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Uniqua holds her two new teddy bears tightly. She received the gifts from members of Mount Sinai's Students Against Destructive Decisions club. Photo by Kevin Redding

Just one night at Mount Sinai High School helped to make the season bright for local families in need.

For Christmas, all 6-year-old Uniqua really wanted was an Elf on the Shelf toy, a gift her mom struggled to afford. But Moniqua McGee, who lives with her daughter at Concern for Independent Living in Medford, knew she had nothing to worry about. She had Mount Sinai high schoolers to rely on.

A family from Concern for Independent Living receive gifts from Mount Sinai children through Hauppuage-based nonprofit Christmas Magic. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Dec. 6, during the Students Against Destructive Decisions club’s Christmas Magic dinner in the high school’s cafeteria, a beaming Uniqua not only got her wish, but two new teddy bears and holiday-themed face paint, too. She even met Santa Claus and Rudolph.

“I’m grateful they’re doing this for the families and putting smiles on the kid’s faces,” said Moniqua McGee, who has been coming to the event the past five years. “It works every time.”

The McGees were just one of dozens of families from the Medford nonprofit enjoying the holiday spirit in the room. An 18-year partnership between the Hauppauge-based organization Christmas Magic and the SADD club, the Christmas soiree served as the ultimate payoff of a shopping spree by the students Dec. 1. Under the supervision of SADD club advisors John Wilson and John McHugh, they spent that day rushing around Smith Haven Mall and Walmart to buy gifts for more than 60 boys and girls from Concern for Independent Living, which provides housing and employment help for struggling families, based on wish lists they wrote to Santa. The school district also raised $8,000 for Christmas Magic.

Members of Mount Sinai’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club watch children open up presents. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I’m happy and proud to be part of a program and district that not only encourages, but fosters this type of activity,” McHugh said. “The students involved display the best we have to offer … we have grown our program every year and that makes me feel great.”

With all the gifts wrapped and labeled, every kid left the dinner with at least three presents given to them by Santa, played by rosy red cheeked wrestling icon Mick Foley, who also posed for pictures. Christmas tunes blared through the cafeteria’s speakers as families ate chicken, pasta and desserts, and SADD club members — some dressed up in costume — went around the room with little gift bags of extra toys for attendees. SADD club members also played games and watched “Elf” with the kids.

“It’s so nice to be able to see all the kids here and see them get the gifts we got for them,” said Allie Garrant, an 11th grader and SADD club member, who picked up a lacrosse stick and Rubik’s Cube for a 13-year-old boy. “Just seeing their faces — it’s a whole different thing. It’s like, ‘Wow, these are real people I’m helping’ and you get to see firsthand the difference you’re making.”

Renato Lugo, whose four children were ecstatic over their gifts, expressed his gratitude to those involved in the event.

Students dressed up to entertain children during a Christmas Magic dinner at Mount Sinai High School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s a beautiful thing to have organizations like these that help out and take care of people in need,” said Lugo, who has been aided by Concern for Independent Living for six years. “The students bring joy and cheer and they make my kids very happy.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Elena, was ecstatic receiving a long-sleeve Unicorn pajama shirt from Santa.

“I think it’s really amazing I got the present I wanted,” Elena said. “And the food is amazing and everyone’s so happy. I love SADD. They’re really like another Santa.”

Kim Dellamura, who’s been at the nonprofit agency for six months, said the event allowed her 4-year-old daughter MacKenzie to have a Christmas.

“It feels good because I don’t know how much I would’ve been able to give her this year,” Dellamura said. “So this really helps out a lot. She loves it.”

For Lawrence Aurigemma, the event is a perfect reflection of what this time of year means.

“This season is all about peace and generosity,” said Aurigemma, a military veteran whose 14-year-old son received Pokemon cards. “These students are just fantastic. They go out of their way to help out the less fortunate people here. It’s a wonderful thing. They knew exactly what to get my son … he’s so happy.”

Smithtown resident and former WWE wrestler Mick Foley dishes out gifts to children. Photo by Kevin Redding

Also at the event was Christmas Magic founder Charlie Russo and representatives of Concern for Independent Living, including case managers Ella Cantave and Julio Villarman, who were excited to see their clients enjoying the holidays.

