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Erin Dueñas

Rose Andrews gives children a tour of her family’s farm. Photo by Doreen O’Connor

By Erin Dueñas

Nineteen-year-old Rose Andrews has no idea what it means to be bored. Part of the sixth generation of Andrews who work the land at Andrews Family Farm in Wading River, there is work to be done from sunrise till sunset.

Up by 6 a.m., Andrews’ days begin by collecting eggs from the farm’s hens. Throughout the day, she might cut sunflowers to sell at the stand, deliver fresh-picked corn, zucchini or tomatoes to a neighboring farm, help customers or tend to the animals, including goats and rabbits.

“Being bored just doesn’t exist when you farm,” said Andrews. “There’s not much you can do after sundown, but even then you are planning for the next day.”

Working alongside her three older brothers and her parents, the constant work that goes into farm life doesn’t faze the Wading River resident in the least. She currently attends the University of Connecticut, where she studies agriculture and natural resources and agribusiness. Before graduating from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 2015, she said she recalls hearing classmates make weekend plans to hit the mall or the beach. But being in the family business, Andrews knew she would be at the farm instead.

“It’s just always been what my life is — the constant responsibility of the farm,” she said. “Being a farmer, it never stops.”

Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas;
Rose Andrews works the Andrews Family Farm stand in Wading River. Photo by Erin Dueñas

According to Andrews, she’s never resented the farm life and constant workflow to maintain it, even while others her age might be out at a party or with friends.

“I’ve always been pretty different and I feel fortunate to be brought up this way,” she said. “I never cared what other people do. This place doesn’t make me feel like I’m missing anything. It’s my favorite place in the world.”

Andrews credits her parents with instilling a strong work ethic in her, calling them the hardest working people she ever met.

“They brought us up that family matters and the farm matters,” Andrews said. “It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

Her mother Denise Andrews concedes that there was little downtime for her kids growing up farmers. “There was no such thing as sleeping in past 7 a.m.,” she said. “The kids never had time for video games or television.”

Her children joined her at work on the farm as soon as they were old enough — a playpen was a common sight at the stand when the kids were still babies, and as young children, they pitched in.

Those early days working the land helped inspire Rose Andrews to begin Farm Days with Rose, a tour offered monthly to children interested in seeing how the farm operates.

“I want kids to see the farm as I did — as the best place in the world,” she said. 

But there’s a larger lesson she is trying to spread through the tours. She wants people to know where food comes from and why others should care, especially, she said, because when she talks to children about farming, most don’t know where their food comes from, or even what certain vegetables are.

Andrews added that the kids are fascinated to see that an onion is pulled right from the ground.

“They always love that and it’s something people should know,” she said.

Her mother also tries to educate people any chance she gets about food origins and why buying local is better.

“The food we sell here at the farm traveled 20 feet,” she said. “That should make you feel safe. The stuff from the grocery store could have traveled halfway around the world before you get it. That has such a big environmental impact.”

“Family matters and the farm matters. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you love what you do.”

— Rose Andrews

According to the Rose Andrews, sustainability is one of the most important issues facing farmers and consumers alike.

“How can we sustain the environment and still feed a massive population around the world?” she asked. She thinks purchasing local food is one way to do that.

She also noted the benefits of keeping dollars in the local economy, as well as the higher nutrient content of preservative-free produce that is fresh picked. Then there’s the flavor.

“There’s a big difference in taste,” Andrews said. “Farm fresh is just better taste-wise.”

Longtime customer Claudia Schappert of Wading River is a big fan of that taste difference. She said the tomatoes she gets from Andrews Farm are her favorite.

“They are so sweet and delicious — I make fresh sauce from them,” she said. “[The Andrews] are just the best people with incredible produce and flowers.”

Schappert also added that she feels like she has watched Rose Andrews grow up over the years.

“I would describe her as a gentle soul,” she said, noting that her granddaughter has been on one of Rose’s farm tours. “She has become so knowledgeable in her profession and her dedication to eating good food.”

‘Dance of the Haymakers’ by William Sydney Mount, 1845

By Erin Dueñas

The sounds of bluegrass, blues, acoustic and folk music are coming to East Setauket as the fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm on Sept. 13.

