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Charity

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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Event to be held March 14 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Nesconset branch

Smithtown Library Director Robert Lusak. File photo from Dave Berner

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The director of The Smithtown Library is preparing to boldly go bald to show his support for pediatric cancer research.

The Nesconset branch will be hosting a St. Baldrick’s Day event March 15, from  11 a.m. to noon. Director Rob Lusak will shave his head to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds children’s cancer research.

Every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide, and in the United States one in five kids diagnosed will not survive, according to the foundation.

All members of the community are welcome and encouraged to attend this event and donate to the cause. Donations can be made on the day of the event by cash or check. Light refreshments will be provided

The Nesconset branch of The Smithtown Library is located at 148 Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset. For more information on the event, call 631-360-2480 ext. 235.

Those who cannot attend the event but would like to make a donation, can contact Julie DeLaney at 631-360-2480 ext. 230.

More than 100 attendees shave their heads to raise funds for pediatric cancer

 

Dozens of people lined up to boldly go bald at the Northport-East Northport school district’s St. Baldrick’s Day event March 9. The event raised more than $63,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds childhood cancer research.

Among the top teams were the East Northport Middle School Bald Tigers, led by teacher John Braun, raising more than $22,000. The team dedicated this year’s shave in memory of Caleb Paquet. Paquet, 19, died in August 2017 after a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Braun grew a green mohawk for the occasion while marking the side of his head with “Caleb’s Army.” The Bellerose Fuzzballs, of Bellerose Elementary School, also raised more than $10,000 for the cause.

 

Three-day free medical clinic to treat more than 1,000 residents in need

A doctor speaks with patients at the 2017 free medical clinic in Haiti. Photo from Ginette Rows.

It’s easy to be critical of the severe problems Haiti faces, but a group of Huntington residents are taking on the challenge of finding a solution to its health care problems.

Two Huntington residents have organized a group to fly to Haiti Feb. 16 to launch their second free mobile medical clinic to provide basic medical services to those in desperate need.

“Last year was the first time we did a clinic,” Pastor Georges Franck said. “It was so successful that we decided to do it again last year.”

Franck, leader of Huntington Station’s Church of God, is working in partnership with Yam Community Resource Inc., a Huntington Station-based nonprofit that offers quality-of-life services for the Haitian community, to assemble a team of medical professionals to run a three-day medical clinic in Aquin, a city on the southern coast of Haiti.

“We expected we will have maybe 100 people a day, and we ended up at least 300 a day,” said Ginette Rows, president of Yam Community Resource. “By the time we finished, we saw 1,079 people. This year, I expect more.”

Huntington resident Ginette Rows, far right, and Pastor Georges Franck, far leg, with volunteers at the 2017 medical clinic in Haiti. Photo from Ginette Rows.

Since Hurricane Matthew devastated the island in October 2016, Rows said it has been a struggle to rebuild as the hurricane was the first of a chain of natural disasters that has led to high unemployment rates. Word of the medical clinic is spread primarily via word of mouth, according to Rows. Locals from the surrounding villages will travel long distances — often walking for hours — in hopes of being seen by a physician.

“The people we are seeing do not have the financial means to pay for medical care,” she said. “If you have money, the priority is feeding the family, shelter and paying for school.”

Donations are collected from the approximately 120 members of the Huntington parish to purchase basic medical supplies, such as scales, and over-the-counter medication, according to its pastor. Franck said medications like Advil, which may cost $6 or $8 in the U.S., may wind up costing $12 to $13 in Haiti due to increased costs of shipping and accessibility. Each volunteer pays his or her own travel costs and expenses.

The hundreds who line up to visit the clinic each day are screened by a team of nurses, Rows said, who is a nurse herself. The nurses take their blood pressure, pulse, medical history and check blood sugar to screen for diabetes. Among the most common issues are malnutrition, maternal care, dental issues and high blood pressure.

“There are 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds that are severely underweight,” Rows said. “Last year we weren’t prepared to weigh them, so we’ve shipped down our own scales, so we can see how big of an issue it is.”

Her goal, as a Haitian immigrant whose father was among the first to come to Huntington in the 1960s, is to collect organized data on the specific medical issues treated to recruit specialists to join the team at future clinics to improve Haitians’ quality of life. She hopes to eventually build a permanent partnership with local hospitals and medical organizations to improve the standards of preventative health care for residents.

“I consider myself a member of the Haitian family,” Rows said. “Regardless of religion, I am there to assist them in some way.”

