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Charity

Marathoner Eva Casale hits the road for a cause. Photo from Alyssa Nightingale

Running and completing a marathon is quite an ambitious task for the average person, but Eva Casale is not the average person. On April 27 she began her journey of running seven marathons — a total of 184 miles — in seven days. 

For the fourth year in a row, the Glen Cove resident toured the Island on foot for a week-long run called “Every Veteran Appreciated Week” to honor our troops, veterans and fallen heroes. Her initiative also supports services and programs for the national nonprofit organization Hope for the Warriors. 

“We felt it was so important to remember all of those individuals who served our country, especially here on the Island.”

— Eva Casale

Casale led Team E.V.A. throughout the week and each marathon completed was focused on honoring local serviceman killed in action and was linked to their local communities. At the conclusion of the week, Team E.V.A. visited more than 106 points of honor and laid more than 250 flowers in memory of fallen soldiers. Eva and her team finished the run May 3 in Copiague with a closing ceremony at the Copiague Fire Department. 

The week-long tour took along teams of runners to Farmingdale, Shelter Island, Sag Harbor, Calverton, Westhampton, Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, West Sayville and Medford. 

“We are doing this to honor our fallen heroes on Long Island,” Cascale said at the April 27 kickoff event in Huntington. “Today is very exciting.”

The Glen Cove resident said during the week it is emotional as they visit a lot of memorials and resting places in the area. 

“We felt it was so important to remember all of those individuals who served our country, especially here on the Island,” she explained. 

Casale has been running marathons for more than 30 years and she said she has this gift to run long distances and thought it was important to use it for a good cause. 

Suffolk County legislator and head of veterans committee Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) thanked Eva for doing the week-long tour. “To do what she does, it is not only superhuman, but it also brings attention to the veterans we have in Suffolk County, how we have to take care of them and provide them with the services they need,” the legislator said. “She is an incredible woman and athlete.”

Tom Ronayne, head of the Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency, called Eva an inspiration. 

“In my view, this is just a wonderful thing,” he said. “This reunites our communities and bring people together for a common purpose and looking forward to continuing this for many years to come.”

Casale said a highlight of her journey is meeting many Gold Star families on the Island and hearing their stories. It reminds her of what she is running for. 

During the week-long run, Casale is joined by a crew of fellow runners and members of the community also join her throughout the journey. 

From left, Northport residents Bill Heuer, Jorge Jimenez and Frank Bonomo train for marathons together as the Three Amigos Running Club. Photo from Jorge JImenez

A Northport man is racing to check a box off his bucket list this April.

Jorge Jimenez, 48, can frequently be found running laps through Northport’s streets with two of his neighbors and friends, Frank Bonomo and Bill Heuer. Together, the three make up the unofficial Three Amigos Running Club, training together for marathons and ultra running events.

Jimenez is currently preparing to take part in the Boston Marathon April 15 as part of the YMCA of Greater Boston’s team. In order to do so, he has set a goal of raising $7,500 for its teen programs, far above the minimum contribution of $1,500.

““I wondered if I could do a full marathon, I kind of stumbled into it. It turns out I can.”

—Jorge Jimenez

“I used to spend a lot of time at the YMCA as a kid in elementary and middle school playing basketball and swimming,” Jimenez said. “I want to give back.”

Working by day as PSEG’s director of customer experience and utility marketing, Jimenez said he got started as a runner gradually, first by participating in community 3 and 5-kilometer events. He said he’s run in the Great Cow Harbor 10K several times.

“I wondered if I could do a full marathon, I kind of stumbled into it,” he said. “It turns out I can.”

Jimenez said he enjoys the competitive nature and goal setting required in long-distance running. The father of two pins his workout schedule to the kitchen refrigerator, where he keeps a log of his times, hoping it inspires his son and daughter.

“I like that my children get to see me set a really ambitious goal and get there,” he said.

Jimenez tackled 26.2 miles for the first time when he ran the New York City Marathon in fall 2015 before returning in 2016 for a personal best. While he’s enjoyed these experiences, the runner admits there comes a time during a race that he questions his decision to run.

“Miles 20 to 24, that’s where the money is,” he said. “When you are at [mile] 20, you’re in a no man’s land. You’ve been running for two hours, you have 20 miles on your legs and still have six miles to go.”

“When you are at [mile] 20, you’re in a no man’s land. You’ve been running for two hours, you have 20 miles on your legs and still have six miles to go.”

