juried by Caitlyn Shea, a visual artist who “loves all things scary, sinewy and dark — and has a special love for Francis Bacon paintings.” Specializing in large, fierce paintings, Shea exhibits her work in galleries across the United States. When she is not painting, Shea works as a co-producer for East End Arts JumpstART program. “It was truly a pleasure reviewing all of the artwork submitted to Nightmare on Main Street. I was incredibly impressed by the level of achievement present in each of the submissions; it actually seemed as if I was looking at college undergraduate portfolios,” commented Shea. “I expected the submissions to be creepy, but they surpassed my expectations by also being so confrontative and exploring unexpected themes like alienation and isolation. It was difficult selecting which works to include because every single entry was powerful in its own unique way!” she said.

Forty-two students were selected as finalists including Jonelle Afurong, Sarah Astegher, Shiloh Benincasa, Rachel Berkowitz, Nathalie Berrios, Summer Blitz, Julia Bretschneider, Rebekah Buon, Elena Canas, Alex Cartwright, Ben Conner, Daniela Crimi, Eliana Davidoff, Lars Drace, Christian D’Sa, Julia Dzieciaszek, Sania Farooq, Katie Giambrone, Casey Goldstein, Michael Green, Vincent Guerrero, Ilyssa Halbreich, Michaela Hammer, Katrina Hanley, Lauren Landolfi, Cameron Matassa, Kallie McCarthy, Noelle Pluschau, Bailey Rand, Natasha Rivera, Renee Rooney, Melissa Roy, Jack Ruthkowski, Olivia Sasso, Amanda Stark, Amanda Tobin, Alex Tonetti, Alexandra Valme, Erica Vazquez, Teva Yaari, Steven Yeh and Sarah Young.

To kick off the exhibit, a costume party reception will be held on Oct. 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the gallery. Prizes will be awarded for Best in Show in senior and junior divisions as well as for best costume. Refreshments will be served. This is a free event and all are welcome to attend.

The Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

Guest speakers at LIM’s symposium, from left, Lawrence Samuel, Stephen Patnode, Christopher Verga, Caroline Rob Zaleski and John Broven. Photo courtesy of John Broven

By Heidi Sutton

In conjunction with its popular exhibition, Long Island in the Sixties, The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook hosted a symposium last Saturday that focused on how the 1960s affected Long Island in terms of suburban and economic trends such as the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the local civil rights movement, regional architecture and music.

Guest speakers included Stephen Patnode, Ph.D., of Farmingdale State College’s Department of Science, Technology and Sociology; Christopher Verga, professor of history at Suffolk County Community College and author of “Civil Rights on Long Island”; Caroline Rob Zaleski, preservationist and architectural historian and author of “Long Island Modernism, 1930-1980”; Lawrence R. Samuel, Ph.D., independent scholar and American cultural historian and author of “The End of the Innocence: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair”; and John Broven, music historian and custodian of the family-owned Golden Crest Records and author of the award-winning “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”

According to Joshua Ruff, director of Collections and Interpretation at the museum, the day-long event attracted over 60 attendees and “the audience was very enthusiastic and really enjoyed the day” adding that there was “great audience participation; a few people who attended were actually former band members of prominent 1960s bands on Long Island, and they became involved in John Broven’s talk. All in all, it was a super day and we are just so very thankful for the important support from the New York Council on the Humanities which made it all possible.”

The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Taste at Port Jefferson event Saturday Oct. 22 at the Village Center, where visitors sampled local foods, wines and desserts from more than 35 North Shore based vendors.

 

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco signs $10,000 check presented with Legislator Sarah Anker, on right, to the North Shore Youth Council for a new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. Photo from sheriff's office

A strong support system is vital in a fight against drug abuse, and now North Shore families will have more options to help struggling loved ones manage their addiction.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco delivered a check for $10,000 to the North Shore Youth Council in Rocky Point this week, which will be designated for its new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. The grant, which is funded from the sheriff’s office asset forfeiture monies, will engage whole families in therapy designed to help them cope, understand the root causes of addiction and support their loved one’s recovery.

Anker proposed the pilot initiative following a conversation with Father Frank Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it's new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff's office
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it’s new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff’s office“Father Frank is on the frontlines in our battle against addiction in Suffolk County,” she said. “He impressed upon me the importance of the family unit in successfully treating addiction.”

When Anker approached the sheriff about the possibility of using asset forfeiture funds dedicated for this purpose, DeMarco was all in favor of the project.

