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Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

More than 100 family members and friends showed up at Citi Field to hear Jordan Amato sing the national anthem. Photo from the Amato family.

For one high school senior, the school year has started on the right note.

Jordan Amato’s view of Citi Field on the day she sang the national anthem at the ballpark. Photo from the Amato family

South Setauket resident Jordan Amato, 17, performed the national anthem at Citi Field Sept. 8. While it was the second time she sang at the stadium — the first was the summer of 2018 — this time around she had a special guest with her.

In addition to the more than 100 friends and family members in attendance was Ryan Starace, who was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island chapter’s Boy of the Year in 2019. Amato and her family invited Ryan and his family to join them at the game after she helped to raise $36,000 for the nonprofit in the 2018-19 school year. Amato was the co-president of the multigenerational fundraising team 3vforacure in raising funds for the LLS Students of the Year campaign.

Sara Lipsky, executive director of the Long Island chapter of LLS, said Amato went above and beyond aiding the nonprofit’s mission of finding cures and supporting patients and their families.

“Raising $36,000 is a feat in itself,” Lipsky said. “Add school and extracurricular activities make it even more remarkable. Now, she continues to carry that passion forward by creating a very special day for a very special boy.”

Amato said even though she usually doesn’t suffer from performance anxiety, the second time around singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Citi Field was nerve-racking. It wasn’t just because of the throng of people hearing her sing, but because there were problems with the sound system, and she only heard the reverb while singing.

“It was kind of terrifying,” she said.

Her father, Steve Amato, thought she did a wonderful job.

“Not because she is my daughter, but she truly has a great voice and her rendition of the national anthem is excellent,” he said.

Overall the Citi Field experiences have been surreal for the family. Her mother, Jacque Amato, said the family has attended many games at the stadium, but it was a different experience walking up from the underground area to the field.

The opportunity to sing at the stadium came about when Amato sang at her grandmother’s funeral Mass. The husband of one of her father’s cousins works at Citi Field, and after hearing her sing he suggested she send in an audition tape.

The singer’s mother said her daughter sang a cappella that day in the church.

Jordan Amato, middle back row, and her family on the big day when she sang the national anthem at the Mets ballpark. Photo from the Amato family

“When Jordan got up there to sing, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” the mother said.

The singer’s father said to prepare for singing the national anthem at a venue like Citi Field, in addition to her singing lessons, his daughter sang at a Stony Brook University game, entered the Long Island Ducks Anthem Idol — where she won — and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Long Island’s Got Talent. She also won a talent contest where the prize was singing a solo at Carnegie Hall.

Her parents said singing is something that came naturally to her, and when she was in fifth grade, they were surprised when she told them she was going to be singing in a talent show with one of her friends. Before that, they had never even heard her even hum.

Jordan Amato said one day she noticed she could sing well and figured, why not try it?

“I was pretty shy as a kid, so it was kind of unusual for me to be comfortable with singing in front of people, but I found it more comfortable than talking in front of people,” she said.

Last year in addition to balancing her fundraising efforts and singing, the now senior had a 102 unweighted average. Her mother said it’s no surprise she has accomplished so much.

“She has laser focus,” the mother said. “When she wants something, she just puts everything in the basket, and she’s just 100 miles an hour in one direction. She’s very goal oriented. She’s the most organized kid I ever met.”

Jordan Amato is hoping for another successful academic year, and while she’s planning to study singing in college, she said she will most likely go to medical school to become an ear, nose and throat doctor specializing in throat surgeries after shadowing her friends’ parents who are laryngologists last summer. She said the profession is interesting not only due to the doctor helping to heal patients but also training singers to regain their singing voices.

When it comes to trying out something new, Amato had advice for young people.

“Try it out,” she said. “If it doesn’t fit you, it’s not for you.”

Jillian Bove, Allison Szema and Bove’s mother Patricia at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s kickoff event for the Students of the Year competition. Photo from Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Teens in the Three Village area are working together to make a difference in the lives of those affected by blood cancers.

On March 8, Ward Melville High School juniors kicked off a seven-week fundraiser in the hopes of winning the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island chapter’s Students of the Year competition. The health agency’s leadership development and philanthropy program not only gives teens the chance to compete against other high school teams to see who can raise the most money for LLS, but also provides guidance and mentoring from the agency’s professionals to assist in fundraising tactics and team building. The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. The organization also works to improve the lives of patients and their families through research, patient services and assisting with medical co-pays when needed.

