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Kings Park

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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.

Kings Park’s Ben Variano maintains possession while Harborfields’ Terrence Haggarty tries to knock him off balance. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The King Park boys’ lacrosse team struck first in a League III matchup on a muddy field in a wet, wintry mix, and led twice early in the game, but Harborfields found its rhythm and stomped over the Kingsmen Tuesday to win the game, 12-4.

Kings Park junior midfielder Jimmy Gadaleta hit the scoreboard first to take an early lead, but Harborfields senior attack Terrence Haggerty answered back with an unassisted goal to tie the game. It was Haggerty’s first of five goals to lead his team in scoring.

With less than five minutes left in the quarter, Kings Park retook the lead when senior attacks Joe Hines and Alex Marino connected on the next play. Hines dished the ball to Marino, who found the cage to retake the lead, 2-1.

Harborfields midfielder Andrew Derasmo fed a cross to Haggerty, who fired between the pipes to tie the game at 2-2 to start the second period.

Kings Park head coach J.M. Simpson said Harborfields runs a solid program and have a system that they’ve been successful with for years.

“We kind of knew what we were going to get ourselves into today, but we didn’t do a very good job of executing our game plan,” he said. “We knew they were going to come out and pressure us and we weren’t able to handle that pressure.”

Kings Park's Jac Cutillo drives around Harborfields’ Connor Bennardo. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park’s Jac Cutillo drives around Harborfields’ Connor Bennardo. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields senior attack Connor Bennardo struck next when he scored unassisted to put his team back out in front by one. Haggerty, with the hot hand, hit next to edge ahead 4-2 when Kings Park senior midfielder Ray McQuillan answered with a goal of his own off an assist by senior attack Liam Winwood to trail by one, 4-3.

“Today’s game plan was to work hard and beat them to the ground balls and outrun them on the field,” Haggerty said. “In the second half, offensively we got rolling, we scored in transition and with a man up, and we were able to outrun them.”

Both teams had trouble getting traction on a wet, muddy field, but Bennardo scored again to edge ahead 5-3 to end the half.

“From a talent standpoint we’re about even, but I think we outworked them — we got the ground balls and our middies were running all over the place,” Bennardo said. “And that makes us look good on attack, so I can’t thank them enough.”

The second half was all Harborfields, as Haggerty dove around the circle from behind the cage and slipped one in-between the pipes to break out to a 6-3 advantage with seven minutes left in the third.
Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey chose not to brief his team about Kings Park from a recent scouting report.

“We lost [our opener] by nine goals against Shoreham, so it was more about us, even though there were some things I would’ve liked to prepare them for from the scouting report, but it was more about where Harborfields needs to be,” Lavey said. “So we didn’t tell them one thing about our opponent. We just showed up and played our style.”

Harborfields senior midfielder Tristan Capes-Davis added one of his own halfway through the third to surge ahead 7-3, and by that time, there was no stopping the Tornadoes. Senior midfielder Cameron LaPorta found the cage for the next two scores, to jump out to a 9-3 lead with nine minutes left to play, when Kings Park sophomore midfielder Jac Cutillo tacked on his team’s final point, to trail 9-4.

Before it was over, Harborfields tacked on three more goals with Haggerty’s fifth, Bennardo’s third for the hat trick, and junior attack Quintin McKenna added one of his own to put the game away.

“We made them earn everything today and they gave us a couple of opportunities in transition, and that was the difference,” Lavey said. “Our kids did a good job at grinding and controlling the speed and the tempo of the game, which gave our middies a chance to rest.”

Kings Park senior goalkeeper Harrison Bower had a busy day, and when the dust settled, he had notched 15 saves.

“Harrison Bower’s a senior and a first-year starter who’s been waiting in the wings for a couple of years now,” Simpson said. “He’s been tremendous in our first three games this season, so I give a lot of credit to him.”

With the win, Harborfields improves to 1-1 in League III, after suffering an 18-9 loss to Shoreham-Warding River, while Kings Park dropped to 1-2 in League III, after an 8-6 loss to Elwood-John Glenn and a 10-9 win over Westhampton.

Kings Park will look to bounce back on Tuesday, April 7, when the Kingsmen host Islip. The game is currently slated with an 11 a.m. start time.

