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Girl Scouts

Rebecca Muroff, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, shows off the archive of historical photos she created for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Aug. 11. Photo by Alex Petroski

A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.

Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.

Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.

From left, Troop 1090 leaders Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch join Muroff’s parent Greg and Christine, right and third from right, as well as Edna Giffen of the society, second from right, in honoring the latest Gold Award recipient. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”

Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.

“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”

Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.

“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.

Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.

“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”

Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.

“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”

Pediatric nurse specialist and Centereach resident Lisa Rendina helps Stony Brook Children’s Hospital take part in “Take a Pop, Share a Smile" campaign

Cancer survivors Aubri Krauss, Erin Ersoy and Delaney Unger enjoy ice pops from the Stony Brook Children's Hospital's new freezer containing a lifetime supply. Photo by Kyle Barr

For the young cancer patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, one of the worst side effects from chemotherapy, beyond the pain and the nausea, is mouth sores. The best way to soothe the pain, according to 12-year-old cancer survivor Delaney Unger, is with ice pops.

Husband and wife Frank and Lynn Antonawich, assistant director of nursing at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and pediatric nurse specialist Lisa Rendina at the unveiling of Frankie’s Freezer. Photo by Kyle Barr

“When I had mouth sores, I had to tell my dad right away, because I knew they would get worse if I didn’t treat them right,” Delaney said. “Sometimes using other stuff would make [the pain] worse, so I would usually eat ice pops.”

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital announced Thursday it would be taking part in the nonprofit American Childhood Cancer Organization’s Take a Pop, Share a Smile campaign that donates a lifetime supply of freezer pops to hospitals for its cancer patients. The hospital will be receiving a total of 2,000 ice pops to start, and the ACCO will keep the freezer consistently stocked every year.

To hold the new bounty of ice pops is a new freezer named Frankie’s Freezer, which was dedicated in memory of Francis “Frankie” Antonawich, a 25-year-old who died in February from Hodgkin lymphoma before he could realize his dream of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.

“I think he would have been thrilled about this, because he really loved kids,” Antonawich’s mother and assistant director of nursing at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lynn Antonawich, said. “He not only felt that he could help a child, but also the parents of those children who would feel helpless.”

Frankie’s Freezer was named after 25-year-old Frankie Antonawich, who died from Hodgkin lymphoma in February. Photo from the Antonawichs

His father, Frank Antonawich, told an audience of Girl Scouts and families at a press conference May 3, trying to hold back tears, that the disease never stopped his son.

“Frank was a very active young man — it never stopped him going to work, going to the gym — he even continued to volunteer as a wrestling coach at his alma mater, St. John the Baptist Parish,” the West Islip resident said.

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital pediatric nurse specialist Lisa Rendina, who had worked with the family before and during Frankie Antonawich’s treatment, decided she wanted to get involved and contacted the ACCO, which donated the freezer too.

“As a mother, my heart broke for Lynn, and I wanted to do something to honor Frankie,” she said. “We just wanted to bring Frankie’s story to life.”

Rendina is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 105. Her troop, along with other members from Girl Scouts Service Unit 45 from Centereach, attended the unveiling. The Scouts wrote inspirational phrases all over the freezer like “No one fights alone” and “The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.”

The event also honored three cancer survivors from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, including Delaney, 12-year-old Erin Ersoy and 10-year-old Aubri Krauss, all of whom are Girl Scouts from Centereach. The parents of the three girls agreed that ice pops were one of the simplest ways to deal with the mouth sores, while also aiding in hydration and nutrition.

The freezer donated by nonprofit American Childhood Cancer Organization’s “Take a Pop, Share a Smile” campaign was named “Frankie’s Freezer” in memory of Francis “Frankie” Antonawich. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I remember what happened with my daughter and mouth sores, it was terrible,” said Delaney’s father Berk Unger of his daughter who finished her final treatment last August. “Ice pops were the only thing that helped.”

Lynn Antonawich  said her son was in such severe pain following a stem cell transplant that he couldn’t eat.

“They were thinking of tube feeding him,” she said. “And he was a 24-year-old man. I couldn’t imagine what the pain must be like for a kid.”

