Community

From left, Doug Reina, B.J. Intini, Pam Brown, Lois Reboli, Colleen Hanson, David Ebner, Robin Clonts and Jim Molloy. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

The Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook presented its first Third Friday event on Dec. 16. Over 75 people attended the standing room only event. “I’m overwhelmed at the positive response from the community and so thankful for their interest in the center and its programs,” said Lois Reboli.

Along with artist Pam Brown, who also hosted the event, the evening featured a Behind the Scenes art talk with Robin Clonts, David Ebner, Jim Molloy and Doug Reina and commenced with a Q-and-A. Due to its immense popularity, the second Third Friday event has already been scheduled for Jan. 20 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Reboli Center is located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook Village. For more information on upcoming programs, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.ReboliCenter.org.

Visitors to the new exhibit, Forest to Forest, can meet a box turtle up close and personal. Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

By Erika Riley

A tropical rainforest comes to life on the second floor of the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, and that magic will only expand with the addition of a new interactive experience coming later this month. The new exhibit, titled Forest to Forest, speaks to the touch, smell, visuals and sounds of the local Long Island woodlands and will officially open on Dec. 26.

The new room, which is located off of the rainforest exhibit on the second floor, aims to be as interactive as possible, allowing visitors the opportunity to use four senses (as taste is excluded) to experience the natural world, but all indoors and warm from the winter chill.

The project was led by Program Director Eric Young. “We wanted to build something to give them things they couldn’t necessarily see in the outdoors, but also times of year like this where they can’t experience the outdoors,” Young said.

One of the most exciting features is the addition of the crawl space underneath the box turtle exhibit. Children, as well as adults, can crawl through the underground world beneath the forest floor, look through a small window to view the forest floor above and peak at the center’s resident box turtles in their enclosure. There are already little dioramas installed into the walls of the crawl space showcasing different kinds of wildlife.

According to Young, visitors can also sniff containers with forest smells and explore a touch table that features different textures of objects found in the forest. “While they are doing all of this, they can take in the amazing artistry of the room as they play I Spy to explore the forest and field murals around the room,” he said. There will also be interactive computer programs set up in the room, such as one that plays an audiofile of a bird call, and visitors must click on the picture of the bird that they think makes that call. Once they click correctly, they can read information about that bird.

Young is planning on bringing in trees and plants from the area to utilize for the touch and smell parts of the interactive exhibit. All of the wildlife featured in the room will represent local plants and animals that are found in the surrounding woodlands. Any plants that are brought into the room will be directly from Sweetbriar’s woods on the property.

One of the main goals of the new room is to increase children’s excitement and appreciation of nature. According to Young, the involvement with the natural world is a three-step process. One: Help them appreciate the natural world. Two: Help them understand the natural world. Three: They want to get involved with the natural world. “If you don’t care about something, you don’t want to take care of it,” Young said.

Young enlisted the help of artist and head curator at Sweetbriar Jenine Bendicksen and carpenter John Scorola on this project. While Young credits himself as coming up with the idea, he gives them the credit for making it come to life. “It takes a village,” he said.

The exhibit is made possible by a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts Decentralization program. The money was eventually allocated by the Huntington Arts Council to Sweetbriar, and they used it to finally do something with the room previously and affectionately known as Turtle Town. Once the exhibit opens, Young hopes to keep expanding it and making it even better throughout the years.

Sweetbriar Nature Center is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown and is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends. For more information, please call 631-979-6344 or visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. Admission to the self-guided exhibit is $2 per person, which includes the rainforest room. Proceeds will go toward the upkeep of the exhibit.

About the author: Stony Brook resident Erika Riley is a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She is interning at TBR during her winter break and hopes to advance in the world of journalism and publishing after graduation.

‘Brooklyn Walls’ by Anahi DeCanio won Best in Show. Photo from HAC

Creating without limits

The Huntington Arts Council held an opening reception for its latest exhibition, The Versatility of Street Art, at its Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington on Friday, Dec. 9. Twenty-six artists including Virginia Bushart, Anahi DeCanio, Jonathan Duci, Terry Finch, Jim Finlayson, Nicole Franz, Tim Gowan, Bill Grabowski, Geraldine Hoffman, Stefanie Kane, Jade “MUMBOT” Kuei, Jennifer Lau, Theo Lau, Jude Lobasso, Sharon Lobo, Jared Long, Celeste Mauro, Kasmira Mohanty, Stephen Palladino, Reme 821, Rodney Rodriguez, David Rogers, Jennie Sjostrom, Jeff Slack, Christina Stow and Stephen Wyler were accepted into the show, which was judged by Phetus, Long Island’s very own graffiti/street artist.