“It’s a very special day for them,” Cantave said. “It took a lot of effort to make it happen and to make it nice for them.”

As everybody in the room sang “Jingle Bells,” Santa arrived and joined in. Each kid’s name was called out to sit down with the big man in the red suit.

Foley, who has been a volunteer with Christmas Magic since 2000 and officially assumed the role of Santa for the organization in 2014, said he looks forward to the event all year round.

“It’s a great organization — they spread joy and happiness to so many of the less fortunate in the community, and it’s an honor to wear the red suit and represent Christmas Magic,” Foley said before turning his attention to the SADD club. “I make it a point to thank all of them because I think it’s wonderful that they get involved in volunteer work at a young age. They do a great job and it’s really easy for me to show up and get a lot of the credit from children, but the truth is, without them, absolutely none of this is possible.”

Mount Sinai Students Against Destructive Decisions club members organize gifts that will be donated to children at Concern for Independent Living in Medford through the Hauppauge-based nonprofit Holiday Magic. Photo by Kevin Redding

Mount Sinai High School students took on the roles of Santa and his elves to make sure local children in need have gifts to open this Christmas.

In a continued collaboration with Hauppauge-based nonprofit Christmas Magic, 43 members of the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club embarked on shopping sprees at Smith Haven Mall and Walmart Dec. 1 to bring holiday cheer to underprivileged children. They set out to find gifts for more than 60 boys and girls from Concern for Independent Living, a nonprofit agency in Medford that provides permanent housing for homeless families, based on wish lists they wrote to Santa.

With $4,500 supplied by Christmas Magic, SADD club members bought more than 100 gifts — each child receives about three — from wireless headphones to action figures and dolls, to sweatshirts and diapers.

Members of Mount Sinai’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club unpack gifts to be donated after going shopping. Photo by Kevin Redding

Back at the high school, the students turned the cafeteria into a makeshift Santa’s workshop. They organized the gifts, piled them into garbage bags and sent them off on a big truck to be wrapped and delivered back to the school Dec. 6, where the district hosts a dinner for the children and their families, where club members join Santa Claus himself in presenting the wrapped gifts.

“I think this teaches the students compassion,” said John Wilson,  a special education teacher and the SADD Club’s co-advisor who said the district is in its 18th year of involvement with the program. “When they see some of the lists — and there’s a jacket or something they take for granted — I think it humbles them and makes them appreciate what they have.”

In one letter, which included a drawing of a smiling snowman and a Christmas tree, a young boy asked Santa for a tech watch and a lightsaber. In another, a girl asked for a pair of boots and a unicorn onesie.

“I love getting the lists,” said Julie Pfeiffer, an 11th grader and SADD club member, who picked up wrestling action figures and Roblox toys for a 7-year-old boy. “We get these lists from them, in their own handwriting, and it’s so sweet. We’re able to give them what they want, directly. It warms my heart so much.”

High school senior Ruchi Thaker bought a sports kit and learning toys for a 1-year-old boy as well as a My Little Pony toy and a bracelet making gift set for a little girl. Junior Rebecca Muroff tracked down a specific brand of hoodie and phone case for a 15-year-old girl.

“You just feel good about doing this,” said Emma Wimmer, a senior who bought a Nike sweatshirt, a pair of sneakers and pants for two teenage boys.

Margaret Kopcienski, a junior and president of SADD Club, said this is her favorite event of the year and said prior to the Dec. 6 dinner that she looked forward to meeting the children at the high school.

“We’re able to give them what they want, directly. It warms my heart so much.”

— Margaret Kopcienski

“It’s really magical seeing how happy they are,” Kopcienski said. “It’s a great time and really cool to see the result of all our hard work and how much joy the presents bring to them.”

The school district will also be reimbursing Christmas Magic more than $7,500 raised during its Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Run Nov. 25, an annual fundraising event run by SADD co-advisor and history teacher John McHugh. Last year, upwards of 11,000 kids across Long Island were gifted through the nonprofit.

“It’s an amazing feat that the students and staff at Mount Sinai make this happen every year,” said Charlie Russo, who founded Christmas Magic in 1990 out of a lifelong passion to give back to those less fortunate. “It just speaks volumes as to where the district is and where their community service efforts are. I can’t praise them enough.”