Those who work in the children’s hospital said one of the most important things young patients need is to feel like their lived are as normal as possible.

“Anything helps,” Lynn Antonawich said. “From donations of gifts, such as iPads and game systems, they are able to take part in a more normal life like they would at home.”

Brianna Florio, on right, was honored by the Sound Beach Civic Association and president Bea Ruberto, on left, for her community involvement. Photo from Sound Beach Civic Association

A Sound Beach Girl Scout recently solidified the organization’s highest honor by helping children who live in a temporary shelter feel a little more at home.

Brianna Florio, an 18-year-old Sound Beach resident and a member of Rocky Point Girl Scout Troop 2945, has been working since last year to better the lives of 16 children who reside at Halo House in Sound Beach, a shelter for families in crisis.

While staffers within the home — which gets its funding from the Department of Social Services — do all they can to help the four families currently living under one roof get their cases under control, find employment and locate more permanent housing, helping young children adjust to their new environment is a constant challenge.

Brianna Florio will be receiving her Gold Award next month after working with children at Halo House in Sound Beach to paint a mural to make the place feel more like home. Photo from Brianna Florio

So when it came time to pick a community outreach project in summer 2016 to fulfill the requirements for her Gold Award, the Rocky Point High School graduate, who learned of the shelter from one of her troop leaders, set her sights on making it more kid-friendly.

“I knew this would be a good fit for her,” said Donna McCauley, her troop leader who first became aware of the Halo House through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. “Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

Florio utilized her artistic talent and painted a large mural on the wall in the shelter’s dining room depicting animals having a tea party, installed a bench to be placed in the property’s yard and hosted a toy and book drive at her high school. Through that event, Florio brought multiple boxes of donated entertainment for children of different ages to the Halo House — items that are sorely needed, according to shelter manager Joe Pellegrino.

“[Brianna] definitely helped bring the kids a sense of community within the neighborhood of Sound Beach,” he said, adding the children in the shelter were eager to be involved in her mural project. “The younger ones would wait for her to come, and when she got here, they would say, ‘Can you paint a snake? Can you put a hat and bowtie on it?’ It betters the children’s state of minds when they’re at the shelter, because they get a sense that it’s a home and not just a place they’re forced to live in.”

Pellegrino said the mural has become a center of pride in the home and is even used as an educational tool to teach the children about the different animals depicted.

“It really warmed my heart to see the kids and their smiling faces and just how excited they were about it,” Florio said of the mural. “It was really nice to see it all finished, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it.”

She will officially receive her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County council in December.

Although it was an independent project for the Girl Scout, Florio was able to acquire paints and various supplies through local donations, like from Costello’s Ace Hardware of Rocky Point. She also received support from her school district, where she was a member of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club, a group that cooked for the homeless and performed songs at senior citizen homes during the holidays.

“Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

—Donna McCauley

“I think if anybody is deserving of a Gold Award, it’s Brianna,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susann Crossan said. “What sets her apart from everybody else is she has a constant concern for other people. She’s been involved in so many activities within the high school that involve giving back. She was an extremely well-rounded and kind student.”

Florio’s project was also no surprise to Nancy Kloska, the director of an aftercare program for children at Mount Sinai Elementary School, where Florio currently serves as a mentor helping students with homework, playing games with them and leading fun activities.

“She’s warm, approachable, responsible and the kids really love interacting with her — Brianna always has a large group around her,” Kloska said. “I think she just brings out the best in the kids and is such a positive role model. I can’t say enough good things about Brianna. I think she’s wonderful.”

Florio was bestowed a certificate of appreciation by elected officials and community members for her Gold Award efforts during a Sound Beach Civic Association meeting Nov. 13. Civic president Bea Ruberto later said in an interview that Florio is a shining example of upstanding youth in the community.

“We were so proud to honor Brianna at our meeting — she’s very community-minded and is always there to help and give back,” said Ruberto, pointing out that Florio has helped with the civic’s pet adoption efforts and contributed a drawing in honor of the civic’s 40th anniversary. “We often hear about all the kids who behave badly and do this or that, and we really make an attempt in the civic to showcase the good kids. She’s a very fine young lady.”

