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East Wind

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Ryan Augusta and two of his children. Photo from East Wind

The culinary industry will come together to support an executive chef who is currently battling an aggressive and rare cancer. On July 31 from 7 to 11 p.m., East Wind Long Island in Wading River will host a Super Ryan Fundraiser in honor of Ryan Augusta, who in 2018 was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. 

Ryan Augusta’s kids dress up as Superman to support their father. Photo from East Wind

After undergoing surgery and medical treatments, it seemed that the cancer was in remission. However, recently he found out that the cancer had returned and is now more aggressive. Augusta has endured another major surgery and will undergo 34 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, causing a financial strain to his family. 

Augusta has been working at East Wind for over three years and manages a staff of about 50 people. The executive chef lives in East Northport with his wife, Christa, and their three children.  

Christa Augusta said she is blown away and thankful for what East Wind is doing. 

“They put this all together on their own, as soon as they found out about his [Ryan’s] surgery in May,” she said. 

The mother of three said she is grateful to all the people, staff and chefs putting in time and energy into the fundraiser. 

“We are looking forward to a great night with people we love,” she said. “This will give my husband strength.”

Charlotte Cote, director of marketing at East Wind, said Augusta’s work ethic is second to none. 

“It is a pleasure to work with Ryan on a daily basis — he is the type of person that makes your job easier because he’s always ahead of the game and his staff is ready to go,” she said. 

The fundraiser will feature well-known professional chefs and restaurateurs from Long Island to Las Vegas who dedicating their talents to the event. Each chef is expected to have an active workstation.  

Sixteen professional guest chefs will lend their talents to the fundraiser, including local chefs such as Steve Gallagher of The Trattoria in St. James, John Bauer of Danfords in Port Jefferson, Justin Scarfo of Ruggero’s in Wading River and John Louis, of Maui Chop House in Rocky Point. 

Food purveyors will be Prime Foods & Braun Seafood, all brought together by Ralph Perrazzo from BBD’s Las Vegas-Beers Burgers Desserts 

Ryan Augusta, top, Christa Augusta, bottom, and their children. Photo from East Wind

“Chef Ryan is a valued member of our close-knit family here at East Wind and we are committed to give him our unconditional support for his hard work and dedication in this time of need,” Lou Ambrosio, general manager at East Wind said.

Five breweries will also be on hand serving their signature brews, including Sand City Brewing Company of Northport, Barrier Brewing of Oceanside, Root & Branch in Copiague, Evil Twin in Ridgewood and Grimm in Brooklyn.

“I’m truly fortunate to have amazing friends in this industry who will always show support in time of need,” said Ralph Perazzo of BBD’s Las Vegas-Beers Burgers Desserts.

The fundraiser will include a buffet, live DJ, beer, wine, soda, a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle. Raffle prizes include a two-night stay at Foxwood Casino Resort with dining and spa credit plus other prizes. 

Tickets are $75 per person or $700 for a table of 10. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds go directly go to the Augusta family.  

If you are unable to attend, Augusta’s family have set up a GoFundMe page, which will help with medical costs that has already raised over $4,500 of a $50,000 goal. People wishing to donate can visit here.

This post has been corrected to reflect Augusta still has to undergo treatment.

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The walls of East Wind in Wading River were bathed in green as the Friends of St. Patrick hosted their annual Luck of the Irish Casino Night March 8 at the East Wind hotel in Wading River. 

Attendees paid a $75 ticket and were given $200 in fake money, which they then used to play an assortment of games including black jack, Texas Hold’em, craps and slot machines. Money won could be used to buy raffle tickets for an assortment of prizes.

Attending was the recently named grand marshal, John McNamara; along with the recently named queen, Jazmine Lang, a Rocky Point High School junior; and her lady-in-waiting, Emily Hampson, a sophomore at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set for March 17 starting at 1 p.m. beginning at Harrison Avenue in Miller Place. Roads will start to close at 12 p.m.

When two Mount Sinai moms whose sons fall on the autism spectrum noticed a lack of support and resources in Suffolk County to help families affected by the disorder, they took to Facebook to form “a little support group” — made up of 12 moms in a living room.

