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Fundraiser

Two young boys sit at the Memorial Wall during last year’s Memorial Day services in Sound Beach. Photo by Bea Ruberto

By Ernestine Franco

Eating lasagna is a good thing. Eating lasagna to benefit the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial is even better.

The Sound Beach Civic Association will host its third Lasagna Dinner for the Vets Memorial fundraiser on Friday, April 1 (no fooling!), from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Sound Beach Firehouse located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd.

Mamma’s Lasagna — yields 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients: 2 eggs; 2 pounds whole or low-fat ricotta; 1 pound shredded mozzarella; ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese; 1 tablespoon dried oregano; 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; Nonstick cooking spray; 6-7 cups of your favorite tomato sauce; 1 box (9 ounces) no-boil lasagna pasta (or use regular lasagna pasta); 1 cup shredded mozzarella for topping

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 F. In large bowl, beat eggs. Add ricotta, 1 pound of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Spray bottom and sides of pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of sauce on bottom of pan. Layer 4 uncooked lasagna sheets, 1/3 of cheese mixture and 1 cup of the sauce. Repeat step 4 two more times. Top with 4 sheets of lasagna. Spread 1 cup of sauce and sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella on top layer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until bubbly, about 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Let stand about 15 minutes before cutting. Top with more sauce if desired.

The menu will include homemade lasagna, meatballs, salad, bread, dessert, coffee, tea and nonalcoholic beverages. There will also be a 50/50 raffle. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, with children under 10 free. Take-out will be available for $10.

For some background on the site, starting in 2007, the Sound Beach Civic Association coordinated the Veterans Memorial Project, now located on New York Avenue across from the post office. In cooperation with the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State, they secured grants. Pavers in the form of a rondel, six flag poles and a granite wall were installed on which were to be placed bronze plaques honoring the seven fallen of Sound Beach. However, the funding dried up and for a time the granite wall remained empty.

Then in 2012, the Civic scaled down the project and donations from the community allowed them to purchase the bronze plaques and engrave the granite wall. On Memorial Day 2012, the Memorial was finally dedicated. Memorial services for the community are held each year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Ann Moran, treasurer of the Civic and the co-chair of the lasagna dinner, donated the funds for the plaques in honor of her late husband, Matt Moran. Her commitment to ensuring that the Memorial is well maintained is what drives her to this day. “Every time I drive by the Memorial I’m reminded of the sacrifices made by many to ensure our quality of life, but most of all I remember Matt,” Moran said.

Several years ago Moran came up with the idea of hosting a lasagna dinner to raise the funds needed to maintain the Memorial.

During last year’s Memorial Day services in Sound Beach, veterans raise the flags. Photo by Bea Ruberto
During last year’s Memorial Day services in Sound Beach, veterans raise the flags. Photo by Bea Ruberto

“I’d like to invite everyone to join us, not just because it’s a worthy cause or because my sister is the one cooking the lasagna or because it’s my mother’s recipe,” Bea Ruberto, president of the Civic, said, “but because it’s a great community event.”

Nancy Ford, a Sound Beach resident and Civic member who attended the last lasagna dinner, remembers the event fondly. “I very much enjoyed attending the last lasagna dinner for the Vets Memorial. We were treated to good homemade lasagna, enjoyed the time with good friends, and were glad to be able to support the Vets Memorial,” she said.

If you would like more information on the other activities of the Sound Beach Civic Association, visit www.soundbeachcivic.org.

Although tickets may be purchased at the door, because of limited seating, advance reservations are suggested by calling 631-821-9650 for tickets.

For those of you who can’t make it on April Fool’s Day or would like to make lasagna on Easter Sunday, here is the recipe. Mangia!

Harborfields students Kaylee Perkowski, Alissa Barber, Allison Walkley, Ariella Walker and Emma Riley pose with donations they collected for local animal shelters. Photo from Daniel Barrett

Students at Harborfields High School believe ’tis the season to show your furry friends some extra love.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Members of the Global Justice Club and the Forensics Club are working together to raise money and collect donations for Little Shelter, Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, as well as spread the word on why adopting is better than shopping for a new pet.