The Ward Melville High School team, called 3vforacure, is led by Jillian Bove and Allison Szema. Bove said the Three Village group wants to raise $50,000, which would beat last year’s winners who raised $38,000.

Bove said she knows from personal experience how important the services of LLS are. Her mother Patricia was diagnosed with stage III Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015. After undergoing six months of aggressive chemotherapy, her mother is presently receiving maintenance treatments with a biological agent.

Some members of the 3vforacure team ready to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Photo from Jillian Bove

The high school junior said the agency has provided her and her mother with an emotionally-supportive community, and she’s optimistic about the future when it comes to cancer research and the work LLS is doing.

“Blood cancers are the stem of all cancers so if they find something — which they’ve been having improvements and advancements — then I think they’ll find [a cure] soon,” Bove said.

Szema said even though none of her family members have suffered from blood cancers, a few have been diagnosed with breast and thyroid cancers. She said she not only joined the team because Bove asked her, but also because the research done by LLS will help with other cancer research as well.

Before the March 1 kickoff date, Bove and Szema said the team members sent out 600 letters to all their contacts and attended meetings with LLS representatives. During their fundraising campaign the students will host a badminton tournament March 23 at Ward Melville High School and plan to host a bake sale, sell T-shirts and obtain business sponsorships to raise money.

“It feels great working with everyone, and we all have ideas and are not shy about voicing them,” Bove said.

Meagan Doyle, a campaign manager with the Long Island chapter of LLS, said the competition is a great way for young people to get involved in fundraising.

“It’s a win-win,” Doyle said. “The children are able to do something, give back. They’re able to have this growth experience on their college resume they get that piece of that, and then the organization, we’re able to see such success in their fundraising and the things they are doing.”

“It feels great working with everyone, and we all have ideas and are not shy about voicing them.”

— Jillian Bove

The campaign manager said she thinks the Three Village goal of $50,000 is achievable as Bove and Szema have put a lot of focus on building their team. The 3vforacure team includes Kate Dargan, Samantha Sloan, Jack Bertini, Catherine Jiang, Max Friedman, Adrianna Orduna, Jocelyn Su, Jack Swain, Patrick Sammon, Allison Nemesure, Cassidy Oliver, Casey Hozven and Victoria Amato.

“[Bove and Szema] as candidates, they are taking on such a leadership role in bringing this group together,” Doyle said. “From the organization’s point of view it just makes us proud that they are representing us in their district.”

 

Active with various teams and clubs at Ward Melville, the girls said finding friends to work with them was easy, and the two quickly put together a group of 15 students. Bove is part of the high school’s robotics club, field hockey team, greenhouse club and track and field. Szema is the vice president of the school’s Key Club, a member of the National Honor Society, ceramics club and the diving team.

Bove and Szema encourage everyone in the Three Village area to join them in their fundraising pursuits.

“It is our big hope that we can spread the message and reach out to as many companies and big businesses that can help us reach our goal,” Bove said.

The 3vforacure team badminton tournament is March 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the gym at Ward Melville High School. The tournament is open to high school students only. Cost is $10 per person and red ribbons will be sold for $1.

Bove and Szema said the amount raised by each school and the winner will be announced April 26, the last day of the competition, at a ceremony held at the Heritage Club in Bethpage. For more information, visit the Instagram page @3vforacure or email 3vforacure@gmail.com.

By Bill Landon

Riders from near and far converged at the BMX track in Shoreham for the USA BMX Race for Life event, where all entry fees were donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

The event began in 1981, when 12-year-old Michigan BMX rider Todd Kingsbury’s friends and the American Bicycle Association learned of his Leukemia diagnosis, and decided that an organized effort should be made to help in Todd’s “race for life.” The first American Bicycle Association “race for life” events were formed that year, with over 130 tracks participating and raising funds for the society.

According to track operator Richard Soper, Shoreham had almost 60 riders register for one or more event, raising $695 total.

“It’s an annual thing that’s been going on for a long time,” Soper said. “We’ve participated for as long as I can remember.”