To learn more about Yam Community Resource, visit its website at www.yamcommunity.com.

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Owner expects to raise up to $7,000 a month for two Long Island hospitals

A customer paying 5 cents to purchase a plastic bag from IGA Fort Salonga. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Fort Salonga business owner has found a way to put a positive spin on one of Suffolk’s newest mandated fees for the Huntington community.

Charlie Reichert, owner of IGA Fort Salonga Market, announced Jan. 25 that he will be donating all proceeds from the county’s new 5-cent fee for plastic bags to benefit Huntington Hospital and Eastern Long
Island Hospital in Greenport. He is calling for other business owners to do the same.

“It came to me when people were really complaining about the plastic bag, ‘Why are you charging a nickel? Why are you getting the money?’” Reichert said. “That gave me the idea, why don’t we give the money to charity.”

The new 5-cent fee, approved by the Suffolk County Legislature in September 2016, applies to the single-use plastic or paper bags provided by cashiers at the end of a sale and used to carry goods from the store.

Reichert who owns five IGA supermarkets in Bayville, Fort Salonga, Greenport, East Northport and Southold, said he’s already seen a 50 percent decrease in consumer use of single-use plastic bags since Jan. 1.

“It’s amazing how people are walking in with the reusable bags again,” the supermarket owner said. He noted his stores gave away 3,000 reusable bags in January.

Reichert said he expects the nickel surcharge to generate approximately $6,000 to $7,000 a month for charity.

Dr. Gerard Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital, said the funds will be used to help toward building and renovating the hospital’s facilities — most immediately, the hospital’s maternity ward.

“It’s kind of a double privilege for me as a doctor who works at Huntington Hospital,” said county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), who sponsored the initial legislation. “Huntington Hospital is a hospital I’ve called home, where I’ve worked for 20 years. Their mission is to improve the community. It’s a perfect match.”

Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he has reached out to other stores in his district to discuss the initiative. Trotta said he’s gotten ShopRite locations in Hauppauge and Patchogue to support the cause, donating proceeds of the fee to Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares, specifically to benefit local veterans in need. He’s currently in conversations with several big-box retailers including Walmart, Target and CVS.

“I hope it spreads like wildfire,” Trotta  said. “I think this has the potential to put millions of dollars in local Suffolk County charities.”

When asked if this charitable initiative would work well with the law’s original intent of reducing plastic waste in our environment, both Trotta and Spencer called the situation a “win-win.”

“If this fails, it means people aren’t purchasing plastic bags, which is a win,” Spencer said. “If there is a lot of money and it’s going to charity, it’s also a win.”

Editor’s note:  This post was undated 

Runners braved the cold to raise funds for pediatric cancer research at Maggie's Mile Jan. 1. Photo by Karen Forman

By Karen Forman

The bitter cold weather didn’t stop approximately 500 courageous souls who braved the -2 “feels like” temperatures to run Maggie’s Mile at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park on New Year’s Day.

Kieran Gibbons, a member of Northport Running Club, stood alone at the starting line while hundreds of runners huddled indoors at the Sunken Meadow Golf Course Clubhouse waiting for the race to begin.

“I am a longtime friend of Maggie’s family,” Gibbons said, “and this is a healthy way to start the New Year and raise money for pediatric cancer research.”

Students of South Huntington teacher Steve Schmidt bundled up to attend Maggie’s Mile Jan. 1. Photo by Karen Forman.

According to Steve Schmidt, “The event raised nearly $10,000 for the nonprofit Maggie’s Mission,” which will donate the funds toward research of malignant rhabdoid tumors at Memorial Sloan Kettering in memory of his daughter, Maggie.

Greenlawn teen Maggie Schmidt was only 16 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, malignant rhabdoid tumors, in October 2016. She died after a nine-month battle June 1, 2017. Many who took part in Monday’s event were members of the Northport Running Club, of which Steve Schmidt and other family and friends are members.

“After everything Steven and Donna and the family went through, we wanted to come together as a community to support them,” said Erica Fraiberg, a member of the running club.

Fraiberg finished second in the women’s division with a time under 6 minutes. The top two finishers were Alex Eletto, 20, of Stony Brook, for the men’s division who finished the mile-long course in 4:48 and Amanda Scanlon, 38, of Northport, who finished in less than 6 minutes.