“Family therapy can lower relapse rates, help parents with addicted children find effective ways to support their loved one’s recovery and even help children with addicted parents deal with their struggles,” he said. “ I am hoping this initiative will serve as a model and get more families involved in recovery.”

The North Shore Youth Council serves communities across the North Shore, including Port Jefferson, Wading River, Middle Island, Ridge and Coram. The agency helps hundreds of families each day through their school-based prevention and before and after care programs. According to the youth council’s Executive Director Janene Gentile, many people within the community can’t afford family counseling, because money is tight due to lost wages and the cost of treatment.

“Treatment is the first step, but ongoing family therapy is often essential to getting to the root of the problems that led someone to use drugs in the first place,” she said. “This grant will defer the cost of family counseling, which will eliminate the most common barrier to families engaging in therapy.

North Shore Youth Council’s Board President Laurel Sutton joined with Gentile in thanking the County sheriff and legislator for their support.

“I want to thank Sheriff DeMarco and Legislator Anker for giving us this opportunity to enhance our counseling services to struggling families impacted by the opioid [problem],” she said.

For more information about the family counseling initiative, or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, call the North Shore Youth Council at 631-744-0207.

It may look very pretty all wrapped in a red holiday bow, but for all the believers out there, the Country House is said to be haunted. File photo

By Ernestine Franco

It’s the time of the year when children and adults alike will be out en masse on the lookout for ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. During the month of October, which culminates on Halloween, the North Shore of Long Island has many places to satisfy die-hard thrill seekers. However, if you want to experience “real” haunted places on the North Shore, check out the list below:

Kings Park Psychiatric Center, located on West Fourth Street in Kings Park has been closed for many years and is not open to the public. For many years, Long Islanders have broken into this historic location to see the eerie, condemned facilities. At its height, the psychiatric center was home to over 9,000 patients. They were subjected to overcrowding and deplorable conditions as well as dramatic procedures, such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy. From inside and outside the many buildings, people have reported yells and screams of deceased patients, and some say they can see ghosts in the windows. Although you cannot go into the buildings, you can drive through the grounds for a quick peek. The grounds are monitored by the police.

Country House Restaurant is located at 1175 Country House Road in Stony Brook. This building has a prerevolutionary story behind it. It is believed to be haunted by Annette Williamson, the daughter of a former owner. She had allowed British soldiers to stay in the home and was believed to be a spy. She was hung from the second-story rafters and her spirit haunts the kitchen and stairways. Visitors say they can hear her cries and light bulbs flicker. The restaurant also has a “Ghost Bar” where you can view pictures of Annette Williamson. Genre artist William Sidney Mount was said to have attended séances there when it was known as the Thomas Hadaway House.

Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Shore Road, Lake Ronkonkoma: One of the most frequent tales you hear about Lake Ronkonkoma is one involving a Native American princess who died at the lake in the mid-1600s. The story goes that the Native American princess fell in love with an Englishman named Hugh Birdsall. He lived across the lake, but her father would not permit her to pursue a romance with the Englishman. Legends say that the heartbroken princess killed herself because she could not be with her true love.

Folklore then goes on to say that every year since, in a desperate search for a soulmate in death, the princess takes a young male’s life. Lake Ronkonkoma is rumored to have no bottom, just an endless abyss of darkness. The lake itself is the largest lake on Long Island and it would be impossible for a human being to reach the bottom without assistance since it is 100 feet (30 m) at its southeastern side. Something that feeds into this tale is how the water level of Lake Ronkonkoma seems to rise and fall with no relation to rainfall, something that adds to the mystery. Michael R. Ebert, author of “The Curse of Lake Ronkonkoma,” delved into these allegations and found that, “One study showed that over 7 years in the early 1900s, the rainfall on Long Island was below the usual average by about 52 inches, yet the lake rose 7 feet.”

Another eerie oddity about Lake Ronkonkoma is about the bodies of people who have drowned in the lake. Bodies have been found washed up in Connecticut and out in the Long Island Sound, fueling claims that Lake Ronkonkoma has many hidden caverns, passageways and tunnels leading to different locations. Other bodies have never been found.

Centereach High School, located at 14 43rd Street, has limited access for the public. Some believe that the bleachers of Centereach High School are haunted by James Halversen, a New York City firefighter who used to run at the track every day. At 8:00 p.m. on Jan. 5, 1997, Halversen and his dog were shot. Some people can feel his presence or even a man running on the fifth lane of the track. Some say they also have seen a glowing object in the northeast corner of the track.

