Kids

From left, volunteers Alexandra, Ilene, Emily and Brian Horan; Sela Megibow; Cantor Marcey Wagner; Paula Balaban; and Adam Morotto. Photo from Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook established a new tradition this year, gathering a multi-generational group of congregants to cook up soup and vegetarian chili for people in need of support.

Cantor Marcey Wagner envisioned the community service event to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and enlisted Social Action Committee Chairperson Iris Schiff to help with the details.

From left, Julia Megibow, Hannah Kitt (seated), Lana Megibow, Abby Fenton, Hazel and Dasi Cash Photo from Donna Newman

The morning of Jan. 15 began with a reading of the story “As Good as Anybody” — written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon — about the friendship that formed between civil rights leader King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The two men faced similar challenges growing up and shared a belief in the value of every human being. Heschel joined the civil rights movement and marched at King’s side in Selma in 1965.

Congregants brought fresh and canned vegetables to the synagogue and all the ingredients needed to make comfort foods. Everyone participated in the effort. After the chopping and mincing and blending, while the Instant Pots cooked, the children created greeting cards and small challahs to be delivered with the containers of food. The challah prep was under the tutelage of consummate baker Linda Jonas and the greeting cards were facilitated by artist Deborah Fisher.

The freezer is now stocked with portions of soup and chili to be delivered to the homebound, mourners and people who are ailing. They will also be available to families visiting the temple’s food pantry.

Temple Isaiah is located at 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook. For more information, please call 631-751-8518.

Theatre Three will present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11.

By Jennifer Sloat

Sensory-friendly performances are now part of the marquee at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. The shows are modified to provide a more comfortable setting for children with special needs. The theater’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel, said they have been providing sensory friendly shows since October 2016 and the feedback he is receiving has been very positive.

“A parent contacted us and asked us if we would consider doing it,” said Sanzel. “We want to be inclusive and so I started looking into it.”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Goldilocks — Is That You?” will take place on June 3.

Sanzel, who previously taught high school for two years, reached out to a former student who works with autistic children to get her feedback and assistance in making the modifications. He began the work in June 2016 and the first sensory sensitive show was performed in October of 2016.

Families who attend the show can expect house lights to remain up and special effects and sound levels to be lowered. The music is quieter and there are no strobe lights. Actors do not run through the aisles and instead do a slow motion chase. Kids can also move freely about the auditorium during the show, lowering stress levels for parents who are concerned about disturbing fellow audience members.

“Knowing that we would not be frowned upon in the event my son could not contain his excitement made it an enjoyable event for all of us,” said audience member Lisa Clark. “[My son] Christopher loved the show and did not want to leave. When a cast member realized we were having trouble getting him to the lobby to take pictures with the rest of the cast, she summoned the cast to gather around him. How awesome is that?”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” will be held on Jan. 21

A social story, provided on the theater’s website, is also used to lessen anxiety that kids may be feeling about attending the show. The online picture book can be reviewed by the children beforehand, providing a virtual walk through of attending a live show. It includes photos of the outside and inside of the theater, the box office and a picture of who will be giving them their tickets. Kids will see the path they will take to their seats, where they will sit and what the stage looks like. They will also see pictures of the actors in and out of their costume

“The thing that has been amazing is that ninety-nine percent of the kids have stayed the entire show; only twice did a child have to leave the show for a bit and come back up,” said Sanzel. All throughout the show the children are engaged, laughing and cheering. “We write our own shows and it is wonderful that they clearly are enjoying it.”

Perhaps most comforting of all is the opportunity for parents, caregivers and children to be in the company of others with whom they have something in common.“Families love it,” said Theatre Three company member Jessica Contino. “They are so thankful afterward. We stand in lobby for a meet and greet [after the show]. A young man in wheelchair stopped us last year said it was their second show. You just feel so good about it. It really hits home for some.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Sensory-friendly children shows are typically offered on the first Sunday of every month. Upcoming shows include “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” on Jan. 21, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” on April 29 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” on June 3. All performances are at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. For further information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

 

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Kids play on the equipment at Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson Village during its grand reopening event in June, following a renovation headed up by L.K. McLean Associates, which received an award for engineering excellence last week. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Residents of Port Jefferson Village have known for decades Rocketship Park is a special place, but now the engineering firm that handled its renovation has the hardware to prove it.