—Jorge Jimenez

But experience has inspired him to create a new line on his “soft bucket list” of competing the six World Marathon Majors — New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London and Tokyo. His 2016 overall time of 4 hours, 40:54 minutes — or an average of pace of 10:43 per mile — isn’t fast enough to qualify. Instead, Jimenez has turned to raising money for a charity to secure a spot at the starting line.

The runner has served on the board of directors for the YMCA of Long Island for the past five years. He said he strongly supports the nonprofit organization’s mission to offer programs and services that nurtures youth and  fosters healthy living and social responsibility. With donations similar to Jimenez’s, the YMCA of Greater Boston was able to give out 17,000 free three-month memberships to teens at its 13 branches and allowed them unlimited access last summer.

“When you run for the Y’s Boston Marathon team, you are raising money to help us give a teen in Greater Boston access to summer programming, swim classes and camp,” James Morton, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Boston said. “This past summer was our busiest to date with each of our branches creating programming to fit the needs of youth in their neighborhoods, which would not be possible without funds raised by our runners.”

Jimenez is looking forward to the challenge and is planning a trip to Boston ahead of the race. He wants to run the last 15-mile stretch of the course, particularly a hill known to marathoners as Heartbreak Ridge, to know he’s prepared for race day.

“You have to try to do everything you can to prepare yourself,” he said.

Those interested in supporting Jimenez can visit his CrowdRise page at: www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/ymca-boston-2019/jorgejimenez7.

Operation Veronica founder Janet Godfrey tapes up a package to be shipped to a solider. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nearly every Friday at St. Anthony Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point a number of women are hunched over boxes, twine and packing slips.

Though it may be Christmastime, for the women of Operation Veronica, a nonprofit that sends care packages to active military personnel stationed all over the globe, the season of giving has lasted since 2005.

“I’ve been here 13 years, almost since the first day,” volunteer Annabelle Skoglind said. “The government takes care of their basic needs, but there’s always something that could make them feel a little better.”

Operation Veronica founder Janet Godfrey, in back, and volunteers Judi Miranda and Annabelle Skoglind put together items to be shipped as care packages to soldiers across the world. Photo by Kyle Barr

All of it comes from the mind of Wading River resident Janet Godfrey, who has led her team for more than a decade of giving, sending much more than 70,000 items, including food, toiletries, utensils, playing cards, hand warmers, blankets, scarves and items that help those soldiers remember that people back home still care about them and support them.

The many volunteers who work with Operation Veronica have nothing but praise for Godfrey. 

“She never stops, she’s like a dynamo,” Skoglind said.

During packing days Godfrey is a bundle of energy with her packing-tape gun like a magic wand in her hands. Though the weeks vary, the group can send more than 50 boxes out in a single session. These boxes end up in nine different countries and U.S. Navy ships.

The boxes the group dispatches are filled with essentials, but the volunteers often add other items at soldiers’ requests, such as glue traps to deal with vermin. The group is often busy making their own products such as neck coolers made from cloth or survival bracelets made from 550 paracords, the same cordage airborne infantry used making World War II parachutes. 

It’s not cheap to send so many boxes overseas, even using medium-sized flat-rate United States Postal Service boxes. If the group wishes to send a more irregular-sized box, it may cost upward of $30 or $40. Operation Veronica relies mainly on donations from the community, and Godfrey is constantly going out to civic meetings and seeing public officials to help raise funds.

“She takes great care in every package she sends,” said volunteer Liz Meskill. “She goes out to all these places to raise money just for our postage. She goes out and she does it, and she never complains. It gives her the enthusiasm to keep going.”

They often rely upon support from American Legion Post 1880 in Ridge, American Legion Women’s Auxiliary at the Leisure Glen Homeowners Association in Ridge, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and The Richard and Mary Morrison Foundation based in Port Jefferson.

Operation Veronica volunteer Irene Stellato braids a bracelet. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Janet, who leads this nonprofit volunteer organization in certainly more than deserving the recognition as person of the year,” said Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249. “Janet would share some of the great responses that the troops send back. They are very appreciative that Operation Veronica cares about them and that they are remembered.”

The genuine feeling of appreciation for the troops overseas is evident in everything Godfrey and the volunteers do. It’s evident in the care and attention they pay to each package they ship out. It’s apparent in simply how they talk about the troops with an absolute reverence.

“She feels for the troops,” volunteer Irene Stellato said. “When something happens with the troops she cries, we all cry. She feels it from her heart.”

Godfrey said while her group isn’t explicitly a Christian organization, she was inspired by the story of St. Veronica The name for the group comes from the story of St. Veronica, who in the Bible is said to have used her veil to wipe the face of Jesus as he carried his cross to the mound. Godfrey’s words describing her organization and what it does ring true beyond all today’s
current politics and issues overseas.