According to Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, a festival sponsor, the festival is a celebration of acoustic music. “The formula we have found to be successful is to bring in a national act, a well-known blues based act and a Long Island band,” Tuttle said.

Headline acts this year include The Kennedy’s, Brooks Williams and Buddy Merriam with his band, Back Roads. During the festival, Merriam will be given the Long Island Sound Award honoring him for bringing bluegrass music to Long Island for 35 years, presented by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

The festival will feature a main stage where the headliners will perform, as well as a smaller stage that will include workshops and question-and-answer segments with the musicians. Another stage will host a jam session where not only will headliners play together to conclude the concert, but festivalgoers can play their own instruments. A kid’s corner will be set up offering story time and music, and the night will conclude with a contra dance, complete with a live band and caller. The farm will also be open where guests can check out organic gardens, barns and farm animals.

“This is an all-ages, family friendly event that people can either sit back to watch or participate in,” Tuttle said.

Charlie Backfish, who hosts the acoustic music show Sunday Street on WUSB 90.1, the radio station on the campus of SUNY Stony Brook, another festival sponsor, said Benner’s Farm is a good location for the event.

“This is the kind of music you probably could’ve heard at a farm at some point in history,” he said. “It really makes sense to have it there.” Backfish will host the question-and-answer session of the festival.

Bob Benner, who lives and works on the 15-acre farm, said the festival is a celebration of not only music but farm life. Benner referred to a painting at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook by famed local artist William Sydney Mount of a fiddler playing at a barn dance on a farm. “What we are trying to do at the festival is to show what people would do way back when,” he said. “Everyone lived on a farm here on Long Island up until the 1900s.”

The festival is also sponsored by Homestead Arts, the nonprofit educational arm of Benner’s Farm that works toward keeping what Benner called “old time arts and processes” from fading into history. “Homestead arts are all the different things that people had to know how to do away from our modern sensibilities — things like meat processing and vegetable canning,” he said. Music is a big part of that.

“Way back when there were no phonographs, no forms of playing music. The festival has the kind of music you would hear when neighbors got together for haying or working in the fields,” Benner said. “This really is the perfect place for the festival.”

The fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival will be held on Sept. 13 at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, Setauket, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $11 children and seniors. The event will be held rain or shine. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Food and drink will be available for purchase. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

Discovering the science of wind at the Maritime Explorium. Photo by Jacqueline Grennon-Brooks

By Erin Dueñas

Calling all artisans, DIYers, amateur scientists, inventors, innovators and everyone in between: The first large-scale Makers Festival is set to debut on Long Island this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center and Harborfront Park.

Presented and co-sponsored by the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, the Long Island Makers Festival 2015 will feature a broad range of interactive exhibits including 3D printing, robotics, green screen technology, performance art, African drummers, roller skating, organic gardening and even geologists setting off volcanoes. The Explorium will also be open; there will be a “meet the scientist” booth and a horseshoe crab walk is scheduled. According to festival event coordinator Cindy Morris, the aim of the festival is to encourage the people who are already actively “making” as well as to show the community that innovation can happen anywhere.

“The common thread of the Maker Movement is accessible innovation,” Morris said. “The reality is that people have great ideas. We want to empower the ones who are creating. We found some amazing people.”

Morris said that financial backers and high-tech equipment is no longer necessary for anyone looking to invent and create. “This is something anyone can do. You don’t need a $5,000 piece of equipment. People are doing these things in their living rooms and garages.”

Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto
Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto

The Maker Movement is a mash up of lovers of art, science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation who quite literally make things based on that love. “These are people who are inventors, artists and scientists who are doing incredible things. We believe it was time to showcase what is going on here on Long Island.” Morris said the festival will include a group of men who make holograms and students who created their own 3D printer. “We are taking concepts that feel big and powerful and making them accessible.”

Morris said that the festival motto is “Try it.” “The event is going to be very hands-on. No one could run an exhibit without it being interactive,” Morris said. “We are not just showing what was made, but we are focusing on what you can be doing.”

According to Lauren Hubbard, executive director of the Explorium, the festival will be an extension of what the Explorium does every day. A hands-on museum that features what Hubbard calls “open-ended exhibits,” the Explorium encourages visitors to build and create whatever they want. “You can do the same activity and get a different outcome every time,” Hubbard said. “There are just a million things that can be built.”