Russo said Christmas Magic has been working alongside Concern for Independent Living, one of about 70 agencies involved, since the nonprofit was formed.

Concern for Independent Living was formed in 1972 and has been recognized as the largest nonprofit provider of supportive housing for individuals and families in need on Long Island. Ralph Fasano, the organization’s executive director, said Mount Sinai students have helped families and kids get through the holidays for years.

“All the families come from low-economic brackets and oftentimes there’s not enough money to buy kids gifts,” Fasano said. “When these kids get things they’ve wanted for years — gifts they never thought they’d ever have — it restores some hope for them.”

Joseph Wilko. Photo from SCPD

A 25-year-old man from Medford was arrested at his home July 13 for his alleged involvement in a May 15 burglary in Port Jefferson and a June 27 burglary in Coram, the second of which resulted in a victim being shot multiple times, according to the Suffolk County Police Department. Following an investigation, 6th Squad detectives located the man, Joseph Wilko, at his home in Medford and placed him under arrest at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The first burglary occurred at an occupied home on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jeff May 15 just before midnight. Three men entered the home, assaulted the homeowner, and stole money and a pickup truck, police said. The homeowner, a male, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

During the second burglary, a 24-year-old man was shot multiple times inside the victim’s apartment, located on Kiowa Court in Coram, at about 10 p.m. June 27. The victim was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Wilko was charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, first-degree assault and second-degree assault.

The investigation is ongoing. The 6th Squad is seeking the public’s help in finding additional suspects in connection with the burglaries. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call the 6th Squad at (631) 854-8652 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

Wilko was held at the 6th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip, July 14. Attorney information for Wilko was not immediately available.

Emmanuel Dourthe and Reina Alecia were arrested at a traffic stop in Medford June 30. Photos from SCPD

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police arrested two people on drugs and weapons charges following a vehicle and traffic stop in Medford June 30.

Emmanuel Dourthe was driving a 2003 Honda Accord when Sixth Precinct Police Officer Keith Liere pulled over the car for a traffic stop on Mill Road at approximately 8 p.m. During Officer Liere’s investigation, he found a loaded and defaced 9mm pistol, one ounce of heroin, one ounce of crack/cocaine, drug paraphernalia, $1,240 and three cell phones.

Sixth Squad detectives charged Dourthe, 18, of Coram, with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. His passenger, Reina Alicea, 20, of Lake Grove, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for possessing a switchblade, and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Dourthe and Alicea were held overnight for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip.

File photo

A Rocky Point man was ejected from his vehicle as a result of a crash in Port Jefferson Station Feb. 22 and transported to Stony Brook Hospital for treatment of serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police. Sixth Squad detectives are investigating the two-vehicle crash.

Brian Carter was driving a 1975 Jeep westbound on Route 347 when he attempted to make a left turn onto Crystal Brook Hollow Road and his vehicle was struck by an eastbound 2009 Chevrolet at about 8:20 p.m.

Carter, 25, of Rocky Point, was ejected from the vehicle and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver of the Chevrolet, Zachary Pisoni, 24, of Medford, was not injured.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Alan Bauser. Photo from PIO

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for driving while intoxicated with his daughter in his car in Selden Feb. 11.

Alan Bauser was driving a 2008 Hyundai southbound on North Ocean Ave. and Middle Country Road, when he was observed by Sixth Precinct Patrol Officer Christopher Weiner failing to maintain his lane of travel, crossing the roadway’s lane marking and crossing onto the shoulder of the road numerous times at approximately 11:35 p.m. Officer Weiner initiated a traffic stop and conducted sobriety tests, which Bauser failed. Bauser also admitted to overusing his prescription medication. Bauser’s 12-year-old daughter was in the car.

Further investigation revealed the daughter had a Family Court Order of Protection requiring Bauser to refrain from misusing prescription medication in her presence. The daughter was released to a family member.

Bauser, 42, of Medford, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 or younger (Leandra’s Law), endangering the welfare of a child and second degree criminal contempt.

Bauser will be held overnight at the Sixth Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Feb. 12.

One man was killed and another injured when two cars collided in Rocky Point on Tuesday morning.