“She couldn’t take him off the walk, she couldn’t change his fate, but she gave him a momentary relief from physical discomfort, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Godfrey said. “We can’t change their fates, we can’t change their lives, we can’t bring them home as much as we want to, but we can cool them off when they’re hot, we can warm them up when they’re cold, we can give them something to eat when they’re hungry, so we do what we can.”

An East Nothport house decked in more than 25,000 holiday lights hopes to raise funds for charity. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Each year as it gets close to Christmas, drivers slow down just a bit on residential streets as those who are young at heart enjoy the holiday light displays. Everyone knows the address or road of that one home whose lawn is decorated with more figures and lights than can be counted.

James Tomeo, 28, has spent weeks decorating his East Northport home with more than 25,000 Christmas lights and hundreds of figures in hopes of raising money for Cohen Children’s Medical Center. On the night of Dec. 7, his home was transformed into Santa’s workshop where children would take pictures and talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus while marveling at the display.

A sign at James Tomeo’s house indicate the holiday light display is in honor of his late mother, Jacki. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Every year the fundraiser has grown bigger and bigger,” he said. “And with that the display has continued to grow bigger and bigger.”

Tomeo said his massive holiday light display is inspired by his late mother, Jacki, who died when he was 8 years old. He recalls fondly that his mother’s favorite holiday was Christmas and remembers frequently stopping with her to admire a large light display in Deer Park near where he went for karate lessons as a child.

 

“I slowly started building up my display over time, and I wanted to have a huge display like his,” Tomeo said.

In 2015, the Elwood school district board of education trustee decided to put his light display up and host an event to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation in honor of his mom. Over the years, he’s transitioned to donating any funds raised to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“A lot of people stop by each year for their kids,” Tomeo said. “So, we wanted to do something for the children.”

In order to create his holiday light display, the East Northport resident said he starts assembling his army of more than 600 lit and blow-up figurines featuring popular characters from Disney movies, Star Wars, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes and more by Halloween.

“Everyone comes on Halloween to see what I’ve started with on the roof,” he said. “It’s become a Halloween tradition.”

His neighbor Sarah Perinchief said it’s a community activity to watch the display come together each year.

A homemade light display in honor of Tomeo’s brother, a U.S. Marine, who is deploying overseas. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Last year, when he did it I saw it from The Best Market parking lot,” she said. “I was like, ‘Where is that house’ so I took a drive around in October, and I could see the lights.”

Among the more than 25,000 Christmas lights are a number of personal decorations that Tomeo has made throughout the years. For 2018, he custom built an American flag made up of more than 2,000 bulbs with the words “Peace on Earth” to hang above it. In front of the flag, a Santa Claus kneels over a pair of combat boots. Surrounding the American flag and Santa, are choirs of angels. The installation was designed to honor Tomeo’s brother-in-law, a U.S. Marine who will be deploying overseas for Christmas.

“It’s our Christmas present to him,” Tomeo said. “That’s our way of telling him that we wish him the best overseas and a safe return home.”

High school volunteers from Commack, Elwood and Northport school districts came dressed as elves Dec. 7 to help oversee a raffle of baskets and items donated by local business owners in an effort to help raise money for the children’s hospital. Among the prizes raffled off were a 55-inch television and spending a day in the life of New York State assemblymen Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“It’s awesome,” Perinchief said. “It’s such a fun, nice family-friendly event for a good cause.”

Update: Due to weather forecasters calling for inclement weather, the event was postponed to Dec. 7.

There are more than 25,000 Christmas lights and roughly 600 figurines on the front lawn of an East Northport home, all in the spirit of charity.

James Tomeo, a board trustee for Elwood school district, has decked out his Mansfield Lane South residence — and dubbed it the East Northport Christmas House — to host his 4th annual Oh What Fun It Is fundraiser for Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

Tomeo invites the community Dec. 1, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. to join him for a holiday celebration. He said Santa, Mrs. Claus and Rudolph will visit and take photos with children in his temporary workshop. Letters to Santa with a pre-addressed envelope will be sent to the North Pole.

There will be a raffle featuring baskets and gift certificates in Tomeo’s driveway, including a day in the life of various  local politicians, with hot cocoa and food donated by local businesses.

Those attending are asked to make a goodwill donation, as all proceeds will be given to the children’s hospital.

During the week of  Thanksgiving, Northport students and faculty wanted to make clear their unwavering support for one of their own.

Northport school district held a charitable volleyball tournament Nov. 19 at the high school to raise funds and show support for 14-year-old Miles Lerner.