She said that the Makers Festival will offer visitors the same experience. “It’s all going to be hands-on and open ended,” Hubbard said. “We wanted to provide a venue for all Maker people to come together for a family friendly day. There’s going to be something for everyone.”

Melora Loffreto is the founder of the festival co-sponsor KidOYO, a program geared toward children ages 7 to 17 that teaches computer programming and coding. She said that Makers festivals and fairs have been popping up in small-scale locations such as schools and libraries across Long Island, but the Port Jefferson festival is the largest so far. “They take place in larger cities and there is a big one in Queens, but this is really the first to come out this way,” Loffreto said.

She described the Makers Movement as particularly important to Long Island. “Our youth is funneling off the Island. The festival is going to say that we have lots of Makers here, we have the skill set and we want to inspire people to keep the talent local.” She said the Makers Movement and the upcoming festival will help to keep skills in the United States. “We want to spur on inventors and to inspire local youth to go down a path of inventing and engineering.”

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Inspired by Setauket’s Anna Smith Strong, clothes hanging at the William Miller house act as clues for the community. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

As the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society gears up for another season of events showcasing what life was like hundreds of years ago, beginning this Saturday at its headquarters in the historic William Miller house, visitors will now have the chance to learn some Revolutionary War history just by checking out what is hanging from the clothesline on the grounds of the home.

According to Ann Donato, vice president of the society, different items will be hung from the clothesline to serve as clues the community can decipher. The idea stems from the Revolutionary War-era activities of Setauket’s Anna Smith Strong, who hung clothes on a clothesline to send messages about the activities of the British, which then made their way to George Washington — then a general — as part of the famed Culper Spy Ring.

“Our clothesline is a copycat to what Anna did on Long Island,” Donato said. “We want to use the laundry to convey contemporary messages to the community.”

So far the society has hung plastic bags on the line as a message to stop littering and overalls hung upside down to indicate that the house is closed.

“It’s drumming up curiosity about the house,” Donato said.

The William Miller house now serves as the historical society’s headquarters. Photo by Erin Dueñas
The William Miller house now serves as the historical society’s headquarters. Photo by Erin Dueñas

The society will also host a birthday party on July 12 in preparation for the Miller home’s 300th anniversary, which will be in 2020. Originally built in 1720, the house had sections added on in 1750 and again in 1816. It underwent renovations after being acquired by the society in 1979, but much of the interior has been left unchanged and the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home is once again in need of updates, including a new roof, windows, plasterwork and painting — all of which needs to be done by experts in historic homes, according to Donato.

“We need to respect the fabric of the house; we can’t just go to Home Depot for supplies,” Donato said. “We can’t call in a regular carpenter ­— we need people well versed in historic homes.”

Repairs done to the house are costly for the society, which is a nonprofit run completely by volunteers. To help raise funds, a car show fundraiser by the Long Island Street Rod Association is planned for June 28.

LISRA member Dennis Manfredo, of Miller Place, said the group brings as many cars of all different makes and models onto the grounds of the Miller house. He called the event a “very learned day for the community.”

“It’s a marriage between historians and hot-rodders,” Manfredo said. “We hope to bring people looking at hot rods to appreciate history and to show those that are only interested in history what we do to cars.”

“When you see the house being restored and then cars that have been restored, it’s a different realm but a really nice connection.”

Miller Place resident Erin McCarthy said she has visited the William Miller house numerous times, and she looks forward to another season. She said she learned about antique medical and farm equipment and how candles used to be made during visits to the house.

“They offer coloring books for the kids, with the history of Miller Place woven in,” she said. “It’s such a gem for our community.”

Donato said the society is open to the public and is always looking for help and input. She added that, as a new season opens, she wants people to realize what the Miller house offers to the community.

“There is so much to learn and appreciate at the house,” Donato said. “We have to take care of what we have or it will be lost and it can’t be replicated. We have a treasure here in Miller Place.”

The William Miller house, located at 75 North Country Road, is open for tours on Saturdays, from noon-2 p.m., or by appointment for groups. For more information, call 631-476-5742.

Kiernan Urso as Oliver and Jeffrey Sanzel as Fagin in a scene from ‘Oliver!’ at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Erin Dueñas

Twelve-year-old Kiernan Urso can trace his love of acting back to preschool where a creative teacher engaged him and his classmates in games of “Let’s Pretend” where the only limit was their imaginations.