Students collected pet supplies including food, treats, toys, litter, blankets and more. They have also raised about $200 by selling “opt to adopt” bracelets and pens, and plan to use the money to sponsor animals at the shelters, including Pascal from Little Shelter, a 12-year-old Pointer mix who needs a home.

“There are so many pets bought this time of year for the holidays, and while it’s true that a dog or cat make a great gift and provide so much joy to a family, there are lots of homeless pets waiting in our local shelters that would love to become part of a forever home,” Daniel Barrett, advisor of the Forensics Club, said in an email.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Students Allison Walkley and Ariella Walker said it’s necessary for kids within the community to educate themselves about the importance of supporting their local shelters.

“Animals play a huge part in so many of our lives,” the girls said in a shared email statement on Monday morning. “They’re our companions and our family, but some animals out there don’t have a loving home. They’ve been thrown out on streets or they’ve been abused and neglected. The shelters are the orphanages for these animals, but so many don’t have enough funding or supplies to take in all the helpless dogs and cats.”

The Harborfields students will be collecting donations until Saturday, Dec. 19, when they will bring all the donations and money collected to the shelters.

Little Shelter is a no-kill, nonprofit animal shelter located on Warner Road in Huntington. It was established in 1927.

According to its website, it is Long Island’s oldest humane organization.

Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter share a location on Deposit Road in East Northport, and both work with the Town of Huntington and the League for Animal Protection, Inc. LAP is a nonprofit organization established in 1973. Grateful Paw focuses on cat and kitten adoptions and has a spaying/neutering program.

Residents were “freezin’ for a reason” at Cedar Beach on Saturday, for the Town of Brookhaven’s sixth annual Polar Plunge event.

Some of the countless residents in attendance took the plunge into the chilly waters of the Long Island Sound to help raise money for the athletes of the Special Olympics New York. Plungers who raised at least $125 received a sweatshirt for their efforts.

Members of the Suffolk County Police Department, Nestle Nesquik, Long Island’s My Country 96.1 FM and local government officials, including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point), were there to show their support or join the plungers and take a dip in the water.

Despite the breezy weather and cold currents, some residents left the water saying the water wasn’t as chilly as last year.

By Giselle Barkley

Independence — that’s what veteran Glen Moody is fighting for.

Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

As veterans still struggle with adjusting to life beyond the war, post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality for men and women like Moody, with 22 PTSD-stricken veterans committing suicide daily. Although Moody said he wasn’t suicidal, the California-based Patriotic Service Dog Foundation and a one-year-old red fox Labrador named Independence — Indy for short — are helping make his life a little less stressful.

On Saturday, at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, the 35-year-old Afghanistan and Iraqi vet led the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser, which aims to raise PTSD awareness and raise money to help veterans afford and obtain a PTSD service dog. These service dogs help veterans snap out of flashbacks, anxiety attacks and address other PTSD-related issues. Moody, who was born and raised in Miller Place, mentioned the dogs will also keep an eye on their war heroes — they are trained to guard or protect their vet by sitting in front, beside or behind them.

According to Moody, around 300 people attended the event. He said they raised $20,000 Saturday night, which is double what he hoped to raise. Typically, veterans will get their service dog from the foundation after the dog is 18 months old. But in light of the overwhelming community support on Saturday, Indy will live with Moody until January. This allows Indy to adjust to Moody’s lifestyle in New York.

“Tom was proud to tell me that … no one’s killed themselves [after getting a Tackett dog],” Moody said about the veterans who’ve obtained dogs from Tom Tackett’s foundation — Tackett is a trainer and the president of Patriotic Service Dog Foundation.

The absence of suicide attempts is an accomplishment for the foundation, whose goal is to reduce the statistic from 22 veterans committing suicide down to zero. Tackett could not be reached prior to publication due to technological difficulties, but Moody said he met Tackett after a fellow marine advised Moody’s family to get one of Tackett’s service dogs. The suggestion lead Moody to California in August, where he met Indy.

Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

Moody served as a Fleet Marine Force corpsman with the U.S. Marines from 1999 to 2005. While Moody fought in the front lines, he was also the doctor on the field.

“If anything bad happens, they’ll cry on my shoulder, or if they get shot or blown up, they all come to me,” Moody said. “I’m the one that’s got to treat them first hand.”