Florio is currently pursuing a career in computer science and game programming as a freshman at Stony Brook University.

Miler Place Girl Scout Troop 227 members make a presentation to the board of education about energy efficiency. Photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place High School has the potential to save large sums of money and energy this year thanks to the environmental efforts of a group of middle school Girl Scouts.

Sixth- and seventh-grade members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 urged the board of education during the Sept. 27 meeting to consider replacing the 120 fluorescent lights in the high school cafeteria with more energy-efficient LED lights. This installation could save the district approximately $1,044 in the cafeteria alone over the course of the 180-day school year, the Girl Scouts said.

“Switching to LED lights would allow the district to focus that money on education,” 11-year-old Lilah Lindemann said.

Analynn Bisiani, a sixth-grader, informed board members 180-degree LED lights release significantly less heat energy than tube-shaped, 360-degree fluorescent lights, making them safer.

“They do not contain dangerous chemicals and will project light only down instead of 360 degrees,” Analynn said. “A lot of energy is wasted when light is projected upwards.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan speaks at the Miller Place board of education meeting about the importance of energy efficiency and the ways in which the Girl Scouts project could help the district. Photo by Kevin Redding

The troop’s presentation was based on an energy audit of the high school cafeteria the girls conducted in May with the help of a PSEG Long Island representative as part of their Girl Scout Journey project — a long-term initiative to find a solution to a local environmental problem.

One of the requirements for the project was to focus on conserving energy, so troop leaders and members decided to conduct an audit of a public building, specifically the high school cafeteria, where the group holds its meetings twice a month.

With the help of Scout mom Kim Soreil, a PSEG Long Island manager of customer operations, the girls studied different forms of energy, made circuit cards and calculated the energy savings of switching to LED lights by counting all 120 lights in the cafeteria. The girls figured out
approximately 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour could be saved, which, assuming a 14-hour school day with extracurricular activities, equates to $5.88 in savings per day and $1,044 a year.

“They picked up on everything very quickly and just took off with it,” Soreil said of the troop’s excitement about the project. The girls, including Soreil’s daughter Lauren, also learned about phantom energy and the benefits of unplugging electrical appliances even after they’ve been turned off.

“They were peering through windows to try and see if lights were left on in the offices in the back and trying to turn off the lights on the vending machines so the school could conserve
energy,” she said.

During the presentation, Girl Scout Sarah DiPersio offered the board another environmentally-based solution in the cafeteria.

“Although it is not an electrical energy savings, we also noticed there is a traditional water fountain in the cafeteria, instead of a bottle refill fountain,” Sarah said.

Troop co-leader Candace Lindemann, who guides the girls alongside Morgan Caufield, said while she was impressed by the research and work her Scouts took part in, she wasn’t too surprised.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth.”

— Lilah Lindemann

“We have a very environmentally concerned and diligent group of girls,” Lindemann said, noting their other environment-based initiatives include beach cleanups and water health studies. “I think growing up near the beach definitely encourages an interest in the health of the environment for them.”

Her daughter Lilah said she has been passionate about the environment for a long time and hopes to be an engineer one day.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth,” the 11-year-old said. “And helping the environment and the community is what the Girl Scouts are about.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan said she hopes by saving money through this proposal, the school district could afford to provide more art programs.

At the end of the board of education meeting, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presented each Scout with a certificate and thanked them for their presentation.

“That was very comprehensive,” Cartisano said. “We’re very grateful you did this and we’ll certainly be taking your recommendations and findings into consideration.”

The school district is currently in the process of bringing more energy efficiency to its buildings by installing solar panels on top of its high school and Andrew Muller Primary School.

Members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 that participated in the audit are Sara Bally, Analynn Bisiani, Molly Caufield, Sarah DiPersio, Mary Cait Duffy, Lindsey Galligan, Lilah Lindemann, Maris Lynch, Ceili McNicholas, Madelyn Miller, and Lauren Soreil.

Photo from Carol Adamo

The Smithtown Service Unit 25 Girl Scouts filled 300 Christmas stockings and delivered them to the Smithtown Food Pantry, St. Patrick’s Outreach and the Smithtown Historical Society’s collection for Angela’s House. Twenty-three Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scout troops participated in the project. 