“She let us choose whoever we wanted. We would all pick a character, and she would write a script based on the characters,” said Kiernan. “I remember once there was a play with Peter Pan and Rocky Balboa and three Disney princesses. That’s when I learned that performing was a way of communicating.”

In addition to “Let’s Pretend” sessions, the Longwood Middle School sixth-grader said he would accompany his father, a teacher in Longwood, to the plays put on at school.

“I remember sitting in the front row and thinking I can see myself doing that.”

On May 23, Kiernan will take to the stage as the title character in “Oliver!” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

It will be his third time on the main stage there, having appeared in “A Christmas Carol” as Scrooge as a Boy this past year and Tiny Tim the year before. Kiernan said he is excited to play Oliver.

“He is very innocent but very strong,” Kiernan said of his character. “He can survive anything. Despite his life, that hasn’t gone well, he’s a fighter and he won’t give up.”

But playing the title role, which puts him in nine of the play’s 12 scenes, is also making Kiernan nervous.

“Playing the main character is nerve-wracking,” he said. “What are people going to think? I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

With rehearsals at least five times a week, preparing for “Oliver!” has taken up a lot of Kiernan’s time, but he manages to complete schoolwork thanks to supportive teachers and making good use of his time.

“I get my homework done during the school day and maybe some in the morning,” he said. “I don’t know how I do it but it works out.”

The demanding rehearsal schedule also keeps Kiernan’s mom Christina busy, driving her son back and forth from their home in Ridge to Port Jefferson.

“It’s all worth the crazy hours. It’s such a great experience for him” she said. “To see that spark in your child’s eye — to see him love it and not just like it. It’s all worth it.”

A self-described movie buff, Kiernan said he enjoys watching movies with a lot of drama, and he said he would love to appear in a horror movie one day. He is a big fan of television as well, counting the ABC show “Once Upon a Time” as a favorite.

“I love how they twist fairy tales and compress them with our modern world,” Kiernan said. “I would love to be on that show someday. I don’t even care what character I would play.”

Kiernan said eventually he would like to audition for commercials and possibly even Broadway. A dream role would be to play King Triton in “The Little Mermaid.”

“He’s in control and I like the feeling of how he can boss people around.”

For now Kiernan is enjoying his time at Theatre Three, which he said is unlike anything he has ever experienced.

“The adults here treat you like one of them,” he said. “They are not distant and they try to help you out and do what it takes to make you comfortable.”

Kiernan said he is particularly inspired by Jeffrey Sanzel, who is directing “Oliver!” and playing the role of Fagin. Sanzel also plays Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”

“The way he directs, acts and portrays any character he plays is amazing,” Kiernan said. “I want to be like that when I grow up.”

Sanzel is equally impressed with Kiernan.

“When he auditioned for Oliver, we saw something truly extraordinary,” Sanzel said. “It was a combination of raw honesty and underlying fire. In Kiernan, we saw the passion and the light that shines through underneath. The audience will root for him from the first moment to the last.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present the timeless musical “Oliver!” from May 23 to June 27. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Children of the late Helen Stein Shack (Karen Shack Reid, Barbara Kelly, Edward Taylor and Sherry Cleary) stand with grand prize winners Leah Cussen and Wendy Wahlert and honorable mention winners Samuel Kim, Sarah Jiang, Karen Jiang and Anny Weisenberg. (Not present: honorable mention winner Kiera Alventosa). Photo from Emma S. Clark Library

By Erin Dueñas

As much as she loves reading books, Leah Cussen said it never occurred to her to try writing one. But leafing through the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library newsletter over the winter, Cussen saw an announcement for the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, which called on teens in grades seven through 12 to create a children’s book. “I wrote assignments for school and a few stories on my own, but creating a book was new to me,” Cussen said. “It seemed like a cool challenge.”

Taking inspiration from her 5-year- old brother’s bookshelves, Cussen wrote a book called “Lenny the Lion,” a story about a misfit who can’t roar as well as his brothers. Lenny sets out in the jungle looking for a family to fit in with. When he can’t swing from tree to tree like a monkey and reach the top leaves of a tree like a giraffe, Lenny realizes that he belongs with his lion family. “I liked the theme of being true to yourself,” Cussen said. “He realizes that his family loves him no matter what.”

