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Joan Alpers

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Three Village Dads present check to Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

It may be Father’s Day June 16, but some local dads recently decided they would try a little giving instead of receiving.

Members of the Three Village Dads Facebook page stop for a photo after presenting Stony Brook Children’s Hospital with a check for $12,000. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

On June 3, members of the Facebook page Three Village Dads presented a check for $12,000 to Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The group raised the money at a May 18 South Setauket Park barbecue and through a GoFundMe page. Child Life Services provides therapeutic, educational and recreational activities for children during hospital stays.

“It is never easy to coordinate a giving event, but the Three Village Dads certainly went above and beyond all expectations,” Alpers said. “Our community donors help us to brighten the lives of kids and families during a difficult time. We are so grateful to this great group of community dads who chose to support all of the children in our community who struggle with illness and hospitalization.”

Three Village Dads started six years ago as an offshoot of Three Village Moms. A year later, Stony Brook resident David Tracy joined. When he noticed there were only 20 or 30 members, and there wasn’t much interaction on the page, he asked the founder if he could take over as administrator.

Tracy said the fathers talk about a range of topics from advice on lawn care to sports to politics and nothing is off limits. The group now has more than 900 members.

“Once we got stronger and larger, we realized we could do a lot of good with it,” said the former Marine, who now works for Homeland Security.

The dads regularly meet at businesses owned by members, including O Sole Mio and Sweet Mama’s in Stony Brook, Maui Chop House in Rocky Point and Rolling Smoke Grill in Lake Ronkonkoma. Tracy said the group recently began discussing how they could contribute to the Three Village community.

“Once we got stronger and larger, we realized we could do a lot of good with it.”

— David Tracy

Three Village Dads was planning a potluck barbecue to get all of the families together, so they decided to use the event as an opportunity to raise money for a nonprofit. After polling the members as to which organization they would like to contribute, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital was the most popular answer. Tracy said $8,500 was collected through GoFundMe, and more than 30 businesses that participated in the barbecue donated food or money to be part of the event. The group also raised money by selling raffles.

“I didn’t think we’d get past $5,000 much less $12,000,” Tracy said, adding that the achievement was eye-opening for him as far as the group’s potential.

The day of the barbecue about 200 attended throughout the day, which included fire trucks from the Setauket and Stony Brook fire departments, bouncy houses, a DJ and more.

“We’ve really built a sense of community, and there’s a good camaraderie with all the dads on the page to really come together and support the community and community businesses.”

— Chris Carson

Chris Carson, who has belonged to the group for three years, helped Tracy plan the barbecue. The South Setauket resident, who works for Suffolk County, said the more the fundraiser picked up steam the more drive the group had to raise more money and make the goal higher.

“We’d hit the goal, and instead of stopping or patting ourselves on the back, we just set a higher goal for ourselves and kept moving forward and try to do as much as we could,” Carson said.

The dads are hoping to hold an annual barbecue and are currently discussing future events to help in the community, the county employee said, including a golf outing to benefit the VFW Post 3054 East Setauket on Jones Street and a toy drive during the holiday season.

“We’ve really built a sense of community, and there’s a good camaraderie with all the dads on the page to really come together and support the community and community businesses,” Carson said.

The barbecue wasn’t the group’s first good deed. Earlier this year, 55 members donated blood and platelets at Stony Brook University Hospital’s blood bank.

“We look out for each other. We look out for each other’s families.”

— Colby Rowe

Colby Rowe, Trauma Center Education & Prehospital outreach coordinator at Stony Brook Medicine, said donating blood at the hospital is essential since supplies are low.

A member of Three Village Dads since last year, Rowe said he appreciated how many of the dads donated, adding that many who couldn’t donate came out to support the others.

“It made me feel great not only because I’m a member of the community, a member of the group but I’m also an employee of the hospital,” he said. “It made me proud to be part of each one of those organizations.”

The turnout didn’t surprise him as he said the members are always helpful whether asking for advice or looking to borrow power tools or a beaker for a science project.

“We really are a productive group of people,” he said. “We look out for each other. We look out for each other’s families.”

Rowe said the group plans on organizing three blood drives a year with the next one scheduled for the end of June.

When it comes to creating a group like Three Village Dads, Tracy said it takes more than just one person to make it successful and credits all of the members for playing a part in the success.

“You really can’t force it,” he said. “It’s kind of a natural thing, and it has to take shape on its own.”

To join the page, which is open to dads, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and sons of the Three Village Central School District, visit www.facebook.com and search for Three Village Dads.