The experience left Moody with anxiety attacks and issues with his personal life when he returned to Long Island. He said his PTSD was to a point where it affected his everyday life and those around him. According to Moody’s aunt LynnAnne Daly, Moody didn’t have anyone to turn to during his time of service. She added that there should be more support for causes and providing service dogs for veterans.

“We need to get government funding for this,” Daly said about providing service dogs to veterans. “These men and women are fighting for us.”

According to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, around 460,000 veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffer from PTSD or brain injuries after or during their time of service. The training period for dogs like Indy starts at eight weeks old until they are 18 months old. With the large portion of veterans suffering from PTSD, Daly added that the fundraiser and the cause “is not just about Glen. It’s about spreading awareness.”

Moody agreed and said he is trying to make a difference, starting with the foundation, the fundraiser and his four-legged companion.

“I’m not the only guy [suffering] — I know I’m not,” Moody said about his PTSD. “When I talk to veterans they say the same thing. We need more awareness and that’s what I’m doing.”

A scene from last year’s art sale at the St. James R.C. Church in E. Setauket. Photo from Andrew Meade

By Melissa Arnold

For many people in Haiti, financial stability has always been out of reach. The country ranks among the poorest in the world, and the economy there only suffered further following a major earthquake in 2010, which killed hundreds and left even more without homes.

Despite all the setbacks, Haitians are still known for their joy and perseverance. They’ll do whatever they can to make a living.

This weekend, St. James Catholic Church in Setauket will host a sale of handmade artwork and craft jewelry created by talented Haitians. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be poured into bettering a Haitian community.

The church is partnering with The Vassar Haiti Project, a not-for-profit, nonsectarian grass-roots organization based at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. The program’s founders, Andrew and Lila Meade, both have personal connections to the country — Lila’s mother grew up there, and Andrew graduated from high school in the country while his father was involved with the international diplomatic service.

The couple met in 1985 and quickly bonded over their shared background. They married not long after. The Meades were frequent participants in Haitian fundraisers, but it wasn’t until 9/11 that they felt prompted to take a more active role. “I think it was a time when we really wanted to think about what our purpose was,” Lila Meade recalls. “Haiti was always on our radar, so it seemed a natural choice to help them. We started to buy pieces of Haitian art here and there and then began to wonder what it would be like if we held an art show to benefit villages there.”

Andrew Meade is the director of the Office of International Studies at Vassar and thought the college would make a great host site for the sale. Using their own savings to purchase artwork and family and friends as volunteers, the Meades held their first art sale at Vassar in February of 2012. They raised $14,000 that year.

The Meades felt strongly about putting the money toward education and developing personal relationships with the people they assisted. With the help of existing Haitian relief programs, they connected with the mountain village of Chermaitre to provide hot meals for students and salaries for teachers.

“In the developing world, it’s typical for children to help the family make additional money by staying home and working. Families usually won’t send their children to school without incentives,” Andrew explains. “Offering a hot meal at school was a huge draw. For many of these kids, it’s the only hot meal they’ll have for the day.”

The Vassar Haiti Project continued to grow each year following their first sale. In the past 15 years they’ve completed a seven-room school for kindergarten through sixth grade; built a medical clinic with a doctor and nurse on staff; and developed a system for easier water access and purification, among other projects. So far, they’ve raised more than $500,000 for the artists and villagers of Chermaitre.

The project is currently working on a reforestation effort, which includes planting 100,000 trees, and building a women’s cooperative. “A lot of the women in the village do not have husbands and are raising five to 12 children in a very rural area,” Lila says. At the women’s cooperative, “they learn to make things like jewelry or napkins, or use other skills they’ve learned previously to work. Right now they are growing incredible coffee. We’re then able to sell those goods and pour the profits back into the community.”

The project is also supported by a passionate group of Vassar student volunteers who facilitate art sales and brainstorm new ideas. They also travel to Haiti each year to meet face to face with village leaders to discuss their needs and next steps.

“The program is about more than helping the Haitian communities. It’s also about mentoring the students — encouraging them to develop and implement their own ideas,” Lila says. “We encourage global citizenship — not just considering the world from an American perspective but from other cultures as well.”