“Lenny the Lion” won the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, along with the story “Lilabet” written by 17-yearold Wendy Wahlert. “Lilabet” is a story about a colorful young girl who lives in a “black, white and blah” world. Lilabet spreads her color around to change the town. Wahlert said that she got the idea for “Lilabet” based on her own thoughts about living in the suburbs, which she called black and white. “‘Lilabet’ is kind of how I feel. I’m the colorful person in the suburbs where every house is the same as the next,” she said. “There’s a reflection of myself in the story.”

Wahlert said she is more of an artist than a writer, illustrating “Lilabet” with large sweeping swaths of color inspired by paintings she saw at a coffee shop in New York City. “I like pop art, conceptual art,” she said. “I like a graphic and bold style with a flow of simple shapes. I tried to do that and I guess it worked,” she said of her story.

Chosen winners from a dozen entries, both girls received a $500 scholarship and read their books to a roomful of children at an awards reception on April 26. The library printed and bound a copy of each story to be included in its “Local Focus” collection. Both stories will also be turned into e-books. Honorable mention winners included Samuel Kim for his book “Freddy the Fish and the First Day of School,” Anny Weisenberg for “Red Boots for Rainy Days,” Kiera Alventosa for “Heal Our Mother Earth” and sisters Sarah and Karen Jiang for “Pengy Goes on an Adventure.”

This is the first year for the Helen Stein Shack award, according to Shack’s daughter Sherry Cleary, who said that her mother would volunteer to read to kids and teach them to read in her spare time. “My mother loved this library. She would always say to people, ‘You should see my library’ or ‘Let’s go to the library,’” Cleary said. “She used to say if you could read and read for joy, you would have a successful life.”

When Shack passed away more than a year ago, Cleary and her siblings approached the library looking for a way to mark her life and the idea of the book contest came up. “We just wanted to honor her,” she said. “The students in the community rose to the occasion. These are just stunning books.”

Cussen said that winning the contest means a lot. “I want to do writing when I’m older so now I’m thinking what if I could write stories,” she said. “It broadened my ideas for my career in writing.”

Wahlert said being a published author is “pretty awesome.” “It gives me more confidence that people appreciate what I’m doing,” she said.

Library director Ted Gutmann said that all the entries showed great talent and the one word that came to mind in reading the stories was imagination. “Imagination will take you everywhere,” he said. “These kids have the imagination and I hope they never lose it.”

Invited INN to hold annual walkathon on Saturday

Volunteer Giovanni Cassino, of Miller Place, helps set the table at the Invited INN soup kitchen at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point. File photo by Erika Karp

By Erin Dueñas

In order to raise funds to continue 23 years of preparing a warm and nutritious meal to those in need, the Invited INN soup kitchen of Rocky Point will host a walkathon this Saturday, April 25, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville.

Every Thursday, volunteers at the soup kitchen cook and serve dinner to anywhere from 40 to 70 people who come seeking a fresh-cooked meal and the companionship that comes with eating together. According to Invited INN’s Director and President Carol Moor, the soup kitchen has a “no questions asked” policy on who gets served.

“We don’t check income or anything like that, some people come just for the company. Anyone who shows up gets a meal,” she said. “Everyone who comes is treated with dignity and respect.”

According to Moor, the guests of the Invited INN are a diverse group, including seniors and families with young children, as well as single adults. Although housed in the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, the soup kitchen is ecumenical and any and all faiths are welcome to dine.

The INN, which stands for Interfaith Nutrition Network, is a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and support services to Long Island residents.

Moor said she helped start the soup kitchen more than two decades ago when she was chair of social ministries at Trinity.

“The church recognized a need for a soup kitchen,” she said. “We had the pantry, but we needed something more.”

The very first meal prepared at the Invited INN was served to just six people.

“It’s really grown since then and it’s been very successful,” Moor said. “People aren’t aware that people in their community need this kind of help.”

This is the seventh year the soup kitchen will host the walkathon, the only formal fundraiser it does throughout the year, according to Moor.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck doing a walkathon, and we tend to do very well,” Moor said. “The shrine is a beautiful place to walk and we make some money so it is really a win-win.”