Maddie and Joseph Mastriano and friends present a check for $20,000 to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital after their 2017 Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand event. Photo from Laura Mastriano

Two Stony Brook teens have perfected how to turn lemons into lemonade for a worthy cause.

Maddie Mastriano, 17, and her younger brother Joseph Mastriano, 14, started off just wanting to sell lemonade outside their home one hot August day in 2013. At the time, the pair never imagined their venture would grow, or how it would grow.

The first year they thought of splitting the few dollars raised between friends, but their mother suggested donating it to charity. Since then the Mastrianos and their friends have raised $36,000 for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital with their Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand — $20,000 of that amount from this past summer alone.

Laura Mastriano said her children caught the fundraising bug after the first time they handed over the money to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, so they decided to make it a yearly tradition.

Siblings Joseph and Maddie Mastriano are the founders of the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand. Photo from Laura Mastriano

Formerly known as the S-Section Kids Lemonade Stand, the booth attracted hundreds of residents from all over the school district and even local celebrities to their home in 2016, according to Mastriano. The event was moved to the grounds of R. C. Murphy Junior High School, where Joseph is a student, in 2017, and 500 people attended over the course of another hot August day. Besides lemonade, the kids have expanded to offer food, activities and live music. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented them with a proclamation, and celebrity chef Barrett Beyer of “Hell’s Kitchen” made an appearance and even some gourmet lemonade for attendees.

Mastriano said it was necessary to move the lemonade stand to the school grounds due to its growing popularity, and it made sense because of the number of student volunteers from the Three Village Central School District. Maddie and Joseph approached school board trustee Inger Germano about the idea, who said she thought it was a good plan, and the district agreed to host it.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to get more children involved, not just from the S-Section [neighborhood] but from the Three Village community and the school,” Germano said. “I think it was the right move.”

Courtney DeVerna, 7 years old, has been volunteering at the stand for the last three years, having visited the stand with her mother Lisa since she was 2. As soon as Courtney understood it was a fundraiser, she wanted to help and even practices her lemonade pouring before the event.

“It’s really fun and exciting because you’re waiting to do it for a while, and it’s for a good cause,” said Courtney, adding she looks up to Joseph and Maddie. “We’re giving the money to the children’s hospital, which makes me more excited.”

The siblings are always coming up with new ideas, according to their mother, so to help reach the pair’s 2017 fundraising goal of $20,000, the brother and sister solicited the help of sponsors, including fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The idea came to them after noticing that many fundraisers partnered with local companies.

Recently, Maddie, Joseph and friends participated in the Three Village Holiday Electric Light Parade to promote their fundraising venture. Joseph said during the school year they work on their website, research ideas on how to make the next event better, ensure everyone who helped is thanked and sign community service letters for the 150 student volunteers.

“We know how busy everyone is, and we are so thankful and glad they helped,” he said.

Maddie and Joseph pose with Mr. Met at this year’s lemonade stand. Photo from Laura Mastiano

Maddie, who is a senior at Ward Melville High School, said she plans on continuing the tradition even though she will be away at college next year. The siblings have already set a new goal, hoping  to eventually raise $100,000 in total for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

“Next year Joseph will take on a bigger role in the planning while I am away, but I know he has things under control and actually has really great ideas already,” Maddie said. “We will do whatever we have to do to make sure this community tradition is an annual tradition. We are thankful for the community, for the support and for the opportunity to come together to turn lemons into lemonade together for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.”

Their mother said they each bring different talents to the table. Maddie hopes to major in communications when she attends college, and Joseph is good with numbers.

“That’s where they complement each other,” their mother said. “He’s business, and she’s the communications part of it. It’s pretty fun to see that.”

Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said Joseph and Maddie are creating a legacy in their district.

“Both of them are outstanding, mature, bright and polite kids, and very humble for everything that they do,” Alpers said. “They’re so professional to groups and the community. They’re able to pull off putting together something that is much larger than most people their age could pull off.”

Their mother said she and her husband Joseph still can’t believe how popular the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand has become.

“I have to say that I am beyond proud and blown away by all their efforts,” the mother said. “It really was a small lemonade stand that has grown into a beautiful community tradition, and it’s something that I am not only proud of, seeing what they’ve accomplished, but proud of what all of these kids in Three Village have been able to do. It’s contagious wanting to do good for others, and I think that starting so young really has infected others to want to do good for the kids in the hospital. It’s a pretty incredible thing.”

For more information, visit the website, www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com. The next Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand is scheduled for Aug. 8, 2018.