L.K. McLean Associates announced Jan. 3 it received the Diamond Award in the special projects category from the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York for its renovation of Clinton H. Lee Memorial Park in Port Jeff Village, or Rocketship Park as it’s commonly known. LKMA is a firm with licensed engineers, land surveyors and architects that has been serving the New York Metropolitan area since 1950, according to its website.

The ACEC of New York has hosted annually for more than 50 years its Engineering Excellence Gala — or the Academy Awards of the consulting engineering industry, as the organization’s website indicates. The event is the culmination of a selection process in which more than 60 firms submit projects to be judged on a rigorous set of criteria, including complexity, innovation and value to society. A panel of industry experts, including military and government officials, leadership from ACEC, educators from college and university engineering departments and others, judges the projects. Winners are selected based on the highest average scores in the various categories.

The Diamond Award is the highest level handed out by ACEC.

“As a parent, it was a rewarding experience to work with the village to renovate the park I grew up playing in,” said Chris Dwyer, an associate at LKMA and the project manager for the Rocketship Park renovations. “The park now gives kids of all ages and abilities the opportunity to play and enjoy such an iconic landmark. We are thrilled at such an honor by ACEC.”

The 4,000-square-foot playground was originally built in the 1970s. The idea to overhaul the footprint can be traced as far back as 2013, after vandals destroyed some of the previous equipment. In addition to extra security features, this prompted the village to look into repairs, according to a previous interview with former village trustee Adrienne Kessel. She is chair of the Treasure Your Parks campaign, a group which spearheaded the upgrade project.

“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting, but that wasn’t the answer,” she said. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”

Village Mayor Margot Garant said she was glad to hear the park would be recognized for its design.

“The recognition for Rocketship is really meaningful because not only is the park beautiful, it was done to allow inclusion for all children to have access,” she said. “So we made it bigger and more beautiful than even we could have imagined it. I am so pleased that everyday residents and visitors can continue to revisit and build their strong family memories at this beautiful family park.”

LKMA served as the sole engineering consultant and site surveyor, and proposed schematic site plans that were eventually developed and used.

“Equipment selection emphasized a meaningful play design, allowing children the opportunity to choose how they play, while seeing connections with play and choice,” LKMA’s announcement of the award said. “A ‘choose your own adventure’ engages children in the five elements essential to meaningful play: physical, cognitive, social, sensory and communicative. The site plan was arranged to maximize parental supervision with clean lines of sight from dispersed seating areas.”

The park has been under video surveillance since it reopened in June and Garant asked that all those who visit the park help ensure it remains clean, free of graffiti, vandalism and litter.

The total cost of the project was almost $900,000, with $500,000 coming from taxpayer dollars, $265,000 from a New York State parks grant and about $120,000 from donations, according to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor.

From left, Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart star in the new ‘Jumanji’ reboot. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

After a 21-year absence, the African drums are back and beating stronger than ever. Fresh, original and exciting, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” rightfully topped the charts last weekend as king of the mountain, bumping “Insidious” to second and “Star Wars” to third.

Directed by Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher,” “Sex Tape,”) “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is based on the 1981 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. While many theorize the film is a remake of the original 1995 classic starring Robin Williams, it is actually a sequel that has been adapted for modern audiences where the creepy board game finds new unsuspecting players to terrorize. That was Kasdan’s goal from the beginning, reaffirmed in a recent interview with Forbes Magazine. “I loved the original movie, and [this new film] was a really cool extension of that, but it was vital to us that it stands on its own and be its own thing.”