The Suffolk County Police Department said Sean Carpenter’s 2002 Subaru Outback, which had been heading south on County Road 21, crossed into northbound traffic and hit a 1991 Nissan Sentra shortly before 6 a.m., killing 55-year-old driver Jose Amaya, of Medford.

A physician assistant from the county medical examiner’s office pronounced the victim dead at the scene — which was about 1 mile north of Whiskey Road — while Carpenter, 25, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Carpenter is also a Medford resident.

Police impounded both the Subaru and the Nissan for safety checks.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 7th Squad are investigating the crash. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-852-8752.

Kathy Horan mugshot from SCPD

Update, 2.29.16: Police have reported that Lynn May, the 58-year-old Lake Grove resident who was standing by her parked car during the hit-and-run, has died of her injuries sustained in the crash.

Police said a woman drove away after fatally striking one man with her car and seriously injuring three others on Friday night.

The 61-year-old Medford resident, Kathy Horan, was allegedly driving east on Granny Road at about 8:20 p.m. and, shortly down the road from Brookhaven Town Hall, hit Peter Quoma, a 28-year-old from Selden who had gotten out of his own car because he had hit a parked vehicle.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the hit from Horan’s 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe was fatal for Quoma, and also injured the two passengers still inside his 1997 Nissan Maxima as well as the owner of the parked car, who was standing next to it.

Quoma was pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, police said, while the two passengers, one male and one female, were treated for minor injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital. Police said the parked car’s owner, 58-year-old Lynn May from Lake Grove, was being treated for serious injuries at Brookhaven Memorial.

Horan, who was not hurt, was charged with leaving the scene of an incident involving a fatality and with leaving the scene of one involving physical injury. She was arraigned on Saturday.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available.

Anyone with information is asked to call the SCPD’s Vehicular Crime Unit at 631-852-6555.

Sheldon Davis mugshot from SCPD

A Coram man was allegedly found driving drunk in a vehicle that had just recently struck an officer while fleeing police questioning at the scene of a grand larceny.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the incident began with 5th Precinct officers responding on Wednesday to a report of an attempted larceny at the 76 gas station on Route 112 in Medford. When the officers were leaving, a vehicle police have described as belonging to the suspect in the crime returned with three people riding in it, and the officers approached it and talked to the people inside.

Police said during the discussion, the 2014 Dodge Charger fled, hitting one of the officers as well as a police car. The officer who was struck fired three shots at the Dodge.

He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at the hospital.

The driver went north on Route 112 as one of the other vehicle occupants fled the scene, police said. The Dodge was found shortly afterward on Flores Lane in Middle Island.

Sheldon Davis, a 43-year-old Coram resident, was driving the Dodge at the time it was found, police said. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Police said the third occupant of the Dodge at the scene of the grand larceny in Medford was questioned and later treated at the hospital for cuts from the glass that broke when the Dodge was shot.

The other officer at the scene, who had not been struck by the Dodge, was evaluated at the hospital, police said.

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Richard Clinton mugshot from SCPD

A robbery suspect allegedly ripped a woman out of her car while she was stopped at a traffic light Tuesday morning.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the woman was driving to work and had exited the Long Island Expressway at exit 56 shortly before 9 a.m. She was waiting at a red light at the north service road’s intersection with Route 111 in Hauppauge when a man who was walking in the roadway opened the car’s front passenger door and got inside. Police said the woman tried to fight off the robber as he stole her belongings.

From there, police allege the man got out of the car, walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door, forcibly removed the victim from the car and dragged her onto the pavement. He allegedly got into the driver’s seat and took more of her property, as she again fought him.

Police said the suspect ran away as other people started to approach the car to aid the victim.

Officers searched the area and broadcasted a description of the suspect, police said, and about 10 minutes later found suspect Richard Clinton a short distance away, at Route 111 and Motor Parkway.

Clinton, a 34-year-old whose last known address was in Medford, was arrested and treated at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore “for the effects of narcotic drug use,” police said. He is charged with second-degree robbery, resisting arrest and three counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Attorney information for the suspect was not available. According to police, Clinton will be arraigned at a later date.

Anyone who may have witnessed the alleged robbery is asked to contact detectives from the SCPD’s 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

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