The art sales have expanded beyond Vassar, too, with individuals and groups hosting their own sales in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, among other places.

Setauket’s Jeanine Morelli, coordinator of the upcoming sale, fell in love with the project while attending her 30th class reunion at Vassar two years ago. Morelli says she admired the artwork and purchased a few pieces that weekend, but meeting Andrew and Lila encouraged her to bring a sale to Long Island.

“With this project, you’re supporting the livelihood of the Haitians rather than just supplying handouts, and the leadership education for the students is wonderful,” she says.

The first Setauket art sale was held last February at St. James Catholic Church, where Morelli is a member. It was a huge success, raising more than $25,000. While Morelli admits she had to get out of her comfort zone to plan the sale, supporting Haiti was worth it.

The upcoming sale will feature more than 250 paintings and crafts at a variety of price points, with crafts beginning at $5 and most paintings starting around $50. Sixty percent of the proceeds will go toward paying the Haitian artists and purchasing supplies for the sales, while the other 40 percent directly benefits the initiatives in Haiti. All purchases are 50 percent tax-deductible.

The Long Island Vassar Haiti Project art sale will be held from Nov. 20 to 22 at St. James Catholic Church, 429 Route 25A, E. Setauket. The sale will begin with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, and will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about the sale, contact Andrew Meade at 845-797-2123. To learn more about the Vassar Haiti Project, visit www.thehaitiproject.org.

Three of the nation’s top comics to appear on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

The Smithtown Fire Department is planning a comedy night to raise money for truck repairs. File photo

The Smithtown Fire Department will hold its third annual Bulldog Restoration Comedy Show to benefit the restoration of the department’s 1935 Mack Hook and Ladder truck.

The restoration of a historic piece of Smithtown and the Fire Department’s history is being totally paid for by the generosity of firefighters and donors. No taxpayer dollars are being used to fund the project.

Appearing at the 8 p.m. show are three fan favorite comedians. On the schedule are Dion Flynn, the face and voice of Barack Obama on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Seth Herzog, comic, actor and warm-up act to get the audience going each night on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and the great Gilbert Gottfried, beloved stand-up comedian, actor and voice artist.

Tickets are priced at $60 each and include the show, an open beer, soda and wine bar and intermission snacks.

To purchase tickets online visit the Smithtown Fire Department website at www.smithtownfd.org or call 631-486-0958.

This female bobcat, named Surabi, lives at Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Proceeds raised at a bowling event on Sunday will be used to feed and care for the more than 100 animals that live at Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center.

Halloween Bowl for Animals will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at Bowl Long Island at Patchogue, and will cost $30 for adults, $20 for children and $10 for non-bowlers who attend. That price includes unlimited bowling, shoe rental, a buffet and dessert. Reservations are required.

“This is a great event for the entire family that will help to ensure the animals at the ecology site continue receiving the proper care,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement.

The spooky bowling fundraiser will include a costume contest — children are encouraged to dress as their favorite animal — and a 50/50 raffle.

To reserve lanes, register online at www.brookhavenwildlifecenter.org or call 631-758-9664 x11.

The bowling alley is located at 138 West Ave., Patchogue.

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Event raises money for cancer patients

Michele Pincus, a breast cancer survivor, walks in the show. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Pink Aid Long Island hosted its second annual fashion show and luncheon to benefit victims of breast cancer at Mitchells|Marshs in Huntington on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Pink Aid is a nonprofit organization, with branches in Connecticut and Long Island and seeks to support breast cancer survivors and provide screenings to women in   financial need.

Pink Aid’s grant programs provide services like free breast cancer screenings and help cover nonmedical expenses such as wigs, recovery garments and transportation for patients undergoing treatment.

The event featured a fashion show with models wearing Mitchells fall 2015 and spring 2016 lines. There were also silent and live auctions, where items ranging from a Gucci iPad case to a two-night stay at an inn in Ireland were prizes.

Allison Mitchell, president of Pink Aid Long Island, said she was proud of how this event has grown in just one year. Last year, the event raised more than $225,000 from its 300 attendees.

She said while they can only fit a certain number of people in the store for the event, they also had the option of an online auction this year for those who didn’t have a chance to reserve a ticket.