A year and a half and 1,500 members later, the nonprofit Suffolk Aspergers/Autism Support and Information has blossomed into a haven for those dealing with disabilities, enriching the lives of special needs families through essential services and programs, as well as emotional and financial support.

“We’ve literally become an autism family,” said SASI co-founder Priscilla Arena, whose 10-year-old son was diagnosed at a younger age. “We feel a great sense of responsibility to every single parent and child and doing the right thing by all of them. I’m doing this not just for my son, but for everyone’s children because we need to do this.”

Shoreham resident Alonna Rubin, on right, and her son Jack, who has autism, during Suffolk Aspergers/Autism Support and Information’s Blue Party fundraiser.Photo by Kevin Redding

While the group grows at an exponential rate, as does autism diagnoses throughout Long Island. Its founders, Arena and Stephanie Mendelson, took their outreach for autism to whole new heights June 8 with their first annual Blue Party fundraiser.

In a grandiose ballroom at The Inn at East Wind in Wading River, hundreds of local residents, business representatives, elected officials and celebrity guests dressed in blue, the official color of autism awareness, danced the night away to live music and took part in casino gaming, raffles and auctions all in the name of SASI and autism.

Sponsors of the gala included Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Mount Sinai, Powerhouse Gym in Miller Place and Investors Bank in East Northport. An international theme was represented by cuisines from different cultures because, as Arena said, “Autism doesn’t discriminate based on race or socioeconomics.”

All funds raised went toward a physical office for the nonprofit, as its members currently meet once a month at Mather Hospital, and the expansion of the nonprofit’s numerous programs for families, including their Life Skills program, a 12-week program that teaches teenagers and young adults how to be independent — everything from tying their shoes to reading off a menu and paying bills.

Mendelson, whose eight-year-old son Jacob struggles with motor skills, speech delay and overwhelming anxiety as a result of his autism, said she realized early on that he wasn’t meeting the milestones his twin sister was. When she and her husband got the diagnosis, she said she felt a mixture of relief and profound sadness.

“We felt alone with everything that was occurring with our son, and heard about the group … he now has friends he can relate to. We’ve learned a lot … it’s incredible and I don’t feel like I’m alone.”

— Lisa Gerstein

“My instinct was to wrap him in a cocoon and protect him,” Mendelson told the room. “I realized at that moment that it was my job to be his advocate, his coach, his teacher, his biggest fan. I felt overwhelmed and scared at the idea of his outcome and future resting on my shoulders … nevertheless, we began our journey and immersed ourselves in the world of autism.”

After she met Arena at a business meeting in late 2015, the two shared a desire to provide families a place to go where they didn’t have to feel as lonely and isolated as they did.

Part of the $7,000 donated to the advocacy program will help parents struggling to get proper services within school districts and raise awareness and acceptance among regular kids. The group does not yet know the grand total raised during the event, but the goal was $50,000.

“We want to be the autism resource center in Suffolk County, a central resource for parents no matter what their issue is,” Mendelson said. “And if we don’t know, we can find somebody who does.”

Monica Nichols, who serves as parent liaison at New York Therapy Sensory Gym & Speech and Language Center in Port Jefferson Station, which provides programs and social skills groups for those with autism, said connecting with other parents helped her most when her own child was diagnosed.

“By far, for me, the most valuable resources have been other parents, because it’s really from other parents where you learn what’s out there in a more meaningful way than what a doctor can tell you — it’s what makes it special,” Nichols said. “[SASI] has been a big shift, they’ve really done a great job at outreach and membership and making each individual family feel part of a bigger family.”

When Lisa Gerstein, of Centereach, first joined the group in its beginning stages, things got better quickly.

“We felt alone with everything that was occurring with our son, and heard about the group … he now has friends he can relate to,” Gerstein said. “We’ve learned a lot in terms of what to do with dealing with the school district and what to ask for … it’s incredible and I don’t feel like I’m alone.”

Suffolk Aspergers/Autism Support and Information founders Stephanie Mendelson, on left, and Priscilla Arena, on right, with former World Wrestling Entertainment competitor Mick Foley at SASI’s Blue Party fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Daniel Korcz, a 22-year-old college student with autism, who hopes to mentor young people on the spectrum, said the nonprofit has brought him a lot of happiness. “It’s pretty amazing that there’s an organization to help people like me, who are smart kids that are on the spectrum,” the Islandia resident said. “It provides them support and assistance that they might need.”