It was family fun for all ages — the youngest competitors being 2 year olds on straddles, or bikes with no pedals, and the oldest races in the 46 and older category.

The track, which is off Defense Hill road, will be celebrating its 35th year Aug. 5, according to Soper, which will be the site of the New York State championship event Oct. 7.

“When you get a membership [with USA BMX] you can go to any track they want — there’s a group of 30 to 40 people that are here tonight that travel daily to different tracks,” Soper said. “We have people that come from the city, riders from Connecticut; this sport is sanctioned [nationally] and there are over 400 tracks in the country.”

Shoreham BMX enjoys a long-term lease with the Town of Brookhaven for the site at Robert C. Reid Park and rely solely on the volunteer efforts of its members for track maintenance and upgrades.

The Mount Sinai MIddle School Community Service and Outreach Club lends a helping hand by becoming actively engaged in the community for local and national charities and organizations. Photo from Lindsey Ferraro

Raising thousands of dollars for North Shore-based and national organizations and bringing smiles to those in need of cheer is no small feat. But fifth- through eighth-graders at Mount Sinai Middle School are making a habit of it.

Lindsey Ferraro, a co-advisor for the school’s Community Outreach and Service clubs for the last three years, said students learn compassion and empathy.

“It amazes me more so every year how dedicated our club members and the school community are to bettering the world,” she said. “Our students have gone above and beyond to help out the community.”

The Mount Sinai Community Service and Outreach Club sings holiday carols at a local nursing home. Photo from Lindsey Ferraro
The Mount Sinai Community Service and Outreach Club sings holiday carols at a local nursing home. Photo from Lindsey Ferraro

The club adopted a family this past holiday season, created cards for soldiers, visited the Woodhaven nursing home in Port Jefferson Station to sing holiday carols, held a clothing drive for the homeless and raised over $1,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“You know you’re helping out someone much less fortunate than you, and it feels really good,” eighth-grader Jake Ritchie said. “It feels really good to know that I make a statement and take a stand in my community to help out.”

Ritchie, who has been a member of the club since he was in fifth grade, said the club is also collecting books for a Stony Brook book drive and helping Girl Scouts receive a bronze award. He said even his classmates lend a hand.

“They have been helping out,” he said, “We make speeches in front of our classes to encourage kids to help out. It’s a lot of fun.”

Mount Sinai Middle School Principal Peter Pramataris said he also sees students outside the club donating to the club’s causes.

“It’s always great to see the school building come together as a whole,” he said. “I reside in the district, too, and whenever there’s a family with some hardship, a loss or a health issue, the community always steps up to help each other. It’s a testament to the families we have in our community and the value system that they have from home and that we reinforce at the school. These students take their own time, and they do it unselfishly. I’m proud to be their principal.”

The club has also raised more than $2,000 in two weeks for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients fund, with a week of fundraising left to go. Next, the school will be working on its Light It up Blue campaign, where members of the club will sell puzzle pieces in light of Autism Awareness Month for Autism Speaks.

The Mount Sinai Community Service and Outreach Club wraps presents raised for and donated to local families. Photo from Lindsey Ferraro
The Mount Sinai Community Service and Outreach Club wraps presents raised for and donated to local families. Photo from Lindsey Ferraro

Nicole Kotarski, who has been a co-adviser for five years, said the club fosters independence and creativity.

“We’ve had several students bring us ideas if they like a particular organization, and we tell them to figure out how to make it happen,” she said, adding that she asks students to organize contact information, ideas for fundraisers and how to make the school aware of them. “The goal of our club is to make a difference in others’ lives. These students are definitely the most driven students. They’re the ones that make the effort to become actively engaged in the community.”

Ferraro and Kotarski agreed that the students are doing an amazing job, and they’re proud of the student’s hard work and effort.

“They really do care and they’re learning — they’re not in it for anything else,” Ferraro said. “They do such a good job raising awareness throughout the school … and really making, especially the people around the holidays, feel loved and cared for.”

That’s what makes being a part of the club so special for fifth-grader Matthew Stancampiano.

“I like doing this because it helps me help the less fortunate people in our community,” he said. “We can accomplish bigger things in a group. It makes me feel happy that I am able to help other people.”