Drugs, weapons galore
Police on a slew of drug and weapon charges arrested a 35-year-old man from Nesconset at his Gaynor Avenue home on March 21 at about 5:35 p.m. after he struck an officer multiple times while resisting arrest.
The officer executed a search warrant at his home and found the man in possession of heroin. Police charged the man with two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance (a narcotic drug), 10 counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon with a previous conviction, two counts of criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to sell it, second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (a narcotic drug, 4 ounces or more); fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property (firearms); third-degree criminal possession of a weapon (an ammo clip); fourth-degree criminal mischief; second-degree harassment; and resisting arrest.
He was arraigned on the charges at Suffolk County First District Court on March 22 and held after failing to post $500,000 cash bail or $1.5 million bail bond on most of the drug and all of the weapons charges, and $500 cash and $500 bail bond on the rest of the charges.

Clothing grab
A 50-year-old Bay Shore woman was arrested in Smithtown on March 21 and charged with petit larceny. Police said that at about 12:20 p.m. on Feb. 28 the woman took assorted women’s clothing from a location on Crooked Hill Road in Commack.

What a pill
Police said a 45-year-old man from Howard Beach was arrested in Smithtown on Veterans Highway at 4:15 p.m. on March 19 and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said the man possessed Suboxone pills without a prescription. Suboxone is a prescription analgesic to help relieve symptoms associated with opioid addiction withdrawal.

Busted with drugs
A 27-year-old from Huntington was arrested in Smithtown on Fairfield Way at 11:58 p.m. on March 18 and charged with first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a narcotic drug, 8 ounces or more. Police executed a search warrant and found the man in possession of a quantity of cocaine.

Window shattered
Someone threw a brick at a front window of a home on Franciscan Lane in Smithtown on March 22 at 2:10 a.m. There are no arrests.

A Golden opportunity
A female complainant told police this week that someone entered the women’s locker room at Gold’s Gym in Smithtown on Landing Avenue and took keys out of her sweatshirt, went to her car, and stole her pocket book containing credit and debit cards.

Carjacked
A woman reported this week that someone stole a 1996 Buick from the driveway of a Bonny Court, Smithtown, home sometime between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on March 21. There are no arrests.

Graffiti reported
Someone reported graffiti in a boys’ bathroom of Kings Park High School sometime between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on March 19. Police declined to provide specifics on what kind of graffiti, noting it was an active case.

Dina Stramara addresses the board. Photo by Barbara Donlon

With less than one month until the New York State testing begins in grades three to eight, parents in Kings Park are vocalizing their right to opt out and say they want the board of education to do the same.

At a meeting earlier in the month, several parents asked the board to craft a resolution on standardized testing. Then they started a petition through their group, Kings Park Advocates for Education, to establish a unified voice.

The petition highlighted three items the parents would like the board to support. It said they want support for their right to opt their child out of the high stakes testing, support for alternate activities for their child during the test, and easier options when it comes to opting out.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board opened up as a whole for the first time, as President Tom LoCascio read a statement on the board’s behalf.

“We believe the decision of whether to participate in or to refuse to take a state assessment is a personal decision and ultimately a parent’s choice and in either case a decision that should be afforded mutual respect,” LoCascio said.

The statement went on to say the board believes in public education, that every student in the district deserves an opportunity to succeed and that they believe teachers should be evaluated using multiple forms of assessment.

It also said that as a board, they recognize Gov. Andrew Cuomo and certain interests have politicized many educational issues and that they are concerned how this will impact the district.

“We will continue to work to advance our adopted board goals, prevent the erosion of local control and fight to ensure that educators and those elected by our community have the final decision in how our schools are run,” LoCascio said.

Parents said the statement still did not impress them.

“This community is asking the board of education to step up, pick a strong stand,” parent Shala Pascucci said during the meeting’s public comment forum. “That was a step in the right direction, but if you read the resolution from other neighboring districts, you will know that resolution is not as strong as it could be.”

Pascucci went on to say the board statement is not specific enough, but did acknowledge it’s a step in the right direction. Board member Pam DeFord also acknowledged the statement and said she agreed with parents.

“You’re right, it’s a small step, and we will continue to work on it,” DeFord said.