Registration for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. and Moor said walkers can walk as many or as few times as they want around the shrine.

Every penny earned Saturday will go directly to providing the food prepared each Thursday. Running with no overhead and completely by volunteers, any donations the INN receives throughout the year goes solely toward buying food to prepare the weekly dinner.

Donated food items come from organizations such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, but the bulk of Invited INN’s monetary donations come from private donors: the congregation at Trinity, as well as from the Rocky Point Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Rocky Point.

Rotary member Tom Talbot said his organization’s intent is to provide help to people and that they enjoy giving to the Invited INN.

“The volunteers are very nice people who are so grateful for our help,” Talbot said. “They run a very important facility in Rocky Point.”

Talbot, who has volunteered at the soup kitchen as a pot washer for 10 years, said that the people who eat there seem to enjoy the meals.

“They are usually very satisfied with the food and it gives them the chance to be social too,” he said. “Some of them come early to make sure they get the same seat they have been sitting in for years.”

Trinity’s pastor Jeffrey Kolbo said that although the Invited INN is essentially a free hot meal program, he has found that it provides much more than that.

“For those who live on a limited income, money saved by eating each week at the Invited INN can be spent on other necessities,” he said. “For those who live by themselves, a night out at the INN breaks the tedium of eating alone. Our volunteers know this and do what they can to build community and feed those who come for our meals.”

To participate in the walkathon or sponsor a walker, contact Moor at 631-744-8686.

‘Short But Sweet,’ the butterfly bra created by Tammy Colletti in memory of her mother. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

Covered in feathers, decorated in shells and bedazzled in rhinestones, the bras on display at the Wang Center at Stony Brook University last Thursday looked like they could have been part of the latest collection from an eccentric lingerie designer. The bras were actually created by members of the community, local businesses, cancer survivors and television personalities as part of Bodacious Bras for a Cure, a fundraising event to benefit women’s cancer programs at Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Dr. Michael Pearl says the services offered to cancer patients involved in the cancer center help to restore some control in their lives. Photo by Erin Duenas
Dr. Michael Pearl says the services offered to cancer patients involved in the cancer center help to restore some control in their lives. Photo by Erin Duenas

Bodacious Bras was initiated by Linda Bily, director of Cancer Patient Advocacy and the Woman to Woman program at the center and inspired by a similar event called Creative Cups at Adelphi University. Bras were decorated and then put up for auction at the Stony Brook event. “It’s just a fun, different way of promoting awareness of all women’s cancers,” Bily said.

Twenty-two bras were auctioned off, raising $5,000 that will help fund women’s patient services at the Cancer Center.

According to Bily, each bra entry had to be created on a size 36C garment. Nothing perishable was permitted on the creations and the entire bra needed to be decorated. A brief summary accompanied each bra explaining the creator’s motivation. The “Mandala” bra, which fetched $250, created by local artist Jessica Randall, was made of shells and won the Best in Show prize. “I made this bra,” Randall’s summary read, “to honor women who have struggled with the debilitating disease of breast cancer.” “That Meatball Place” bra was created by the restaurant of the same name, located in Patchogue. Featuring bows and rhinestones and the restaurant’s logo, the bra fetched $500 at the auction. “Whichever [meatball] style suits you, we support them all, while always saving room for hope of a cure,” that summary read. Another bra called the “Hooter Holster” was created by Port Jefferson Station native Clinton Kelly, co-host of  “The Chew.”

22 bras were featured at Bodacious Bras for a Cure bringing in $5000 to fund women’s cancer services. Photo by Erin Duenas
22 bras were featured at Bodacious Bras for a Cure bringing in $5000 to fund women’s cancer services. Photo by Erin Duenas

Tammy Colletti of Setauket made a bra called “Short But Sweet” dedicated to her mother Marion who passed away a year and a half ago. Using purple and teal feathers, the bra was made to look like a butterfly. A small vial containing a piece of paper that read “Cure Breast Cancer” rested in the center in between the feathers.

Colletti, who volunteers at the Cancer Center, said she was inspired to create a butterfly bra after watching her mother live out the remainder of her life in hospice care. “When they brought her in to hospice she was all wrapped up, and I told her it looked like she was in a cocoon,” Colletti said. When she passed away, Colletti imagined her mother shedding that cocoon and turning into a butterfly. “She was transformed into something beautiful, into something that I know is flying all around us.”