Miles was on his way to cross-country practice Sept. 4 when he was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan traveling eastbound on Laurel Hill Road at 8:06 a.m., according to police. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious head trauma. He has recently
returned home but faces extensive recovery.

More than 30 teams participated with players including Superintendent Rob Banzer and Dan Danbusky, principal of Northport High School.

The tournament winners were student team Ralph’s Italian Ices and staff Team Equation. The total amount raised was not available by press time Nov. 20.

Residents paddle along in the 2017 Regatta on the River at Nissequogue River State Park. Photo from Nissequogue River State Park Foundation

By Anthony Petriello 

Residents are gearing up to take to the Nissequogue River in kayaks, canoes and, for the first time ever, on paddleboards to witness and preserve its beauty.

Kings Park students have come together to plan the third annual Regatta on the River Aug. 11 to raise funds for the upkeep and improvement of Nissequogue River State Park. The event is sponsored by the Reichert family, owners of the Larkfield and Fort Salonga IGA supermarkets, and features a competitive 10-mile race starting at 11 a.m., followed by a leisurely 5-mile race at 11:30 a.m.

“Each year the regatta has grown and we look forward to another successful event this year,” said John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the park and its assets for future generations. 

Each year the regatta has grown and we look forward to another successful event this year.”

– John McQuaid

The foundation was created to work together with students to plan events and fundraisers to keep the park clean and up-to-date for local residents to enjoy.

Emily Dinan, Caleigh Lynch and Juliana Quigley are three co-presidents of the foundation’s student board who have worked together to organize this year’s event.

“The student board allows high school students like myself to get hands on experience in giving back to our community,” Lynch said, a student of Saint Anthony’s High School in Melville. “This experience is different than most others that are available for students our age, as we are given a great deal of responsibility in obtaining sponsors, filing permits, handing out fliers, etc.”

Under the guidance of McQuaid, the student board held meetings to organize the event by creating flyers to hang around town, filing the necessary permits and obtaining sponsors. The board also looked at what was and was not successful in previous regattas, and took those elements into account in planning this year’s event.

Dinan, who will be a senior at Kings Park High School this fall, said she is humbled by the opportunity that she and her other co-presidents have to generate positive attention for the park built on the former grounds of Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

In our own backyard, we have a recreational gem comparable to any of the parks in upstate New York and my wish is that our community takes full advantage of it.”

– Juliana Quigley

“This beautiful park doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” she said. “Of course we, the student board, want the regatta to be an even bigger hit than it’s been in the past, but the real goal is for people to see the beauty of the park and see what else it has to offer.”

Paddleboarders are welcome to take part in the regatta this year for the first time, after the committee received numerous inquiries from prior participants. The students hope the addition of paddleboards will attract even more residents and help further bolster the park’s rising popularity among Long Islanders. Quigley, who will be a senior at Kings Park High School this fall and third-generation resident, said she believes that Nissequogue River State Park rivals any other New York state park.

“Whether it was kayaking on the river or walking along the trails, my family has been able to fully utilize the various recreational purposes that this park serves.” she said. “In our own backyard, we have a recreational gem comparable to any of the parks in upstate New York and my wish is that our community takes full advantage of it.”

Registration for the 10-mile race costs from $45 to $60 per person, depending on watercraft type and whether a rental is needed. Cost of the 5-mile course starts at $25 increasing to $55. Adult spectators are asked for $10, while children age 10 and under are free. All proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation for use in the park. Rain date is Aug. 12.

For more information on the regatta or to register to participate, visit www.ourstatepark.com/3rd-annual-regatta-on-the-river.

Pallets filled with donated water and soda at Kings Park Fire Department. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

One sign of late Commack resident Christopher Raguso’s lasting impact on his community may be his ability to inspire hundreds of Kings Park residents and businesses to donate.

It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”
— Tony Tanzi

Kings Park residents and area businesses donated supplies to help the Fire Department of the City of New York host funeral services for the U.S. airman and New York City and Commack firefighter March 31.

The FDNY reached out to the Kings Park Fire Department while planning for Raguso’s service, according to Kings Park Fire Chief John Gallo, requesting assistance to provide for the anticipated attendance between 3,000 and 15,000 mourners. It sought donations of bottled water, soda, food and paper goods to help feed the volunteer fighters and military personnel who would be attending the ceremony.

“As soon as we heard the terrible news, we were there to support them in whatever Commack or the Raguso family needed,” Gallo said.

