Tags Posts tagged with "Miller Place"

Miller Place

by -
0 1522

Five Panthers take home league titles, win school's first team title

Eric Schreck controls his opponent. Photo by Ray Nelson

Suffolk County rivals may have written off Miller Place wrestling after the Panthers graduated several key competitors last season, but the boys came back to make a statement: they’re only getting better.

After going 21-2 this season, the team won the League VI dual meet title for the second straight season, with a 7-0 record, and took it a step further this season — winning the League VI team championship for the first time in school history.

“We did a lot of work in the offseason,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “We went a full year, 12 months, 52 weeks of wrestling. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be as good as we are, but we knew we were. We knew we were going to be competitive this year, but the kids exceeded our expectations.”

Joe Bartolotto following a win. Photo by Ray Nelson

The Panthers, who also served as the host team, were in third place heading into the quarterfinals of the League VI championship, but in the semifinals, the grapplers caught fire. Ten Panthers went through to the finals, with eight getting bonus points and five claiming the top spot. Miller Place, at 241. 5 points, pulled ahead of Islip (230.5) and Elwood-John Glenn (205).

“Our biggest thing was wrestling for each other,” the head coach said. “We preach hard work and the kids really bought in, they committed on the mat, they committed in the weight room, running on their own, we went to camps, and it all came together this season.”

Redemption was on the minds of James Alamia and Joe Bartolotto III, who each placed second in last season’s championship.

“I definitely didn’t want to go out second,” Bartolotto said. “I wanted to end on a good note and get the title my senior year.”

“Good” may be an understatement for the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, who pinned his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents.

“They were pretty quick,” he said. “I just wanted to get those out of the way and focus on the big one — the finals.”

The 160-pounder said he knew it was going to be a good matchup because he’d wrestled his challenger in the dual meet season. He said he prepared for the matchup all week, and it paid off. He won by a 5-1 decision.

Kaszubski said he always knows he can count on his senior standout and team leader in pins.

“He’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever had — he’s a total package kind of kid,” he said of his player, who’s headed to Cornell University to play lacrosse. “His commitment to wrestling has been second to none.”

At 120 pounds, Alamia won all three of his matches by pins. He had a different experience last season. He said he was disappointed in his finals loss after he’d outscored his opponent earlier that season.

“Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

—James Alamia

“The motivation and the will to win helped me,” he said of his finals match, where he was up by 12 points before getting the pin. “Not that the pins were easy, but most of the kids I’d wrestled before and I did a lot better this time around. Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

At 138 pounds, Eric Schreck also had a pin, taking down his first opponent in 1 minute, 40 seconds before a 15-0 technical fall and 11-3 major decision in the finals.

“I had a good day,” he said. “There were tough kids, but I do whatever it takes to win.

I take ‘em down quick in the first and stay on top, try to turn as much as I can.”

The head coach said the handful of disappointments last season fueled the fire for his grapplers to come back strong.

“It was a blessing in disguise having them fall a little short last year,” he said. “They were hungrier than ever, and we have a lot of prolific pinners. We preach putting guys on their back and getting pins and getting bonus points. That’s something that we work on ever day.”

Kyle Klein Jr. also took home a title at 99 pounds, as did James Rado at 126 pounds.

Bartolotto and his teammates agreed that although placing first was the icing on the cake, winning the team title was what mattered most.

“Winning the Most Outstanding Wrestler title felt good as recognition for working hard, but winning the team championship felt better because this was the last team thing we can do this season,” he said. “We’ve been doing things that people didn’t think we’d be able to do.”

Tracey Farrell, above, with her son Kevin who died of a heroin overdose, created an organization On Kevin’s Wings that helped Nick McErlean, below, afford recovery. Photo from Tracey Farrell

By Desirée Keegan

One hundred and one days ago, Nick McErlean got on his knees as he does every night and prayed.

The 27-year-old struggling drug addict and alcoholic was looking for a way out and a way off Long Island.

“I said, ‘God, you could send me to West Palm Beach, or you can keep me here,’” he said. “‘Whichever is your will.’”

At 8:30 a.m. the next morning, Tracey Farrell, a complete stranger to McErlean, called him regarding her new nonprofit organization, On Kevin’s Wings, to tell him she’d like to help him get that plane ticket out of New York and into recovery. After her two-hour initial conversation, she kept in close contact with him, and after a short two-day span, he was on a plane to Florida. He’s now 99 days sober.

Nick McErlean. Photo from Tracey Farrell

“I say this very seriously — it’s like God sent me an angel,” McErlean said. “Tracey found out about me and just took a chance, and it’s turned out to be the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I struggled for 13 years with drug addiction and alcoholism and what Tracey provided for me was a fresh start somewhere new. I could seek out the recovery I wanted and find out who Nick really is.”

Farrell, the founder of the group North Shore Drug Awareness, who helped work with Suffolk County to create the PSA “Not My Child,” following the loss of her son Kevin to a heroin overdose, said that although she initially wanted to create a coalition two years ago, she realized what she was doing was much more important.

“Of course, prevention is important, but North Shore [Drug Awareness] is really about awareness, communication, education, support — it’s just such a bigger scope than that,” she said. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me for help with their family members to get treatment, and so often I hear of families who want to send their kids out of state and unfortunately are stuck because of financial hardships. It totally clicked in my head, that that’s where I can help. Whether it’s airfare, bus fare, train fare. Anywhere I can help with transportation I’m going to take advantage of it.”

While formulating an idea of what she wanted her foundation to be, McErlean was living at a sober home in Riverhead. He said he was unhappy, and he was afraid he’d start using again.