This time around, instead of the jungle and all its creatures coming to town and creating havoc (remember the monkeys?), the four main characters are sucked into the game and have to overcome many obstacles to be able to come back home.

From left, Alex Wolff , Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman and Morgan Turner play four teens that fall prey to ‘Jumanji,’ now in the form of a video game. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The year is 2016 and “Jumanji” has transformed itself into a video game, the only way it can attract its next victims (“who plays board games anymore?”). Sitting innocently on a shelf in a high school storage room, it peaks the interest of four students of Brantford High School who find it while serving detention for the afternoon. (Think “Breakfast Club.”) There’s Spencer Gilpin, self-proclaimed nerd; jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson; popular girl Bethany Walker; and shy bookworm Martha Kaply. When each teenager chooses an avatar to start the game, they are teleported to a dangerous jungle and become the characters they have chosen.

Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by the 6-foot 5-inch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; Fridge is the short zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart); Martha is a martial arts expert, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); and Bethany is an overweight, middle-aged cartographer named Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black). Black’s performance as a 16-year-old girl is brilliant.

The group soon realizes that they are in a video game, and each has just three lives. If they lose all three, they will die for real. Their mission is to steal the Jaguar’s Eye from big-game hunter, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), return it to its rightful owner and win the game.

One of the funniest moments throughout the film is the special skills and weaknesses attributed to the avatars. While Gillan’s character weakness is venom and Black’s weakness is endurance, Hart’s weakness is strength, speed and cake, and instantly self-implodes when he takes a bite. On the other hand, The Rock has no weaknesses, only a “smoldering charisma,” which he utilizes quite often.

As the movie progresses, the avatars lose lifeline after lifeline, dying in various ways and then dropping from the sky for another try. When things start to look grim, they bump into Alex (Nick Jonas), a boy from their town who has been lost in the jungle for 20 years. Can the five combine their skills to overcome the game’s magical power and return home?

Filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where “Jurassic World” was also filmed, the movie is visually stunning and the special effects are top notch. With a great script, adventure, action packed and funny as tech, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is now playing in area theaters.

Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and some language.

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Holden Cone from Setauket sits with the bags filled with 179 coats that he collected for Long Island Cares. Photo from Christina Cone

For a 7-year-old Setauket resident, it wasn’t enough that Minnesauke Elementary School was collecting coats just for children. He felt a drive should be organized to collect outer garments for all ages and sizes, so he started one of his own.

“I thought if we do a drive for any type of coat it would help more people,” Holden Cone said.

Helping more people is exactly what the second-grader did. When his month-long coat drive ended Dec. 17, he had bags filled with 179 coats.

It all started when Holden told his parents Chauncy and Christina his idea. He said they began researching online how to organize a gently worn coat drive and found the website for the nonprofit One Warm Coat that connects those interested in conducting drives with reputable organizations. They discovered they could donate coats to the Hauppauge-based organization Long Island Cares Inc.

“We were very proud of the fact that he wanted to start something on his own and make it more inclusive, not just a kids’ drive,” his father said. “He wanted to help as many people as he could.”

Holden Cone holds the flier he and his father posted in the area and placed in neighbors’ mailboxes. Photo from Christina Cone

Holden said he and his dad hung up fliers and put 101 more in mailboxes. He also put a sign on the family’s front lawn directing contributors to place coats in a bin on the porch.

In addition, his mother said Holden spoke to her and her husband’s students at Smithtown West High School, where they are both teachers, about the drive. She said she was proud of how he presented the project and many of their students contributed to the cause.

While he hasn’t been able to meet the majority of those who donated because many just left coats on the family’s porch, Holden said one person wrote a thank you on one of his fliers. His mother said Holden was thrilled when he came home from school every day and saw more coats on the porch.

“I feel happy, because the more coats we get the more people we help in the world,” Holden said.

His mother said the family wishes they could thank everyone in person who helped with the drive.

“It’s just a testament to our community,” she said. “I was just commenting to someone the other day how I love our neighborhood. I love our neighbors. They picked up on this and then jumped right in.”