The Cancer Center provides a wide variety of support to ill patients to help them cope with a cancer diagnosis. In the Woman to Woman program, patients can get help with childcare, transportation to treatments, financial assistance to pay for costs associated with being ill and selecting wigs if needed.

Dr. Michael Pearl, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, said that a cancer diagnosis has a huge impact not just on the woman affected but on her family as well. “In a lot of families, the woman acts as the glue that keeps everything together,” Pearl said. When a woman gets sick, often the day-to-day operations of family life get disrupted. That is when the Woman to Woman program can step in.

“We have volunteers that provide active support services,” Pearl said. Services could even include driving a patient’s children to sports or band practice. “Getting sick takes away your control. The program tries to restore some control and normalcy into their day-to-day lives.”

Bily said she was expecting Bodacious Bras to take a while to catch on, but she was happy with the positive response of the event. “It was a great night,” she said. “People who designed a bra are already thinking about what they will make next year.”

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Community rallies to raise $1,000 after funds go missing

The Mickey Mouse collection box that Sound Beach’s Kristen Abbondondelo decorated. Photo from Kerri Bové

By Erin Dueñas

Community members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach opened their wallets and their hearts over the weekend to replace a local family’s lost Disney vacation fund.

Sound Beach mother of three Kerri Bové had $1,000 cash in an envelope tucked in her purse on April 1, ready to use the funds to pay back a friend who had laid out the money for plane tickets to the amusement park.

Bové first had to drop her daughter off at a local gymnastics center where she used some of that cash to pay for tickets to an upcoming recital.

“I went to hand over my credit card to pay for the tickets when they told me it was cash only,” Bové said.
While a line formed behind her, she said she carefully thumbed through the Disney money to get out the amount she needed for the recital tickets.

Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové
Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové

In midst of the transaction, Bové started a conversation with her daughter’s gymnastics teacher and tended to her crying 2-year-old. She then left the facility to stop at the bank to replace the cash she had just used for the recital, and headed out to meet her friend to pay her for the tickets.

Less than a half hour later, Bové was tearing apart her car and her purse, searching everywhere for the money but it was nowhere to be found.

“My heart was pounding, I was searching frantically,” Bové said. “It was totally gone.”

In a panic, Bové called the gymnastics place hoping she had left the envelope there, but they said they couldn’t find it. She drove back to see if she dropped it in the parking lot, but still turned up empty.

“I was getting choked up thinking about all the months we spent planning this trip,” Bové said, noting that her husband Ray had been working 16-hour days, seven days a week to pay for it. “I was sick to my stomach. There was no way we would be able to pay my friend back and re-buy the tickets.”

The couple filed a police report, but the officer told them there was little chance that the money would turn up. That night, she took to the Rocky Point and Sound Beach community pages on Facebook to make a plea to the person who took the money.

“Please I beg you if you know anything or accidently took the money PLEASE return it,” Bové wrote. “I know we live in a good community and I want to show my children there are good, honest people in this world.”
“I was hoping the person who took it would see it,” Bové said. “I wanted them to just return it and to know that my kids were devastated.”

Bové said that the trip would be the first her family had taken since suffering a series of losses over the past few years, including the sudden deaths of her brother and nephew, as well as the death of her father just last year.

“We were so looking forward to it since the past couple of years had been so hard for us.”

Bové said she never dreamt of the response she got to her post. Soon community members sought to replace the $1,000. Roseann Sobczak and Mary Heely, neither of whom Bové had met, put out the call on Facebook to get the money back.

Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové
Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové

“I was devastated for them,” Heely of Rocky Point said. “I thought to myself I wish I had a $1,000 to give them and then thought, what if everyone could donate a little and maybe then we could recoup the loss.”

Sound Beach’s Kristen Abbondondelo jumped at the idea. She decorated a box in Mickey Mouse paper and sat in the gymnastics center for six hours while donations from people that had seen the Facebook post trickled in.

Abbondondelo estimated that at least 50 people dropped off money that day and still more donated the next day when the box was posted at another location in Rocky Point.

“They were all there to right a wrong and to show how much they cared,” she said. “People were concerned about there not being enough.”