 Kings Park Fire Department has provided this list of area businesses and organizations who donated or contributed to the funeral services held March 31:

Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Company, P.C.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
Andersen’s Deli & Catering
Andrews Excavating Inc.
Bagel King
Baldor
Boy Scout Troop 410
Ciro’s Italian Restaurants & Catering
Cookies & More
Costco
Duke’s K9 Spa
Edelweiss Delicatessen & Caterers
Emilio’s Italian Kitchen
EMF Gourmet Italian Market
The Fresh Market
G Weld Fabrication & Welding Inc.
Home Depot
Key Food
Kings Park Chiropractic
Kings Park Fire Department
Kings Park Hardware
Kings Park Moms
Knights of Columbus
KP Construction
La Scala Ristorante
Long Island Cares
Liberty Mutual
Manhattan Beer
Milano Fine Men’s Fashion
New Beginnings
NY Auto Giant
Plycon Transportation Group
Pizzaiolo Gourmet Eatery
Prime Wine & Liquor
Relish
111 Deli Catering
Rothco
Sangria 71
Sterling National Bank
St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center
St. Johnland Nursing Center
Superior Ice Rink
Uncle Wallys Bake Shoppe
Verizon 

The request hit close to home for Kings Park firefighters. Raguso’s brother-in-law, Andrew DiChiara, is a volunteer with the fire department.

Gallo said he immediately reached out to neighboring fire departments in East Northport, Hauppauge, Nesconset, Nissequogue, Northport and St. James for help. As the estimates of those attending Raguso’s funeral increased, the fire chief said he called Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, to see if local businesses would be willing to contribute. An email blast sent out to the chamber’s membership quickly went viral. Kings Park Moms group and the nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces reposted the message on their Facebook pages.

“The people in this community took it and ran with it,” Tanzi said. “That’s indicative of Kings Park as a whole. It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”

Long before Kings Park firefighters had posted they would be accepting public donations at 7 p.m. March 30, their storage warehouse was already filled with pallets of bottled water. A steady stream of residents pulled up in minivans and SUVs to donate cases of soda, potato chips and Girl Scout cookies saying simply “for Raguso.” Tanzi said about 50 pallets of water and more than 60,000 disposable drinking cups were collected.

The sheer volume of supplies began to raise logistical issues of how to best move them to the funeral site. Kings Park Hardware sent over a forklift to help lift and maneuver pallets, according to Tanzi, while Plycon Transportation offered free use of their trucks to drop off the goods around town.

The fire department’s Main Street headquarters and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5796 hall on Church Street both opened their doors as rest stops during Raguso’s funeral. The FDNY also set up garbage pails filled with water bottles on ice for mourners along the funeral procession route.

“On behalf of the Kings Park Fire Department, I would personally like to extend my appreciation to all the residents of our community for their extremely generous and outstanding show of support,” said John Gallo, chief of the Kings Park Fire Department. “The Raguso family, Commack Fire Department and FDNY are all thankful to all of you who assisted in supporting Chris’ funeral. It is this outpouring of support that makes our community special and Kings Park a beautiful place to live. God bless America and God bless our military.”

Northport Boy Scout Troop 410 held event to raise funds for the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry

By Karen Forman

Hundreds gathered March 18 to brave the icy cold waters off Steers Beach for the 9th annual Polar Bear Swim. Traditionally held on New Year’s Day, this year’s polar plunge had to be rescheduled for the day after St. Patrick’s Day; the water was a sheet of ice back in January.

The event is run by Northport Boy Scout Troop 410, who donate all the money raised from this event and the pancake breakfast held earlier in the month to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry in Northport. 

Last year, the Boy Scouts raised more than $5,000 for the food pantry, and they are hoping to top that this year. The final total of participants’ donations was not available as of Monday morning.  Those still interested in donating can visit http://troop410swim.com. 

This post was updated at 3:43 p.m March 19. 

 

Dozens of people entered Napper Tandy’s Pub in Smithtown to boldly go bald at a St. Baldrick’s Day event March 10. The event raised more than $50,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds childhood cancer research.

The top fundraising team was the fourth-grade boys Smithtown Bulls lacrosse team, coached by Rob Trites, which collected more than $12,000 for the charity.

“This is our third year doing it as a team,” Trites said. “It’s a great event to get the kids together at — a nonsporting event so they can bond and give back, shave their heads in solidarity with children fighting disease.”

Smithtown Town councilman Tom Lohmann (R) and Robert Murphy (R), the town’s superintendent of highways, shaved their heads this year. Lohmann and Murphy were part of a team that raised more than $11,000 in memory of Matthew Gonzalez, who died May 21, 2009 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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