William Gonyou, community events and food drive manager for Long Island Cares, said the number of children organizing projects like Holden’s is slowly growing, and he hopes the 7-year-old’s coat drive will inspire other youngsters to do the same.

“It’s always so wonderful and humbling to hear when young children stand up for other people,” Gonyou said. “There is so much need on Long Island, and to learn of somebody so young realizing that, and choosing to do something about it is very inspiring. Students like Holden will be the future social advocates of the world, and seeing them start so early in life is a great sign of much needed changes on Long Island.”

At press time, the Cone family’s van was loaded with bags of coats, and they said they were planning to bring them to the Long Island Cares office before Christmas. When it comes to the visit, Holden said he isn’t looking for praise.

“I don’t care what they say, because I’m just happy I’m helping people,” he said.

Andrew Timmons and Austin Levine in a scene from 'Oliver!'

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts closes out its 15th season with a production of the award-winning musical “Oliver!” With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, the show, based on Charles Dickens’ second novel, “Oliver Twist,” features some of the most unforgettable songs and vivid characters to ever hit the stage.

The story centers around a 9-year-old English orphan, Oliver, who has been raised in a workhouse. After disobeying the rules, the boy is sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. Oliver escapes shortly after and travels to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and becomes a member of a gang of pickpockets led by the criminal Fagin and aided by Nancy and the abusive villain Bill Sikes. Is Oliver destined for a life of crime or will his fortune change?

You can’t go wrong with a show like “Oliver!” during the holidays and the 40-plus cast at the SPAC, skillfully directed by Jordan Hue with musical direction by Melissa Coyle, presents a production that is fresh and exciting, serving up a fine afternoon at the theater.

While the entire cast does a tremendous job, especially the children, special mention must be made of Austin Levine who stars as Oliver, the young orphan with a pure heart. For the moment he speaks, “Please sir, I want some more,” Levine has the audience rooting for him to find a home and happiness.

Andrew Timmins nails it as the spirited Artful Dodger, top hat and all, and Brian Gill is quite terrifying as Bill Sikes. Ashley Nicastro is perfect in the role of his girlfriend Nancy, a victim of domestic abuse who ultimately meets a bitter end. Doug Vandewinckel reprises his role as Mr. Bumble, a role that fits him like a glove. Although her role is small, Taylor Duff as Bet stands out in the crowd, especially during “It’s a Fine Life.” Last, but certainly not least, Nick Masson plays Fagin with oily charm, performing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” like an old pro from the days of vaudeville.

Of course, it is the wonderful melodies that are the heart of the show. From the hilarious numbers “I Shall Scream” and “That’s Your Funeral” to the poignant “As Long as He Needs Me,” “Where Is Love” and “Reviewing the Situation” to the big song and dance numbers we all know and love — “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” — all are performed with boundless energy and beautifully choreographed by Jessica Gill.

Costumes by Ronald R. Green III are brilliant, from the drab brown outfits for the orphans, to the refined suits and dresses for the aristocrats to the seedy outfits of Fagin and his crew; and the set, designed by Timothy Golebiewski, beautifully showcases a cross section of Victorian society.

Exiting the SPAC last Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have so many wonderful community theaters on Long Island and how special live theater truly is. Consider yourself invited.

The Smithtown Center for the Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Oliver!” through Jan. 21. Running time is 2½ hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 adults, $15 ages 12 and under. Please note: Show contains some violence and implied adult themes.

Season 16 opens with “Shakespeare in Love” from Feb. 3 to March 4, “Mamma Mia” from March 24 to April 29 and “Dreamgirls” from May 12 to June 17. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Danielle Nigro

The cast of 'Barnaby Saves Christmas'

By Heidi Sutton

In 2003, Theatre Three’s Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable musical for children titled “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” about a little elf named Barnaby and a tiny reindeer called Franklynne who teach us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” I recently had the opportunity to ask the two playwrights a few questions about the show that has become a beloved holiday tradition for families on the North Shore.