Among some of the entertainment of the evening were TKA, a Latin freestyle trio prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s, and former Anthrax singer Dan Nelson, who performed Beatles and Elvis songs with his band “Dan Nelson and The Downfall.”

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Hall of Famer Mick Foley, of Smithtown, showed up to the fundraiser willing to help in any way, as the cause hits him close to home. His 16-year-old son Mickey is on the spectrum.

“This is an issue that kind of chose me, so I readily agreed to be part of this,” Foley said, adding he hopes this is a big success for the group.

Discussing his experience as a parent of an autistic child, he said he wished he’d been more aware.

“I look back at the videos when he was much younger and realize I should’ve known a long time ago,” he said. “I think it’s important that people become aware and acceptance is incredibly important. Learn as much as you can, find a great support group and don’t feel like it’s the end of the world because it’s not. Being the parent of a child with autism is definitely a struggle, but it’s also a great adventure.”

Photo by Jackie Pickle

RIBBON CUTTING Senator Ken Lavalle (R-Port Jefferson) joined East Wind owner Ken Barra (center with scissor) for an official ribbon cutting ceremony in Wading River to celebrate East Wind’s latest expansion, The Shoppes, on Oct. 28. The Shoppes will feature 28 specialty retail and boutique shops including The Crushed Olive, The Painted Canvas, North Fork Bridal, Little Miss Sew It All and Solntse Hot Yoga, an ice cream parlor, an indoor carousel and a pizza restaurant.

“This is a totally different concept — this is a very ma-and-pa situation,” said Barra. “I’ve seen people now that I haven’t seen in three years, five years, 10 years strolling along, having a cup of coffee. Neighbors are meeting neighbors.” Barra was presented with proclamations from the office of Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) at the event. For more information, call 631-929-3500.

The Shoppes in Wading River is designed to resemble the square of a small town. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

By Rebecca Anzel

East Wind owner Ken Barra talks at the grand opening. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
East Wind owner Kenn Barra talks at the grand opening. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

East Wind in Wading River hosted a grand opening celebration Oct. 28 through 31 to celebrate its latest expansion — The Shoppes. It features 28 locally owned stores, eateries and a carousel.

East Wind owner Kenn Barra evolved the 26-acre property over the past 25 years — he started with a pizza place and added a venue for small weddings and parties, a 50-room inn and Long Island’s largest grand ballroom. He said the new addition of The Shoppes will create more local jobs, help the local economy and hopefully serve as an attraction for residents and travelers from all over Long Island.

“My vision was to create a destination where the local community and guests from The Inn will come and enjoy meeting shop owners and exploring and buying what they have to offer,” Barra said. “Giving local business people the opportunity to develop and grow is rewarding to me.”

The Shoppes are designed to resemble the square of a small town, with freestanding stores connected by a brick walkway. Every couple of feet are wooden benches and adirondack chairs. An indoor pavilion houses a carousel with hand-made horses and figures. East Wind also features 28 specialty retail and boutique shops, an ice cream parlor and a pizza place, all chosen by Barra.

“This is a totally different concept — this is a very ma-and-pa situation,” he said. “I’ve seen people now that I haven’t seen in three years, five years, 10 years strolling along, having a cup of coffee. Neighbors are meeting neighbors.”

A central square at The Shoppes in Wading River. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
A central square at The Shoppes in Wading River. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

Stores include The Crushed Olive, The Painted Canvas, North Fork Bridal, Little Miss Sew It All and Solntse Hot Yoga. Barra said about 70 percent of the spaces are currently occupied.

“The grand opening of The Shoppes at East Wind will usher in a new, welcoming family friendly destination on the eastern end of Long Island,” County Executive Steve Bellone said in an email. “I congratulate owner Ken Barra of East Wind Hotel and Spa for creating this addition of The Shoppes at East Wind. It will become a destination for local residents and tourists, and a year-round venue for local merchants and artisans to market Suffolk County-made items.”

Barra was presented with proclamations from the office of Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 28.

The Shoppes plans to host programs and activities throughout the year, such as a Christmas tree lighting and an Easter egg hunt. Fall and Halloween events were scheduled during the grand opening Oct. 28-31.

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