Parents also said they were upset about the process that will take place in the classroom the morning of the assessment. Parent Dina Stramara quoted from the test refusal question-and-answer section on the board’s website, visibly upset by what her child will go through.

According to the document, children will be seated in assigned seats and a proctor will pass out the documents. They will know ahead of time which students are refusing the assessment, but children must verbally confirm it.

“In the most non-judgmental, non-confrontational, and delicate manner possible, the proctor will verbally confirm with each individual child that he/she is refusing the assessment, those exam materials will be collected, and the child will be permitted to read quietly,” the document said.

Stramara said there is nothing non-judgmental and delicate about putting a child in an awkward position. She said they are not adults and parents should make the decision for them. She also asked why the district would still put the test in front of them if they know they are refusing ahead of time.

“Asking [a young child] to verbalize this is absolutely ludicrous,” Stramara said to the board. “I implore you to please reconsider this procedure. It is not our children’s fault that the state and the district are failing them by making them pawns in this ridiculousness.”

Schools Superintendent Timothy Eagen said this was not a district procedure but one from the New York State Education Department.

“According to the state education department, an activity that is acceptable for students who finish the test early or refuse to take the test is simply to read something,” Eagen said in an interview after the meeting.

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Linda Ventura, center, holds up a picture of her son Thomas, who overdosed on heroine three years ago. She will be one of the many speakers at a Kings Park drug forum in March. File photo

By Jenni Culkin

A forum will be held at William T. Rogers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Road, Kings Park, on Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m., with the hope of keeping the next generation of Kings Park residents safe and informed, event organizers said.

The event is going to be geared toward middle school students and their parents, making a point to intervene while the middle school students of Kings Park are still young and impressionable.

“The best way to stop addiction is through prevention,” says Kimberly Revere, president of Kings Park In The kNOw.

Attendees can expect Kym Laube, the executive director for Human Understanding & Growth Services, to speak to the parents about understanding trends in addiction and other decisions that have potentially destructive outcomes. She will also be discussing the role that parents play in their teenagers’ attitudes and provide them with the tools and information that they need to navigate the challenges of their children’s teen years.

“Parents are still the number one influence on their teenagers,” Laube said.

There’s also going to be a speaker for the adolescent attendees. Linda Ventura, a mother who lost her son to an overdose. She will be sharing the journey that she and her family went through.

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) will also be speaking. All of the attendees will listen to a brief overview of laws like the Social Host Law and the 911 Good Samaritan Law that affect those who are involved with, or know somebody who is involved with, drugs and alcohol. Trotta is a retired Suffolk County police detective who was assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force for over 10 years.

In The kNOw’s goal is for each of the communities in the state to take care of itself in order to take care of the overall problem.

Even those who have no substance abuse are still affected, and they are advised to attend to learn about what the community can do to prevent any possible damage.

“We are facing an opiate epidemic in this country,” Revere said. “Something has to be done.”

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Linda Ventura memorializes her late son Thomas by putting her face at the forefront of the ongoing battle to curb illegal drug use and its unintended consequences. Photo from Linda Ventura
Linda Ventura memorializes her late son Thomas by putting her face at the forefront of the ongoing battle to curb illegal drug use and its unintended consequences. Photo from Linda Ventura

By Chris Mellides

The legislative office building in Albany hums with activity as concerned Long Island parents and members of the addiction treatment community prepare to convene with state assemblymen and insurance company executives for a roundtable discussion.

King’s Park residents Linda Ventura and Maureen Rossi, who both endured the long drive to the state capital the previous night, break away from their group moments before the meeting and casually walk to the nearest bathroom.

Inside the brightly lit lavatory, where toilet paper lines the old tiled floor, Ventura reaches into her purse and retrieves a piece of Tupperware, like she has many times before, and together with Rossi the two of them pray.

Ventura, a mother of three, watched helplessly as her eldest son Thomas succumbed to his heroin addiction two years ago. And now his ashes, tucked neatly inside that plastic container, serve as a reminder of why she tirelessly works toward spreading opiate awareness and tirelessly lobbies for political change. For such efforts Linda Ventura has been selected as one of the People of the Year by this paper.