Katie’s of Smithtown is located at 145 West Main Street. Katie’s is a popular bar in Smithtown and home to a ghost named Charlie, who is said to have been a bartender and bootlegger during the 1920s. After committing suicide, he is said to frequently visit the bar. Many patrons have felt or seen him. Some have seen people in 19th century dress in the bar, and the figure of a woman has been seen walking up and down the bar and down the basement stairs. Women have reported toilet seats jumping open and making banging sounds when no one else is in the bathroom, and footsteps have also been heard coming from the basement when it is unoccupied. Glasses have also been known to fly off the bar and tables.

And last, but not least, the Port Jefferson Ferries are believed by many that a ghost haunts the ferries as they travel the Sound. Many riders have seen the ghost of a former captain who wears a weathered uniform.

Good Haunting!

Voters wait outside the first Presidential debate at Hofstra University. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It amazes me how socially indifferent so many young people are today. Every semester I take an informal survey on how many of my students are registered to vote; how many know who is running for elected office and what his or her social platform is about. The number of students who are not registered is most disturbing. Probably a little more than half are registered to vote and less than 20 percent of those students are planning to vote. Most of them have no idea what the candidates stand for.

However, the most shocking issue was their indifference. Many expressed that voting was a waste of their time because their vote does not count. A number of students expressed that our political system is so corrupt and inept, they wanted nothing to do with it. They expressed frustration that from their perspective government only paid attention to special interest groups and not to the real needs of their constituents.

As we continued this conversation, it became apparent to me that too many of our students are academically bankrupt when it comes to government, social policy and human affairs. Many of these students believe that special interest and community opinion on issues is shaped by what CNN or Fox News reports. Their lack of understanding of our political system is a poor reflection on our educational system. We definitely need to do more to educate and engage our students in our political process. They are our future leaders.

The debates this presidential election year were a disgrace. They were not true debates. Neither candidate really answered the questions posed within the time frame that was established. The moderators were too timid and did not keep the candidates on task. Thankfully “fact finders” clarified and corrected all the misleading and blatantly false statements that were made. Neither candidate made a strong case for his/her political agenda or what they really were going to do to change and transform America if elected president. Instead of watching two well-educated candidates debate the serious issues facing our nation, we heard countless ad hominem attacks directed to each other. At times, it was very entertaining but lacked any real substance or helpful information.

One of my graduate students asked if those who run for public office are the best that we have to offer! It’s an interesting question. Another question was why don’t the best of the best choose public service as a possible career? Look at what we do to those who choose to serve our nation. Our focus is never on their ability to lead and serve and the political agenda they advocate for; but rather we focus on exploiting their family and every misstep or imperfection they possess. Why would anyone in their right mind want to subject their family to that kind of public scrutiny that is genuinely unconscionable? If we want the best of the best to lead us, then we must treat them with dignity and respect. We must work harder at attacking the issues and not the person. As a nation we deserve the best to lead us.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Yow-Ning Chang of East Setauket is TBR's 3rd Adult Coloring Contest Grand Prize Winner!

By Heidi Sutton

Dear Readers, We recently held our second adult coloring contest, asking adults 21 and over to color in Karin Bagan’s nautical-themed graphic and the response was overwhelming! We received many colorful entries from readers all along the North Shore who used many different types of mediums, including colored pencils, markers, paint, stickers and glitter to create their masterpieces.

Along with her online entry, Laura Star of Setauket commented, “This was fun! I’m going to hang [the coloring page] on my fridge, alongside the kids’ works! And why not?” Why not indeed!

Although it was extremely difficult to choose a winner as every entry was unique in its own way, our three judges, Port Times Record Editor Alex Petroski, Managing Editor Desirée Keegan and intern Nicole Geddes, ultimately decided that Yow-Ning Chang’s interpretation stood out above the rest.

“We selected this particular coloring page because, in addition to the appealing pastel colors, the artist’s interpretation looked like it was sent by sea as a message in a bottle,” stated the judges, adding, “It was the perfect blend of bright and colorful along with a weathered, parchment feel that distinguished itself from so many other great submissions and gave it a unique element of texture. The combination was too catching to be denied.”

The East Setauket resident will receive a three-year subscription to the Times Beacon Record. All other entries will receive a one-year subscription. Thanks to all who entered and for sharing your talents with us!

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