“Pink Aid helps women that are underinsured or not insured to get through their treatment and their diagnosis,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s really important we’re giving back to women here on Long Island right in our backyard [who] are struggling with treatment and keeping their families together.”

Mitchell’s husband Chris heads the Huntington store, previously known as Marshs, which is part of an independent family chain. “We own a retail store [here] with a lot of amazing clothes,” he said. “Women love clothes and this event allows us to have women come and support other women while having a fun day that is really a celebration.”

During the Celebration of Life portion of the fashion show, breast cancer survivors walk the runway in Mitchells after the professional models. The survivors are accompanied by an escort, specifically someone who supported them during their journey, according to Diana Mitchnick, co-chair of the Celebration of Life fashion show.

“I am going to walk this year,” she said. “I am very excited and a little nervous.”

Mitchnick said the entire event is uplifting, and that the room is filled with love and support: “Everyone who has been through the breast cancer journey knows how much help you need. Many people don’t have it and they need it.”

This year’s guest speaker was Marisa Acocella Marchetto, a breast cancer survivor and award-winning cartoonist and graphic novelist. Her graphic novel, “Cancer Vixen: A True Story,” follows her journey from when she discovered she had breast cancer through to the end of her treatment.

“What a positive impact you’ve made creating real positive change,” Marchetto said to the room. “You’ve made Strong Island ever stronger.”

Artifacts were sold to help raise money for the children in the orphanage at the Hope Children Fund’s 10th anniversary celebration at the Heritage Trust Center in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

With the help of Hope Children’s Fund, the children of Joseph Kirima Rwito’s orphanage in Meru, Kenya, have never had to wonder where they were getting their next meal or resting their head in the last 10 years.

On Saturday, the Hope Children’s Fund board of directors celebrated the 10th anniversary of its involvement in Rwito’s orphanage at the Heritage Trust Center in Mount Sinai. The orphanage, called The Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home, provides food, shelter and education for orphaned Kenyan children and those who are struggling to get by despite living with relatives. For these children, education is key to a brighter future, and Larry Hohler, president of Hope Children’s Fund, and his team, are doing what they can to help.

In addition to celebrating another year, the organization aimed to raise enough money to help these kids go to high school, or other higher educational institutions. The Hope Children’s Fund got involved with the orphanage after Rwito saw countless children on the streets.

In the early 2000s, the AIDS epidemic in Kenya left many children without parents or relatives to care for them. According to Hohler, of Port Jefferson, Rwito took 45 of these children and started a feeding program, but after seeing the children return to their life of poverty, Rwito wanted to do more.

Larry Hohler interacts with children in Meru, Kenya. File photo
Larry Hohler interacts with children in Meru, Kenya. File photo

He asked Hohler to help create the orphanage, and now, upwards of 80 children of various ages reside at, or go to the orphanage. Hohler said the orphanage is so successful that Kenyan authorities and other community members bring kids in need there. While part of the goal is to help these children, Hohler said funding additional children isn’t easy.

“The problem is that they just leave them here, and they don’t help us pay for the upkeep,” Hohler said.

Despite this, the organization and the orphanage received help from Shoreham-Wading River High School students in the past. According to Hohler, they donated countless books to the orphanage for the kids to read and enjoy.

Hope Children’s Fund board of directors member Nancy Rose said the high school students used to visit the orphanage, but stopped. Rose was unsure why they stopped visiting, but said some kids stay in touch with the children they met at the orphanage.

Funding doesn’t just help feed the kids, it helps send them to school. Once the children reach eighth grade, they must take a test to determine if they can move up to high school. Those who fail the test must retake it to advance. While paying to get into high school is another alternative, the majority of these children do not have the finances to afford high school. It’s up to the orphanage and the Hope Children’s Fund to provide that funding once the child passes the test.

According to Rose, who is a mentor to several of the children, the institute hoped to raise $7,000 to $8,000 to help the kids who are preparing to take the exam. Although Rose is unsure if the organization will reach its goal, it still aims to do what it can.

“If they study hard and they pass the test, you just don’t want to tell them ‘I’m sorry, you can’t go, because we can’t come up with the money,’” Rose said.