‘Fish’ by Jared Long received an Honorable Mention. Photo from HAC

“Phetus” began his rebellious legacy in 1988 by scrawling his infamous “Phat Phace” logo across the peninsula and beyond. From an original scribe on the wall, Phetus has built an eclectic portfolio of creativity spanning over 2 decades. Starting with a simple tag on the wall to creating an iphone app which was downloaded by over 15 million users, Phetus proves that there are no creative boundaries. Phetus is one of the artists who created the beautiful, expressive street art mural on the back of our building. This highly recognized mural has become a popular backdrop for members of the community, of all ages, to come and take photos.

‘Jackson Heights Queens’ by Sharon Lobo received an Honorable Mention. Photo from HAC

“Being raised in such a diverse community as Huntington, Long Island, It only made sense to showcase the versatility within the current trend of “Street Art”. As an artist rooted in the graffiti art community for the past 30 yrs, I have experienced and witnessed the evolution of a rebellious illegal art form, transform into an accepted form of expression amongst todays popular culture. It is a privilege and honor to have had the opportunity from the Huntington Arts Council to observe and review the many outstanding submissions from all of the artists that participated. “The Versatility Of Street Art” showcase couldn’t be a more perfect reflection of the world we live in today, as for each person has their own identity to express in their own skillful way. Anything goes. . .the streets are watching,” stated Juror Phetus.

Anahi DeCanio won Best in Show for her abstract painting titled “Brooklyn Walls.” Honorable mentions were awarded to Sharon Lobo for “Jackson Heights Queens,” “Fish” by Jared Long and “Paparazzi” by Stephen Palladino.

‘Paparazzi’ by Stephen Palladino (top image) received an Honorable Mention

“The “Versatility of Street Art Show” is a great example of how we continue to work toward providing opportunities for all types of artists; both from a demographic and creative standpoint. The call to artists resulted in submissions from a diverse list of artists with one submitting from as far away as Sweden. The entries reflect a broad interpretation of the genre and will present an exciting vibrant exhibition,”  said Executive Director Marc Courtade.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 7. For gallery hours, please call 631-271-8423.

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Meters in Port Jefferson. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The holidays have come early for anyone who has experienced the frustration of circling Main Street, to Arden Place, to East Main Street, to East Broadway and back to Main Street countless times in search of Port Jefferson’s most sought-after natural resource — a free parking space.

In keeping with annual tradition, Mayor Margot Garant announced the suspension of metered parking in village lots effective Dec. 5 through March 15, 2017, in a video posted on Port Jeff’s website, which had more than 27,000 views at the time of publication. Parking in a village-metered lot ordinarily costs 25 cents per half hour and is enforced from 10 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Parking on village streets is free, though there are varying time restrictions in most areas. Port Jeff Village residents always park for free in metered lots with special stickers on their cars, and for the time being, non-residents are afforded the same luxury.

Garant said, at a board meeting earlier in December, the idea behind suspending metered parking is to encourage visitors in the winter months to shop at and patronize Port Jeff businesses in the traditionally warm-weather destination. She added that in previous years the suspension of metered parking has extended into April if the weather in the area is particularly damaging for businesses in a given winter season.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant announces the suspension of metered parking through March 15 in village lots. Photo from Port Jeff Village website

In the video, Garant watches kids ice skate at The Rinx located outside the Village Center. She then slides a blue cover over the meter in the parking lot adjacent to the ice rink.

“During the holiday season and during the winter months, come on down to the Village of Port Jefferson, come visit us, park for free, visit our restaurants and please support our local merchants,” Garant says in the video.

Revenue raised from metered parking is reinvested into various village projects, according to Garant. Deputy Mayor Larry LaPointe, who is also the board’s liaison to the parking committee, estimated the fund from parking meters has about $900,000 in it currently.

If it were unclear how big an issue parking is in Port Jefferson, on the village’s Port Jefferson Facebook page, the pinned post featuring the video had 480 shares and more than three times as many likes as any other post on the page in December. Comments on the post indicate most visitors to the village wish parking were free year-round, and others are more likely to visit because of the suspension.