Can you believe it’s been 14 years?

DQ: No I can’t … it feels like just yesterday. I couldn’t possibly be getting that old!

What inspired you to write a holiday show for children?

JS: Doug conceived and created “Barnaby.” I had very little to do with its initial creation. He brought me a rough draft and the incredible score the summer before we premiered it. I was immediately taken by his terrific songs and I loved the idea of a holiday show that touched on another culture. During the fall, he continued to write and rewrite the show and went into rehearsal with it. It opened to great response and we knew we had our annual show.

Over the next several years, Doug and I worked on the book together, trading ideas, trying new things. Doug continued to add to the score and we have revised the show every year. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the beautiful score and the show’s great big heart — Barnaby and Franklynne are truly amazing holiday figures with as much character as Rudolph or Santa.

DQ: I have 13 nieces and nephews and I used to babysit when they were young and they would ask me to tell them bedtime stories. I used to make up stories for them, and one holiday season I started to tell them about a little elf and his reindeer friend. I always tried to put messages in the stories such as believing in yourself, believing that you can do anything, getting over fears and things like that.

They would get a little piece of the story at a time. Then I started writing songs to go along with that particular story and play them for the kids. Theatre Three always does “A Christmas Carol,” and that is a little scary for the young ones, and I wanted to offer a holiday show for the children. When I spoke to Jeff about the idea, he loved it and encouraged me to give it a shot. I was much more confident writing songs, which in themselves are stories, but writing an actual play was another thing. “Barnaby” was the first play I ever wrote and without Jeff’s extraordinary talent and guidance I don’t think I could have ever done it. His knowledge of theater and storytelling is second to none.

‘Barnaby’ is considered a Christmas story yet Hanukkah is very much a part of it. Why was it important to you to include the Festival of Lights in this story?

DQ: As people, I have always believed that we can all learn something from each other. Whatever your faith or beliefs, we are all here in this life together. We should respect and be open to others ways of living. The Festival of Lights celebrates a miracle and is a story of perseverance … not giving up. Barnaby and Franklynne are faced with a struggle at that point in the plot, and it struck me as the perfect opportunity to share that beautiful story. That’s where the song “Miracles” comes in.

JS: The fact that children get a small education on Hanukkah is an additional gift. We’ve had so many people thank us for adding that and finding the connection in the overall holiday spirit.

How does it make you feel when you hear the children laughing and see them enjoy the show?

DQ: It’s beyond gratifying and a little surreal. I love when the kids laugh and sing the songs on their way out of the theater.

What message did you hope to convey when you wrote this show?

DQ: The message of the story is really in some of the lyrics of the songs. “… Every day’s a golden opportunity to be better than you used to be…” “There are so many miracles that happen everyday” and lastly. “… Christmas lies within our hearts, The toys we give are just a sign of all the love we feel inside, and there’s enough to share for you and me.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30 at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Uniqua holds her two new teddy bears tightly. She received the gifts from members of Mount Sinai's Students Against Destructive Decisions club. Photo by Kevin Redding

Just one night at Mount Sinai High School helped to make the season bright for local families in need.

For Christmas, all 6-year-old Uniqua really wanted was an Elf on the Shelf toy, a gift her mom struggled to afford. But Moniqua McGee, who lives with her daughter at Concern for Independent Living in Medford, knew she had nothing to worry about. She had Mount Sinai high schoolers to rely on.

A family from Concern for Independent Living receive gifts from Mount Sinai children through Hauppuage-based nonprofit Christmas Magic. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Dec. 6, during the Students Against Destructive Decisions club’s Christmas Magic dinner in the high school’s cafeteria, a beaming Uniqua not only got her wish, but two new teddy bears and holiday-themed face paint, too. She even met Santa Claus and Rudolph.

“I’m grateful they’re doing this for the families and putting smiles on the kid’s faces,” said Moniqua McGee, who has been coming to the event the past five years. “It works every time.”