The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County and the Little Scientists club joined county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Heritage Trust, the Long Island Native Plant Initiative and members of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension to plant local native species in Anker’s Educational Agriculture Support Initiative pilot garden Tuesday at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

The Girl Scouts, alongside their younger counterparts from the Little Scientists club, got down in the dirt and planted several native plants, including various types of milkweed which attract monarch butterflies and other native pollinators to the area.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators to Long Island have decreased in numbers by more than 80 percent in the past two decades. Native bee populations are also on the decline. With this decline in native pollinators, Anker hopes to educate people about the importance of native plants and pollinators in the environment.

But before members of the LINPI and Cornell Cooperative Extension helped the Girl Scouts and Little Scientists plant flowers and plants in the pilot garden, Anker gathered the children and tested their knowledge on the importance of native plants and pollinators.

Michelle Skoblicki created the Little Scientists club four years ago. The program caters to children from pre-K to fifth grade, and its goal, according to Skoblicki, is to provide these kids with a means to expand their knowledge about science through hands-on activities, literature and art.

Skoblicki recently taught the kids about life cycles using butterflies, and hopes to release the butterflies they raised in the pilot garden by the end of the week.

“We were hoping to have them ready for the garden but they were still in their chrysalises,” Skoblicki said.

Members of the Girl Scouts also helped plant native plants in the garden; and Maris Lynch, who is involved in her third event as a Girl Scout, was simply happy to help.

The launch was the first event for Girl Scouts Analynn Bisiani and Lindsey Galligan. Bisiani said she was happy to participate and was having fun.

“I would definitely do this again,” Bisiani said.

Galligan was one of several kids who grasped Anker’s message.

“Plant are … a very important part of our community,” Galligan said. “They help insects which help us — and that’s that.”

Anker was excited for the launch and hopes to continue spreading the word about the importance of pollinators and the native plants they need.

“When your kids, when your grandkids or great grandkids are here at the park, I want them to experience everything that I’m experiencing now,” the county legislator said. “If we don’t do something now, we’ll loose this forever.”

Sunken Meadow State Park Director Jeffrey J. Mason meets Smithtown West High School's Rachel Gladstone to review plans for the Sunken Meadow Recycling Project 5K Race and 1/2 Mile Fun Run for Kids. Photo from Allison Gayne

A Smithtown West High School junior is going the extra mile and hosting a recycling project in the form of a 5-kilometer race at Sunken Meadow State Park in June to promote a greener mindset across Long Island.

Rachel Gladstone, 17, has arranged the first ever Sunken Meadow Recycling Project 5K Race and 1/2 Mile Fun Run for Kids at Sunken Meadow State Park as her community project for the Girl Scout Gold Award she is working toward.

“I wanted to do something for the community at Sunken Meadow [State Park],” Gladstone said in a phone interview. “I really wanted to do something big and worthwhile.”

The cross-country runner said the idea came to her while passing through the park and seeing just how many recyclables were being thrown into the trash. She coupled that knowledge with knowing the park hosts several races, and let the two notions work together to form her own unique project.

“Every time I go there, I see trash cans always full to the top with bottles,” Gladstone said.

Gladstone said one of her biggest goals is to take the money raised at the run and buy recycling bins to place at various locations throughout the 1288-acre park and to also help promote recycling behavior by taking extra measures to make the bins visible to the public.

The teen said she is very big into environmental science and recycling, and she hopes to study it at the college level once she graduates form high school. Her mom, Ellyn Gladstone, said her daughter has been interested in recycling since an early age and she is happy to see her putting this project together.

The Gold Award that Gladstone is working so hard toward is the highest achievement in girl scouting, she said. It is a seven-step project that challenges the scout to change the world, and requires a minimum 80 hours of work — something Gladstone is sure to surpass as she continues to organize and promote the race.

According to one of Gladstone’s troop leaders, Paula Rybacki, the high school student has achieved all the major awards since becoming a girl scout in elementary school and the project she is working on is one of the biggest she has seen.

“This project is very different,” Rybacki said. “I’m really proud of her.”