“Love being down Port in the off season,” Yvette Ortiz-Baugh said.

One commenter suggested the difficult parking deters her from visiting the area.

“Parking has become a big nuisance and we go less often to shop there now,” Sue Korpus Ditkowsky said.

A young girl picks out Christmas gifts at Target in Commack Dec. 14. Photo from Mallory Kerley

By Victoria Espinoza

For a few families struggling to make ends meet this Christmas, local organizations got together to ensure there would be presents under the tree.

United Way of Long Island, a nonprofit based in Deer Park, and Make it Count Foundation, a nonprofit based in West Islip, worked together to donate funds so that children and their families were able to search through Target in Commack and choose any gifts they wanted for Christmas this year. They were also given holiday treats as they shopped. Kids ran through the aisles of Target Dec. 14, browsing the Barbie dolls, Nerf guns, and other toys they could take home to make the holiday special.

“Helping children in need is priceless,” Jon Reese, president of the Make It Count Foundation said in an email. “I feel it is not only our responsibility, it is an honor. Especially this time of year, when we celebrate life and hope.”

Reese said Make It Count has worked with United Way of Long Island in the past on home renovations, health and community programs, and backpacks filled with school supplies.

A young boy picks out Christmas gifts at Target in Commack Dec. 14. Photo from Mallory Kerley

“We feel that when the Make It Count Foundation and the United Way of Long Island partner, we are able to leverage each other’s resources and make a greater impact,” he said.

According to Theresa Regnante, president and CEO of United Way of Long Island, this is the second year the two nonprofits have joined together to organize the event.

“We wanted these kids to be able to celebrate the holidays, and have the joy of opening gifts that they wanted,” she said in an email. “Jon Reese has been a fantastic partner in other areas of our mission, and coming together to help kids during the holiday season was a perfect fit. We have the connections to the partner agencies who work with families across Long Island, and they had the funds to donate to help them afford the gifts. It was an easy to decision to make to put this event together.”

Families had to be nominated to partake in the event, and Regnante said other local nonprofits helped in the selection process.

“We connected with Long Island Head Start, United Veterans Beacon House, and Family Service League, who are all partner agencies of ours, and asked them to nominate families who could use some extra holiday cheer to take part in the shopping spree, as well as families who are part of our VetsBuild and YouthBuild programs,” she said. “Target generously let us utilize their break room space and provided treats to the children before giving them a tour of the toy department. It was a fabulous effort all around.”

Regnante shared what makes the event special to her.

A young girl picks out Christmas gifts at Target in Commack Dec. 14. Photo from Mallory Kerley

“The best part of an event like this is seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they pick up that toy they’ve been asking for for months, and knowing that they can take it home that night,” she said. “You have to remember, most of these children have only the basic necessities and rarely do they have the opportunity to get things that bring them true joy. Their families are working hard to give them the best life possible, and this event allows those parents and guardians to brighten the holiday season just a bit more. The holiday season is supposed to be filled with happiness, but it isn’t that way for those who are struggling.”

She said she watched a mother and her son go through the check-out line, and as they were walking out the door, he yelled out, “I feel like Christmas is here early!” as if he couldn’t believe he was actually allowed to leave the store with his new toys.

“Watching this little boy literally skip out the door warmed my heart,” she said.

From left, Managing Director Vivian Koutrakos, 2016 Volunteer of the Year Megan Bush, Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel and Group Sales and Director of Development Douglas Quattrock. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson: Theatre Three’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year was announced at the end of last Saturday night’s performance of “A Christmas Carol.” According to Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, the award is given out every year to someone who has made a contribution without asking for anything in return.

This year’s recipient is 17-year-old Megan Bush, who has been with the theater since age 7. A senior at Ward Melville High School, Megan began her relationship with the theater as an acting student playing the role of Want in “A Christmas Carol.”

“For the past 10 years we have watched Megan grow up,” said Sanzel. “She has been a teaching assistant, she has been a teacher in our Dramatic Academy, she has been a stage manager — one of the youngest in the history of the theater — she has been my personal assistant on various productions as an assistant director, she has worked with the young people in all the casts of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the one word in her vocabulary that does not exist is the word ‘no.’ Nobody deserves this award more than she does,” he said.

Megan, whose mother Dana and sister Sarah were past recipients of the same award, was visibly surprised at the announcement. “What makes tonight so special is that we are continuing a tradition,” said Sanzel.

Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical. Photo courtesy of Three Village School District
 Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical.  Photo courtesy of the Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical.
Photo courtesy of the Three Village Central School District

sweeney-todd-1East Setauket: Ward Melville High School student-actors and musicians recently dazzled audiences when they took to the stage to perform the Tony Award-winning musical “Sweeney Todd.” The story tells the tale of a famed barber who returns to work above a struggling pie shop under an alias after being wrongly sentenced to life. Working with the baker, Mrs. Lovett, the pair seek vengeance against the corrupt judge who sentenced Todd and end up traveling down a path with deadly consequences. From the opening number, the cast impressed the packed audiences and kept them entertained until the final curtain call.

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Doctors David Seligman, left, Jesse Chusid, center, and Jason Naidich, right, stand in front of one of the new machines at the center. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Residents of Smithtown and its surrounding neighborhoods now have easy access to quality radiologic care that eliminates the need for long and distressing hospital visits.

At Northwell Health Imaging at Smithtown, patients in need of a wide variety of diagnostic testing services including MRIs, low-dose CAT scans and ultrasounds are guaranteed the ease of a private practice with the expertise and equipment of an academic medical center.

The center, which took two years to build, provides 3D mammograms, bone density tests, digital X-rays and biopsies, all within a spa-inspired atmosphere that’s warm and comforting to its patients.

On Dec. 8, a ribbon cutting was held in the lobby of the $2.8 million facility — even though it officially opened to the public in early September. Northwell Health’s staff, local medical community members and dignitaries gathered to celebrate the center, which stands as the fourth imaging center in Suffolk County; the others are located in Huntington, Bay Shore and Islip.

“It’s convenient and far more patient-friendly and structured here … access is easier.”
—David Seligman

David Seligman, vice president of imaging services at Northwell Health, said radiology has become a much more community-based service and there isn’t much of a need anymore to go to the hospital for a brain scan, chest scan or mammogram. He said the quality of care at the center is just as good as it is in the best hospitals, but the experience for the patient is far better, especially in terms of scheduling and predictability.

“It’s convenient and far more patient-friendly and structured here … access is easier,” Seligman said at the ribbon cutting. “The environment obviously is intended to be spa-like; it’s quiet, inviting, private. We try to get patients in and out so they don’t have to waste an entire day coming in for a CT study [for instance]. The response to these community-based practices is far more positive in the general population.”

He said he’s excited because he knows patients who come to the center are going to have a high-quality and efficient experience.

Dr. Jesse Chusid, senior vice president of imaging services and a diagnostic radiologist said Northwell Health wanted to offer an alternative to the hassles associated with a hospital.

“When you go to a hospital, the parking isn’t very good, you have to walk through a giant building that’s complicated, signage is not always optimal and you’re in a place with a lot of sick patients,” Chusid said. “It’s not always a comfortable setting to be in when you’re a well person just going for a checkup, so I think you get to avoid all that by coming to an outpatient facility like this one. Everybody likes the way this facility is laid out; it’s comfortable for people. When you’re coming in for health care, it’s anxiety producing, everybody is always worried when they walk in the door so if you have an environment that’s warm and welcoming with people who can comfort then it makes the whole experience a lot easier and that’s what we have here.”

He said Northwell Health has Long Island’s largest group of fellowship-trained, subspecialized radiologists in its health system — upwards of 170, although only two will be at the center day to day, one more focused on general kinds of imaging and the other on women’s imaging and breast health.

The large group of radiologists across the system allows for focused expertise on specific problems patients might have. By interpreting and studying results in their specialized fields, the radiologists have proven to make more accurate diagnoses.

“The whole goal is to make it easy and convenient for patients to get the imaging they need and then route those images to somebody who’s uniquely trained to be able to give an expert interpretation.”
—Jesse Chusid

Even though not all the experts are in the building, if an imaging is done, it can be immediately shared with other radiologists in their network with the technology to which they have access.

“The whole goal is to make it easy and convenient for patients to get the imaging they need and then route those images to somebody who’s uniquely trained to be able to give an expert interpretation,” Chusid said.

He said the center invests a lot in newer technology and plans to keep doing so.

“The direction not just in radiology but in all of health care is toward telemedicine, and providing services remotely, which makes for more convenient access for patients and allows you to spread out subspecialized resources over a big network like this,” the senior vice president said. “By making a virtual network, you can get those images everywhere.”