'I Spy A Dragon Fly' by Rita Swanteson will be on view at the Port Jefferson Village Center through Nov. 17. Image from Mac Titmus

By Rita J. Egan

The North Shore Art Guild is exhibiting for a cause. From Nov. 3 to 27, the organization will present Artists United in the Fight Against Cancer, at the Port Jefferson Village Center. The exhibition will benefit the Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Art Therapy Program. Mac Titmus, president of The North Shore Art Guild, said 30 percent of the event sales will go toward the program. With a decline in federal and state funding, the raised funds will help the cancer center avoid cuts in the program.

‘Street Artist,’ oil on canvas by Joe Miller
‘Street Artist,’ oil on canvas by Joe Miller

The center offers therapeutic programs to provide relief from pain, fatigue, boredom and stress for both children and adult patients. Titmus said the guild invited both members and nonmembers to submit work for the exhibit demonstrating the theme Through the Eyes of a Child. The guild president said when it comes to shows such as this one the group looks for a broad theme for the artists to work with. “We always try to think of a theme that is going to inspire the artists, and being that this is something to do with young children in the oncology unit, we try to visualize how the world would look through the eyes of a child,” he said.

The show, juried by local accomplished artist Linda Louis, will feature 98 pieces from 67 artists. According to Titmus, the artwork was chosen from 118 submissions, and the selection represents a mixture of mediums including watercolors, acrylics, photography, mixed media and more.

Healing through art therapy

Stephanie Condra, a licensed creative arts therapist who works with oncologists and bone marrow transplant patients at Stony Brook, said art therapy is instrumental in allowing patients to express their feelings during treatment and hospitalization as well as providing important coping skills. “It can be very psychotherapeutic in nature. It can do a lot of processing of thoughts and feelings of fear and anxiety and anger, as well as actively in the moment give something very positive to focus on,” she said. According to the therapist, in addition to creating art, this type of therapy provides other creative choices including working with a patient using guided visualization, playing music or even talking in imagery and metaphor. Condra said patients can experience a lot of anxiety when it comes to their treatment and future. “I think that’s one of the great benefits of art therapy, that they get much more of a choice and control in what is going on in that moment, when a lot feels out of control with the treatment.”

Finding the words through art

Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, agrees with the benefits for patients when given a choice with art, and she said therapists who work with pediatric patients also offer games and playing with objects. “It’s both providing different kind of choices to people where choices of course are being taken away, and it’s also providing the opportunity to kind of normalize an experience, where, of course, necessarily medicine and medical protocol take first stage.”

Alpers said communicating through art is an important tool when it comes to pediatric patients. “Sometimes what happens is children just don’t have the words for things. They just don’t have the capacity to tell us how they are feeling or what’s going on or put it in words. But they certainly can make us a picture or show us in their play,” she said.

Children stand in front of one of the art pieces that will be on view at the PJVC through Nov. 27.

In addition to the guild’s exhibit on the second floor of the Village Center, Alpers and Condra said on the third floor artwork from pediatric patients will be on display in the hope that art lovers will be able to relate to the need for such a program. “Kids are filled with life even when they are sick, and kids want to paint and make and do, even while they are dealing with their treatments for cancer and devastating illnesses,” said Alpers, adding, “A lot of the work that we’ll show from the kids is bright and airy and beautiful, because that’s what kids need to be and do in order to create hope, in order to make a pleasant day out of a difficult day.”

Making a difference

Titmus said even though cancer can be a difficult subject, the guild has a goal in addition to raising money when visitors come to the exhibit. “We’re hoping that they understand a little bit more about art therapy,” he said. The art guild president said the goal is to donate $20,000 to the cause. In addition to the funds raised with event sales, the guild, which includes 140 members, has already begun raising money for the art therapy program through private donations and sponsorships by reaching out to local businesses and corporations. Artists also paid an entrance free of $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers to be considered as part of the show, and these fees will also go toward the donation.

The exhibit, which is presented in cooperation with Stony Brook Cancer Center, the Village of Port Jefferson and the Port Jefferson Conservancy, will feature a reception on Nov. 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. where many of the artists will be on hand. Raffles will be sold to raise additional funds and among the prizes are four one-day passes to Disney World and a chef’s dinner from Ruvo East in Port Jefferson. Both Condra and Alpers feel that events such as this help patients by acknowledging their journeys, something that is important to those suffering from cancer. “When they hear that there are people in their own community that are there behind them, I think that’s extremely valuable and extremely important in terms of their care, their hope and their resilience,” Alpers said.

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except holidays. For more information, call 631-802-2165 or visit www.northshoreartguild.com.