Jeffrey Mason, the park director at Sunken Meadow State Park, said he was approached by Gladstone, who was hoping to make a difference, and he quickly got on board with the idea as he understands the six bins the park has now is not enough.

“We’re going to put them out in key locations and find the best fit where they get utilized,” Mason said. “We are going to start out small, the more people see, the more education.”

The event will kick off on June 13 with its 1/2 Mile Fun Run for Kids at 9:15 a.m. followed by the 5-kilometer run at 10 a.m. An award ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. to recognize top overall males and females in various age groups.

Race participants can take advantage of an early bird special entry fee of $20 until May 1. After that the fee is $25 until the day before the race. On the day of the race, runners will pay $30 to participate.

Smithtown has been doing its part to increase the frequency and accessibility of recycling, recently inking a deal with several neighboring municipalities to bring single-stream recycling to residents across the Island.

The various deals help Smithtown team up with other communities to share resources, making it easier for residents to recycle in one bin and have the items transferred at a minimal cost.

The town has already linked up with Brookhaven, the incorporated villages of Lloyd Harbor and Asharoken, to name a few.

And as the race approaches, Gladstone said she hopes this is just the beginning of a greater shift in recycling across the Island. She said she would like to hold a similar event annually at parks across Long Island to help promote recycling.

“I realize I’m not too young to make a difference,” Gladstone said. “This is just the beginning.”

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The Kings Park-based Girl Scout Troop 408 gathers outside its community VFW hall to celebrate their achievement of helping install a brand new rail for veterans. Photo from Camille Cardoza

Kings Park Girl Scout Troop 408 is doing a lot more than just selling cookies. They are helping to refurbish homes for veterans in their community.

It all started last summer when the fifth graders from R.J.O. Intermediate School in Kings Park began selling jewelry to raise money to install a railing at their local Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall as part of their bronze award. Their initial efforts brought in $1,800 and helped pay for a brand new railing that has since been installed outside the building in November.

Now, the Girl Scouts are onto even bigger and better things to help out.

“They want to get out there and get their hands dirty on the job,” co-leader Camille “Mima” Cardoza said.

The girls have been working diligently selling jewelry and purple hearts to the community to help raise more money for the project. Every Sunday throughout the farmer’s market season, the girls pitched their ideas and sold as many bracelets and necklaces as they could to help raise the money for the railing. And looking forward, Cardoza said they plan on doing the same thing this season with the hope of raising even more money for the veterans.

Through the nonprofit Fairway Foundation, two mortgage-free homes will be awarded to Purple Heart recipients who have fought in Afghanistan or Iraq. This initiative will be orchestrated through the joint efforts of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), the Fairway Foundation and the community.

Rosemarie Kluepfel, who works for Fairway’s Independent Mortgage Corporation, and is helping run the foundation, said she was glad to see the community stepping up for its veterans to show their appreciation. The goal, Cardoza said, is to get at least two homes and gut them to cater to the needs of the veterans and their families. People in the community are donating most of the labor and supplies.

The Girl Scouts are also working on raising money to help pay for the essential materials, Cardoza said.

Not only will the Girl Scouts raise money, but they will also help gut and refurbish the homes whenever their schedule allows it. They said they look forward to seeing the veterans’ reactions when they see their new home.

“I’m excited to help fix up the houses for them,” 10-year-old Talia Matonti said. “I just want them to feel comfortable and be happy because they did really nice things for us.”

The young girls said they understand the sacrifices the veterans made, and they have a deep appreciation for their efforts, which is why they want to help. They feel it’s their turn to sacrifice their time and do whatever they can, the girls said.

“I want to help because they gave so much to us and hardly anyone gives back to them,” Mikayla Donohue, 10, said. “It feels good to give back to them.”

Caitlin McNulty, 10, echoed the other Girl Scouts’ comments, reflecting on the moment the railing was unveiled at the VFW hall. She called it one of the happiest days as she saw all the smiles on the veterans’ faces.

The girls plan to continue their jewelry sales and can be found at the Kings Park farmers market beginning in May. All the proceeds will go toward materials to help build the homes for the veterans.

Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan and received a Purple Heart can go to veteranshomegiveaway.org and apply if they are in need of a home. The application deadline is April 15.

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