The facility contains the sort of equipment found in major hospitals, like their CT scan, which is sleeker and less claustrophobic than most. While some scans have more depth and seem to encase anybody inside it, the one available at the center is much more open and patient-friendly.

Chusid said mammographers can take 3D images in breast cancer screenings to better detect early phases of cancer and get treatment started at a quicker pace.

The radiologists are also trained to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures. If a scan is performed and they notice something in the liver or thyroid gland, for example, they can do a biopsy with a needle and send that tissue to a pathologist to get a definitive answer on what it is.

Dr. Jason Naidich, chairman of the Radiology Department at Northwell Health, said having this high level of equipment in the local community is great for patients.

“It means they don’t have to travel to a big academic medical center to get this level of care,” Naidich said. “In radiology, the quality of the service you get is based largely on the equipment that is used. We also try to make it as convenient as possible for patients, so we have extended hours … evening hours, weekend hours. It’s important to make sure we’re accessible to patients who work during the day.”

Above, one of two rufous hummingbirds seen in an Aquebogue backyard. Photo by Cathy Taldone

By Cathy Taldone

My holiday decorating was abruptly interrupted by a “RARE BIRD ALERT!” received from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. A rufous hummingbird, a western native, was spotted at a private garden in Aquebogue on the east end of Long Island. I dropped everything, jumped in the car with binoculars and camera hoping for a glimpse of this tiny creature. This was a rare sighting indeed! While there are over 350 species of hummingbirds in the world, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only common species on Long Island. Rufous hummingbirds are known to be found west of the Great Plains but not in the East.

Above, one of two rufous hummingbirds seen in an Aquebogue backyard. Photo by Cathy Taldone
Above, one of two rufous hummingbirds seen in an Aquebogue backyard. Photo by Cathy Taldone

The bird loving homeowner noticed this unusual hummingbird at her feeder in November and contacted the Quogue Wildlife Sanctuary and the Eastern Long Island Audubon Society. She knew the bird should have migrated south and had lost its way. She was looking for advice on how to help it find its way back on its journey. She was keenly aware that with winter approaching, this 3.5-inch bird weighing slightly more than a penny had a future that was in jeopardy.

The ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds make their migration each year to Mexico. The rufous hummingbirds may breed as far north as Alaska and make their 3,000-mile trip along the West Coast to Mexico to spend winter in a warmer climate.

As I and other birding enthusiasts arrived in her backyard this past weekend, we were delighted to learn that there was not one but two rufous hummingbirds in this quiet east end backyard. We were rewarded with the visual display of two rufous hummingbirds fighting over the feeder. Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world but also very aggressive and will fight another to protect its territory. For me, this was a “lifer,” my first time seeing the species. We all watched with excitement and joy as these birds went back and forth to and from the nectar-filled feeders and the flowers still in bloom due to our warm fall weather.

While a sighting such as this would be extremely rare during the warm months, it is extraordinary to find one the first week in December. However, this summer a rufous hummingbird visited the Morton National Wildlife Sanctuary in Sag Harbor. It was there a few days and then disappeared.

Recently, wintering rufous hummingbirds have appeared in eastern states as far north as Massachusetts. There was a rufous hummingbird in NYC the winter of 2012 and another in 2011. One made it through to the spring and the other did not. How did these hummingbirds get so far off track?

Above, the second hummingbird spotted at a feeder in Aquebogue. Photo by Cathy Taldone
Above, the second hummingbird spotted at a feeder in Aquebogue. Photo by Cathy Taldone

Researchers over the last several years determined that some have changed their route, traveling east before heading south, giving rationale as to why these birds have been sighted in a number of eastern states from October to January. The challenge for these wintering birds is to survive the weather and lack of protein. They live on the nectar from flowers and insects for protein.

According to Dr. Paul Adams, founder of the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, two rufous hummingbirds appearing in November is an extraordinary occurrence. To help the birds make it through the winter there needs to be a cooperative effort to help them meet the challenges of the cold.

As I return to the routines of the holiday season, I plan to make another trip to see the birds again. Dr. Adams will visit the residence and give his advice on how to help the birds manage the winter here, and hopefully these birds will survive the Long Island winter cold and snow. Meanwhile, nature will take its course. The rufous hummingbirds of Aquebogue may or may not make it to spring. These birds, just like all species, hope to make it to the next season, taking life’s challenges one moment at a time.