Maggie’s father, a third-grade teacher at Maplewood Elementary School in South Huntington, ran the race dressed as Father Time with support from his students. Eight-year-olds  Priscilla Kenny and Michael
Ferdinando are in Schmidt’s class this year and came to run Maggie’s Mile, along with Michael’s older brother Joe, age 10.

Steve Schmidt stands with Baby New Year at Maggie’s Mile on New Year’s Day. Photo by Karen Forman.

“We love our teacher,” Michael said. “We wanted to do this. We made our shirts for the race. We have to run for Maggie’s Mission.”

Schmidt’s son, also named Steve, 20, proudly displayed a freshly inked tattoo on his arm for his late sister. He recalled how he and his dad were hiking out West in August 2016 when they got a call that Maggie was in the emergency room at Huntington Hospital.

“Maggie had internal bleeding,” he said. “They thought she had a burst cyst and that she would be fine.”

The late Greenlawn teen was still bleeding after surgery and had to be transferred to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, according to her brother, where she then underwent a second surgery within three days and multiple blood transfusions.

For more than two months, the Schmidt family ushered their daughter back and forth to the ER and to various doctors, without a firm diagnosis of what was wrong. It wasn’t until October 2016 when Maggie underwent a third emergency surgery during which doctors found the multiple tumors in her abdomen.

“We need to raise money to fund more research,” the brother said. “We have almost no information about this disease. It’s so rare, that there aren’t enough cases.”

To learn more about Maggie’s Mission, visit the nonprofit organization’s website at www.maggiesmission.org.

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Hundreds of residents showed off their athleticism and generosity this past weekend in Smithtown during the 12th annual 5K Running of the Bull, which benefits local children in need.

On the grounds of the New York Avenue Smithtown Central School District administrative building, spectators rang mini cowbells and giant speakers played the “Rocky” theme song as more than 200 runners raced down a 3.1-mile course along Forestwood Park to the finish line during this year’s fundraiser. The competitors ranged in age from 11 to 82. Each finisher was met at the end of the race with cheers from family and friends, food from local eateries and raffle drawings.

Commack resident Stephen Abruzzo, 47, who came in first with a run time of 18 minutes 28 seconds, has been running in the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce event since it began in 2006.

“It’s all about giving back to the local charity,” Abruzzo said. “This is a great cause and this race is a great reflection of the Smithtown community.”

Dominick LoGiudice came from Patchogue to take part in the event for the first time.

“I heard it’s a well-run event and the charity angle is unbelievable,” he said. “We all have to do our part.”

All proceeds from the 5K Running of the Bull go to Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit with locations in East Moriches, Smithtown and Stony Brook that assists families caring for children with special health care needs. The funds primarily cover the costs of what insurance companies won’t, like sending a child to a specialty camp or providing expensive mobility equipment such as adaptive strollers.

The race helps the 25-year organization continue to provide special needs families the ‘yes’ after everybody else says ‘no,’ according to founder and executive director, Bob Policastro, who also competed.

“When a parent sees an event like this advertised, it’s like, ‘Wow, my town is supporting an agency that’s supporting us,’” Policastro said. “A lot of them feel very alone as their life can be restricted. So when they know a community is rallying around them, it’s like a boost that they need and deserve.”

When Mark Mancini of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce first joined the group in 2005, he said he pitched the idea of a 5K run for a charity, which he said was met with lukewarm responses from his fellow board members.

“It was a little shocking to me,” he said. “But that all changed after the first Running of the Bull. The chamber after that wanted to get charities for everything. One event basically kick-started others.”

Mancini said after he learned about Angela’s House and Policastro — who started the organization after his own daughter died from medical complications in 1990 — he was determined to make it the focus of the run. The race has also benefited other charities over the years, such as The Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit founded in memory of a Smithtown student struck and killed by a car on Main Street in 2009.

“This is so important,” Mancini said. “It’s such a positive event and just the thing that we need.”

Barbara Franco, executive director of the chamber, agreed.

“It’s a fabulous day for the community, for families, for children, for pets,” Franco said with a laugh and pointed out a bulldog dressed in an event T-shirt. “If mom is running, dad and the kids cheer her on. If dad’s running, the whole family’s behind him.”

Chamber president, Robert Cartelli, who led the 1K fun run for young children and their parents before the main race, said this is among his favorite events in Smithtown.

“I love it,” Cartelli said. “I look at this community as a pulse of Long Island and I’m very happy to be part of this family event. It’s the best.”

A check with funds raised by the event will be presented to Angela’s House during the chamber’s holiday party in December.

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