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association, was among those concerned parents and addiction treatment advocates who joined the dozens of insurance executives at the round table meeting.

He recalls the tension choking the room and the moment a state legislator asked Ventura to make her case for why she thinks insurance companies are handling treatment coverage poorly.

“Linda opened her purse, took out a Tupperware, put it on the table and said, ‘This is my son Thomas. This is what outpatient treatment looks like.’ And the room was stunned,” said Reynolds. “You know I’ve seen it all and done it all and heard it all, and it left me and everybody else in the room speechless.”

Reynolds says that he met Ventura roughly two years ago through a mutual contact and that his work with her became much more focused when they started their legislative push.

“She has been at the forefront of our push for a number of bills in Albany. The thing about Linda is that addiction messed with the wrong mom,” Reynolds said.

Ventura, 54, was born and raised in Oceanside and moved to Kings Park in 1993, where she’s continued her work as a financial advisor.

In March 2012, her son Thomas died from a heroin overdose. He was 21. In the years leading up to his death, Ventura says that a tumultuous family life had put stress on her children.

“My mom and dad passed and my ex-husband’s mom passed. Every year we lost one of them and him and I were going through a divorce,” Ventura said. “So there was a lot of loss, tremendous loss in the family and Thomas was especially sensitive.”

At 15 years old, Thomas began smoking marijuana and drinking beer, and by his senior year of high school Ventura recognized that her son had a problem with prescription painkillers. During the fall after his graduation, Thomas went to his first rehab.

That’s when Ventura said she realized how difficult it was to get insurance coverage for her son’s treatment.

“While he was covered under his dad’s policy, the family as a whole was entitled to one stay at a rehab. So we used that the first time that he went. It was then covered under me,” Ventura said. “We heard things through the next few years and [were told] that he’s not high enough for treatment, which still boggles my mind.”

In order to receive continued coverage for treatment services, Thomas had to continually fail at outpatient services before he could be approved for more comprehensive residential treatment, according to Ventura, who claims that this rule was “insane.”

After her son’s fatal overdose, Ventura said she knew that she needed to bring awareness to the opiate problem affecting Long Islanders, and help to change how insurance providers offer coverage to families seeking help for their sons and daughters struggling with addiction.

On the one-year anniversary of her son’s death, she launched Thomas’ Hope, a nonprofit foundation that promotes drug awareness, prevention and advocacy. Through this effort, Ventura has spoken at numerous events to raise awareness and has raised money to assist families battling with substance abuse.

During a Thomas’ Hope fundraiser Ventura met Maureen Rossi, chairperson of Kings Park in the kNOw (KPITK), a grassroots nonprofit designed to help eradicate illegal drugs from the Kings
Park Community.

“From the first time I heard Linda speak, I knew she had the gift — she has an outstanding ability to reach people,” Rossi said. “I was impressed with her work and shortly after I hired her to speak at our annual Preventing Destructive Decisions event. Linda’s actions and words move mountains.”

Together, Ventura and Rossi joined parents and community leaders in what would be several legislative visits to Albany.

Late this spring, they pushed for passage of Senate Bill S4623, which would reign in the insurance companies and force them to pay for treatment when it’s warranted. That bill and a number of others passed the state Senate and will go into effect April 1, 2015.

County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) represents Suffolk’s 13th District, has followed Ventura’s work with KPITK and has recognized the impact she’s made on the local community and on New York state as a whole.

“She went up to Albany and she got 13 different pieces of legislation passed, and the most important one is that insurance companies will be paying for treatment programs,” Trotta. “She’s driven, she’s smart, capable and she knows what’s going on. She’s really led the charge.”

Ventura said she hopes to see a sober high school brought to Long Island this year that would serve as “a place kids can come back to and be treated differently when they come out of rehab.” She also said she plans to discuss prescription protocol and the need for better education among medical professionals who prescribe controlled substances when she returns to Albany.

When it comes to stomping out the heroin and opiate epidemic on Long Island Ventura said it’ll have to be done as a group effort.

“New York and Long Island is the epicenter of the epidemic, which is something we should not be proud of,” Ventura said. “We can’t legislate ourselves out of it and we can’t police our way out of it. Those things are important measures to take, but everybody’s got to step up to the plate.”

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