A closer look at the life-size bust of Thomas Cutinella that rests in front of the wall along the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

It was a huge undertaking, and there may have been some doubt, but Shoreham Boy Scout Ryan Ledda was able to complete his Thomas Cutinella memorial wall.

Ledda, a junior wide receiver on the Shoreham-Wading River football team, decided to dedicate his Eagle Scout project in memory of Cutinella, who died following a head-on collision on the football field in 2014.

The Thomas Cutinella memorial wall was made possible by Boy Scout Ryan Ledda. Photo by Desirée Keegan
The Thomas Cutinella memorial wall was made possible by Boy Scout Ryan Ledda. Photo by Desirée Keegan

His plan was to build a wall with pavers that would be purchased by members of the community, with the option of them being engraved, and a bronze statue of a football or helmet. What Ledda ended up getting from the project was even greater.

“I was able to do everything I hoped to do and more,” he said. “It started out as a helmet and football, then just a chest-up bust of Tom, and now it’s a waist-up life-size bust of Tom.”

His father Rich, who is also one of his troop leaders, liked the original idea, but had some reservations.

“I thought it was a big undertaking, but I also thought it was a great tribute to a member of the community,” he said. “I had some doubts at first, and Ryan assured me along the way, telling me ‘Dad, I got this.’ And he did.”

What made the project that much more special, was the community’s support.

“It was heartwarming,” Ledda said of seeing the hamlets, Shoreham and Wading River, and even surrounding communities, continue to rally together to support Tom. “I realized how close our community is. It feels amazing knowing that our community came together to do such a wonderful thing. And it makes me feel really good about myself.”

Shoreham Boy Scout Ryan Ledda came up with the idea for the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Wall, as his Eagle Scout project. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district
Shoreham Boy Scout Ryan Ledda came up with the idea for the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Wall, as his Eagle Scout project. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

Ledda had some help along the way.

Ed Walker, owner of and sculptor at Carolina Bronze Sculpture Inc. in North Carolina, remembers his first interaction with the junior.

“The call was from a Boy Scout telling me about an Eagle Scout project, and I had never heard of an Eagle project like the one he proposed,’ Walker said. “I gave him a cost, and there was a gasp before he told me he’d get to work on it. I didn’t think I was going to hear from him again.”

But five months later, he did.

“The young boy said ‘Well, Mr. Walker, I have the money, but here’s my dad, because I’m too young to sign a contract,” Walker said, laughing. “I was surprised to say the least, and feel honored we were chosen to complete the project. I was very touched by Tom’s story.”

Walker went online to read articles and study photos of Tom. He was in contact with Tom’s parents, and worked to produce the best, most accurate depiction of Tom that he could.

“Any time I work on a portrait, I like to find out all that I can about the person,” he said. “In our consumerous age, when everything gets thrown away, this is something that lasts forever. This has a lot of meaning and will for a long time. It’s a very satisfying thing to do this line of work.”

For football teams to come, the $38,000 wall and bust, which rests on the side of the new Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, will be a place teammates will pass before touching a monument rock, as the guys take the field. Funds were raised through a Go Fund Me page, and Ledda also enlisted donations from Emerald Landscaping. It took three years to raise the money, but just a few days to construct the project.

The Thomas Cutinella Memorial Wall was constructed with the help of funds raised from a Go Fund Me page, where pavers were purchased and engraved. Photo by Desirée Keegan
The Thomas Cutinella Memorial Wall was constructed with the help of funds raised from a Go Fund Me page, where pavers were purchased and engraved. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It adds to the field, and it shows future football teams how close we are,” Ledda said. “I think it sets a precedent for our football program. Now it’s a place they could go to remember Tom and think about all of the good things he did in his life.”

For Kevin Cutinella, Thomas’ younger brother, who is a senior and quarterback of the Wildcats football team and midfielder on the lacrosse team, the piece has an even greater meaning.

“I think the final product is gorgeous,” Cutinella said. “I never expected it to be as big as it later came out to be, and [Ledda] did an outstanding job and is an amazing person. Seeing the community, once again, support Tom’s legacy, memory and life — it means everything to me and my family. We are very grateful for everything the community has done and continues to do. I am grateful, honored and humbled that this monument was built. I feel happy because Tom deserved to be noticed and respected every day.”

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