The McGees were just one of dozens of families from the Medford nonprofit enjoying the holiday spirit in the room. An 18-year partnership between the Hauppauge-based organization Christmas Magic and the SADD club, the Christmas soiree served as the ultimate payoff of a shopping spree by the students Dec. 1. Under the supervision of SADD club advisors John Wilson and John McHugh, they spent that day rushing around Smith Haven Mall and Walmart to buy gifts for more than 60 boys and girls from Concern for Independent Living, which provides housing and employment help for struggling families, based on wish lists they wrote to Santa. The school district also raised $8,000 for Christmas Magic.

Members of Mount Sinai’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club watch children open up presents. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I’m happy and proud to be part of a program and district that not only encourages, but fosters this type of activity,” McHugh said. “The students involved display the best we have to offer … we have grown our program every year and that makes me feel great.”

With all the gifts wrapped and labeled, every kid left the dinner with at least three presents given to them by Santa, played by rosy red cheeked wrestling icon Mick Foley, who also posed for pictures. Christmas tunes blared through the cafeteria’s speakers as families ate chicken, pasta and desserts, and SADD club members — some dressed up in costume — went around the room with little gift bags of extra toys for attendees. SADD club members also played games and watched “Elf” with the kids.

“It’s so nice to be able to see all the kids here and see them get the gifts we got for them,” said Allie Garrant, an 11th grader and SADD club member, who picked up a lacrosse stick and Rubik’s Cube for a 13-year-old boy. “Just seeing their faces — it’s a whole different thing. It’s like, ‘Wow, these are real people I’m helping’ and you get to see firsthand the difference you’re making.”

Renato Lugo, whose four children were ecstatic over their gifts, expressed his gratitude to those involved in the event.

Students dressed up to entertain children during a Christmas Magic dinner at Mount Sinai High School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s a beautiful thing to have organizations like these that help out and take care of people in need,” said Lugo, who has been aided by Concern for Independent Living for six years. “The students bring joy and cheer and they make my kids very happy.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Elena, was ecstatic receiving a long-sleeve Unicorn pajama shirt from Santa.

“I think it’s really amazing I got the present I wanted,” Elena said. “And the food is amazing and everyone’s so happy. I love SADD. They’re really like another Santa.”

Kim Dellamura, who’s been at the nonprofit agency for six months, said the event allowed her 4-year-old daughter MacKenzie to have a Christmas.

“It feels good because I don’t know how much I would’ve been able to give her this year,” Dellamura said. “So this really helps out a lot. She loves it.”

For Lawrence Aurigemma, the event is a perfect reflection of what this time of year means.

“This season is all about peace and generosity,” said Aurigemma, a military veteran whose 14-year-old son received Pokemon cards. “These students are just fantastic. They go out of their way to help out the less fortunate people here. It’s a wonderful thing. They knew exactly what to get my son … he’s so happy.”

Smithtown resident and former WWE wrestler Mick Foley dishes out gifts to children. Photo by Kevin Redding

Also at the event was Christmas Magic founder Charlie Russo and representatives of Concern for Independent Living, including case managers Ella Cantave and Julio Villarman, who were excited to see their clients enjoying the holidays.

“It’s a very special day for them,” Cantave said. “It took a lot of effort to make it happen and to make it nice for them.”

As everybody in the room sang “Jingle Bells,” Santa arrived and joined in. Each kid’s name was called out to sit down with the big man in the red suit.

Foley, who has been a volunteer with Christmas Magic since 2000 and officially assumed the role of Santa for the organization in 2014, said he looks forward to the event all year round.

“It’s a great organization — they spread joy and happiness to so many of the less fortunate in the community, and it’s an honor to wear the red suit and represent Christmas Magic,” Foley said before turning his attention to the SADD club. “I make it a point to thank all of them because I think it’s wonderful that they get involved in volunteer work at a young age. They do a great job and it’s really easy for me to show up and get a lot of the credit from children, but the truth is, without them, absolutely none of this is possible.”

Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park held its annual breakfast with Santa Sunday.

A buffet breakfast complete with eggs, Belgian waffles, bacon, sausage, bagels, fresh fruit, juice and hot beverages was served inside the Heritage Center as families waited to take a photo with Santa Claus. Each child also received a favor for attending one of the three sessions Dec. 10.

Following the full buffet breakfast, Johnny Whimple and the kids in attendance filled the room with Christmas spirit with a holiday music sing-along.

Non-perishable food donations were also collected during the event for a local food pantry.

By Rita J. Egan

Forget the elves! This year Santa will get a little help from members of the Culper Spy Ring when the Three Village Holiday Electric Light Parade makes its way through the streets of East Setauket on Dec. 10.

The grand marshals of this year’s parade will be the patriots that made up George Washington’s Long Island spy ring — portrayed by residents including Three Village Historical Society Historian Beverly C. Tyler as Abraham Woodhull. The grand marshals will lead the annual local favorite featuring floats and vehicles adorned with electric lights mixing the area’s historic roots with modern merriment.

Insurance agent Billy Williams took over the reigns of the parade after its cancellation in 2015. As a volunteer with the Setauket Fire Department, he heard the committee ran into some glitches that year, and while it was too late to do anything at the time, he and others joined forces to light the way for the procession in 2016.

In addition to Williams, the parade committee includes Cheryl Davey, Andrew Galambos, Michael Owen, Denise Williams, Sharon Philbrick, Andrea Allen, Scott Sanders, Julie Watterson, Carmine Inserra, Dawn Viola and Laura Mastriano.

Above, a scene from a previous Electric Light Parade

“We picked up the pieces and put the parade back together,” Williams said, adding that he was happy when the group was able to organize the parade again this year, and that Davey and Owen, who both worked on the event in the past, offered to continue to help. Williams and other committee members had fond memories of bringing their children to the parade every year, and he participated in it as a volunteer firefighter. “It’s good for the community; it’s good for everybody. So we said let’s try to organize it and give it another go, and that’s what we did.”

Davey, who has been coordinating the parade for approximately seven years, said she was thrilled when it got a reboot in 2016. “I was hoping that if it went away for a year, maybe people would miss it and realize how special an event it is for the entire community,” she said. “I was hoping that there would be a public outcry — “bring back the parade” — and there was. And then, everybody stepped forward and said they could help. We put together a wonderful committee of amazing people who have great ideas and great networking contacts, and they rolled up their sleeves and went right to work.”

Galambos, who has attended the parade for more than a decade, said he was also delighted to see it revived last year. He said the parade is an opportunity for residents to experience something special for the holidays right in their neighborhood and for local groups and businesses to work together, adding “The parade really is a collaboration of the entire town, and all the various organizations.”

Galambos said he is looking forward to this year’s grand marshals and thinks it’s a wonderful way to educate residents, especially young ones, about the local history, adding “This parade is something that is very special because it is a celebration that is uniquely us.”

Williams and Galambos said attendees can look forward to seeing floats from the Three Village Central School District and the participation of Scout troops and various businesses from the area, including Shine Dance Studios. Both said cheerleaders, pep squad members, athletes and Wolfie from Stony Brook University will also be marching, and the parade will feature the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Players Drum Corps, which is composed of musicians with special needs.

Participants will begin lining up at 3:30 p.m. at the Village Green by Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. For Davey, this is her favorite part of the entire event. “When they all start showing up with their floats, you’re just overwhelmed with Christmas spirit,” Davey said.

The Three Village Kiwanis Club will present the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade Dec. 10 starting at 5 p.m. The procession heads south on Main Street, turning left on Route 25A and ends at the Kiwanis Park next to Se-Port Deli. After the parade, Santa will be available to hear children’s wishes in the park’s gazebo. For more information, visit www.3vholidayparade.com.

All file photos by Greg Catalano

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