Bové said her family was able to recoup the loss and the trip is on for May. She said she was greatly touched by the messages included with the donations. One child drew a picture of Cinderella’s castle and told the family to have fun. Another note was decorated with rainbows and hearts. One said how grateful they were to be part of the Rocky Point community. Yet another included the message that “miracles do happen.”

“It put pure happiness in my heart that my community did this for me,” Bové said. “It regained my faith that there are so many who are good.”

Bové said she credits her angels in heaven — her brother, nephew and father — and the ones on Earth for the happy ending.

“I feel my angels pulled through for me,” she said. “That the whole community pulled through for us, it is something we will never forget.”

Arleen Buckley donated a kidney to her husband of 43 years, Tom Buckley. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

Arleen Buckley ticked off the places she and husband Tom had traveled to before he fell ill. The Port Jefferson couple had visited Italy, Ireland and even China, but a planned trip to Belgium last year had to be canceled after Tom’s battle with polycystic kidney disease — a hereditary condition where cysts develop on the kidneys, leading to the organ’s failure — kept him from traveling.

“He was just too sick,” his wife said. “We were lucky we could get him to the corner.”

Tom Buckley spent months undergoing dialysis three days a week, but the treatments left him weak.

“He wasn’t having a good reaction to the dialysis,” Arleen Buckley said. “I told him we can’t live life like this. It was a tough time.”

Arleen Buckley said she couldn’t bear seeing her husband of 43 years so ill. She suggested giving him one of her kidneys to resolve his health issue but he refused.

“He felt guilty. He didn’t want me putting my life at risk,” she said. “I told him I wanted to live a nice long life — but with him.”

It took months but she eventually convinced her husband to take her kidney, and in September of last year, the couple underwent the surgeries.

Arleen Buckley was up and about just three days later, and while her husband’s recovery took much longer — about six months — he said he feels great. They’re even planning a trip to Scandinavia.

“I couldn’t go anywhere, not even to the movies,” Tom Buckley said. “Now that I’m better I can do whatever I want.”

Last Thursday, April 2, the couple attended the Living Donor Award Ceremony at Stony Brook University Hospital, which honored Arleen Buckley and about 200 other kidney donors. Sponsored by the hospital’s Department of Transplant, kidney recipients presented their living donors with a state medal of honor for the second chance at life.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Chris Melz of Huntington Station, who donated a kidney in 2009 to his childhood friend Will Burton, who suffered from end-stage renal failure. The surgeries were successful, and Melz now works with the National Kidney Foundation raising awareness for living donors.

“I want to spark the drive for people to do good,” he said. “Giving is a beautiful thing.”

Arleen Buckley said she was happy to give a kidney to her husband, whom she has known for 50 years.

“I told him, ‘When I was 14 years old, I gave you my heart. At 64, I gave you my kidney,’” the wife said.

Dr. Wayne Waltzer, director of kidney transplantation services and chair of the Department of Urology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, called kidney transplants a “new lease on life” for patients who are on dialysis.

“Transplants restore them,” Waltzer said. “They get back the same sense of well-being they had before they got sick.”

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 118,000 Americans are on a waiting list for an organ —  96,000 of those wait for a kidney. Roughly 13 people die daily waiting for the organ, the group said.

Stephen Knapik, Stony Brook University’s living donor coordinator, said that every 10 minutes someone in need of a kidney is added to that list. He called it an honor to work with donors who keep the list from growing.

“I’ve never been in a room with so many superheroes in my life,” Knapik said. “The greatest gift you can give isn’t a boat or a car, it’s the gift of life.”

Waltzer said that donating a kidney involves meeting certain criteria including compatible blood groups and matching body tissues between donor and recipient, as well as ensuring that the recipient has no antibodies that will work against the transplanted organ.

While he said the surgery is sophisticated, he called the science and medicine an incredible achievement.

“The immunosuppressive therapy is so good and the medication so effective that you can override any mismatches,” he said.

This allows for donors to give to loved ones that are not related by blood.

With the most active renal transplant program on Long Island, Stony Brook has done 1,500 transplants since 1981. Waltzer said that donors are doing an “amazing service,” not just to their recipient but also to one of the thousands of people who are on the waiting list for a kidney.

“There is a shortage of organs,” he said. “By donating, you are giving a chance to someone else on that waiting list.”