Rose and her husband, Phil, started helping the children in the orphanage 10 years ago, and found out about the Hope Children’s Fund through their daughter. According to Phil Rose, those who mentor children at the orphanage are responsible for paying one dollar daily, which goes toward the children they mentor. The money raised during Saturday’s event also went toward funding the children’s education.

Those who didn’t want to purchase merchandise at the event could make a donation or use iGift to help the children in Rwito’s orphanage. iGift allows people to purchase goods from participating stores and donate at the same time. A small percentage of the money from that purchase goes toward helping the orphanage.

“I know a lot of people say there’s a lot of children in our country, but this is a good effort and a lot of people spent a lot of time to make it work,” Phil Rose said.

His wife added that, in addition to taking these kids off the street and providing them with a better chance to succeed in their lives, the organization’s goal is for the orphanage to be self-sustainable over time.

“When they do finish with school, they’re expected to come back and give a certain percentage of what they earned to the home itself so that the next kid can go [to school],” Nancy Rose said. “The whole idea is not about a bunch of American do-gooders coming in. It’s about helping them be sustainable and giving them an education, and celebrating their own country and their traditions.”

DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place on Sat.

Giavanna DeStefano, flanked by mom Cynthia, and Harry, a golden Labrador retriever, meet at a training session in February. Photo from John Bentzinger

They say dog is man’s best friend, and for one Northport family, the adage couldn’t be any truer.

The DeStefanos are on a quest to raise money this week for Canine Companions for Independence’s DogFest Walk ‘n Roll fundraising event. The nonprofit group matches assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities at no cost to the individual.

It was through CCI that Northport 9-year-old Giavanna DeStefano, who is disabled, met Harry, a golden Labrador, in February. And life has changed significantly for the DeStefanos since he joined their family, according to Giavanna’s mom, Cynthia DeStefano.

“Harry cleans her room for her,” DeStefano said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “For me, I should say. She likes having him around. It’s like her little buddy that’s there for her.”

Harry is Giavanna’s friend and helper. The girl, who was born with a genetic anomaly called Trisomy 9 Mosaicism syndrome, is nonverbal and has global developmental delays and balances issues. For instance, if someone were to bump into her, she would fall and wouldn’t know to brace herself to cushion the fall. She can only speak about seven words.

The dog is trained in more than 40 commands, and can do things like open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, and pick up dropped items for Giavanna, according to John Bentzinger, public relations spokesperson for the group.

“But his main job will be to give her constant companionship, and he is a social bridge to her peers,” Bentzinger said in an email.

The dogs go through a rigorous training process. It costs about $45,000 to train each of the dogs, and it’s through the DogFest Walk ‘n Roll that CCI helps raise money to fund some of those expenses, Bentzinger said. Last year, the group raised more than $40,000, and this year, they are aiming for $60,000.

There’s a waiting list of about a year and a half for one dog. CCI owns 53 dogs in the northeast region, and the nonprofit owns more than 500 dogs nationally.

Harry is Giavanna’s companion. The two-year-old lab sleeps with her at night. When Giavanna returns home from school, Harry gets antsy awaiting her arrival, when he hears the bus. He picks up her stuffed animal toys around the room. He swims in the family’s shallow pool with her. He attends doctors appointments with her.

When his vest is on, Harry is ready to go to work, Giavanna’s mom said.

“He’s helpful for her,” she said. “He’s very funny.”

Through Harry, Giavanna is gaining a greater sense of responsibility. Giavanna helps her mother groom and feed him, take him for walks. Having Harry by Giavanna’s side makes her more approachable and gives her more attention, which she likes, her mom said.

“They see him, they see her, and it softens the whole ‘what’s wrong with this situation’ kind of thing,” she said.

Experiencing life with Harry motivated the DeStefanos to give back by fundraising for CCI, Cynthia DeStefano said.

“It’s a great organization,” she said. “Going through the program was amazing, and to see what these dogs can do, and how they adapt to each person’s needs, is an amazing thing. We’re blessed to have been able to do this.”

So far, they’ve raised $185 out of their $300 goal. To donate to the DeStefanos’ team, go to their fundraising page at www.tinyurl.com/nn3sn4y.

The fundraiser DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place this Saturday, Oct. 3, at Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa. For more information, visit www.cci.org.

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