“I’d been on Long Island my whole life, and I felt stuck,” he said. “I was caught in the grips of an overwhelming cocaine addiction. I saw my life on the streets ending with death, and I knew I didn’t want to die, and I knew that I didn’t want to be homeless and I didn’t want to hurt anybody else, most importantly myself.”

In conversation with a friend in the Riverhead facility, McErlean joked about wanting to move away. His friend responded that if he was serious, he might know someone who could help. McErlean was connected with Katrin O’Leary in West Palm Beach, who helped place his new friend in the home in Riverhead. The parent advocate told him that if he could get money for a flight, she’d save him a bed.

“It takes a village to help each other,” said O’Leary, who is also on the board of the Florida Association of Recovery Residencies. “Due to my connections, I connected him with someone who was willing to scholarship him in until he gets his feet on the ground.”

“I’m a suicide survivor, and the biggest thing that I’ve gotten out of this whole journey is my will to live back.”

—Nick McErlean

But he didn’t have money for a flight. After telling O’Leary, that’s when she reached out to Farrell, whom she’s known for a few years, asking if she knew anyone that could help.

“I literally had just started the foundation, so it was kind of amazing,” Farrell said when she received the call from O’Leary. “It reinforced me that this was the right thing to do.”

Two days later, she was helping put McErlean on a plane to Florida, and O’Leary, whose son is currently 25 months sober, couldn’t be happier to help him and for the work Farrell continues to do.

“He’s thriving,” O’Leary said. “It feels fantastic to help another person find their way into recovery. That’s what we all hope for. It’s someone’s child, and everyone should have a fair chance at life, especially when they’re willing. And Tracey is my hero. I cannot even fathom losing a child to substance abuse disorder and instead of just walking away, because that would’ve been her way out, she continues to help other children. I have the utmost respect for her.”

While some say the best way to get over the past is to face it head on, that was not the case for McErlean, who tried and continued to fail. He said being on Long Island he was surrounded by the reminders of his past, but in Florida, recovery and sobriety is all he knows, and he’s surrounded by people who will go to great lengths to get and stay sober.

“That’s what I needed in my life,” he said. “My whole life, I had a void within myself. I never felt worthy of anything. I never felt that anything I got I deserved. I always felt less than and I came down here on a self-seeking discovery and the journey is turning out to be beyond my wildest dreams already.”

In Florida, he’s gaining more than just sobriety. He has a full-time job, and he’s seeing and experiencing things besides sobriety he said he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to without Farrell’s help.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if I stayed on Long Island I would have relapsed and I would have died,” he said. “It’s just how my life had gone from 14 years old to the point before I moved down here. I’m a suicide survivor, and the biggest thing that I’ve gotten out of this whole journey is my will to live back.”

McErlean called Farrell when he reached 90 days sober. It happened to be the day Farrell started a GoFundMe page for her organization. As of publication, On Kevin’s Wings has raised $2,075 with the help of 33 donors.

Tracey Farrell’s children Breanna and Kevin. Kevin died of an overdose, leading to Farrell becoming an advocate for awareness and support for addicts. Her daughter is currently a recovering addict who, like Nick McErlean, received help from being sent off of Long Island. Photo from Tracey Farrell

“I’m watching the money come in … and $1 million could’ve come in and I would still be more happy about his 90 days,” she said. “I’m just so proud. That’s a big number. That’s when their brain actually starts to heal — after that 90-day mark, so it’s so key that he got there. My son didn’t get to get to the 90-day point. Kevin was just shy of 90 days. I could cry that’s how much it means.”

Farrell said when she first got involved in helping others, she told herself, “if I could help one person,” but knew one was not enough.

“The fact that people know me by name now and know that they can come to me and I can help them, it’s the most gratifying thing,” she said. “It helps me heal in ways I could never have imagined.”

Farrell held the organization’s first fundraising event, a food and wine pairing dinner at Pure North Fork Craft Kitchen & Bar in Wading River Jan. 25. The event sold out days in advance. The next fundraiser will be held at Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place in March.

If in need of help, reach out to Farrell through the Facebook page North Shore Drug Awareness or On Kevin’s Wings Facebook page. If you’d like to donate to the organization’s cause, visit www.gofundme.com/on-kevins-wingshope-takes-flight.

“It’s only because of this relocation process that I’ve become so willing,” McErlean said. “The addiction crisis on Long Island is absolutely at an all-time high and I’m tired of burying friends, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, you name it. People are dropping like flies. As I gain more and more sobriety and as I gain more and more through this process, it isn’t about me anymore. I want other people to know and see that there is a way out.”

President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education Betsy DeVos has been met with opposition from North Shore educators. Photo from Senate committee website

Many North Shore superintendents and educators are concerned with President Donald Trump’s (R) nominee for secretary of education: Betsy DeVos, chairman of The Windquest Group, a privately-held investment and management firm based in Michigan, to serve as secretary of education. According to her website, the Michigan resident has a history in politics spanning more than 35 years. She was elected as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times, and worked in a leadership capacity for campaigns, party organizations and political action committees, her website states.

DeVos went before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for a confirmation hearing Jan. 17.

“Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it … do not have my support.”

—Paul Casciano

“I share President-elect Trump’s view that it’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve,” DeVos said during her opening remarks at the hearing. “Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children. The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools. If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools. But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.”

DeVos’ views on public education created a stir around the country, and superintendents from the North Shore and county as a whole joined the chorus of those skeptical about the direction she might take the country’s education system.

“I have devoted my entire adult life to public education and believe it is the bedrock of our democracy,” Port Jefferson school district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in an email. “Any programs and initiatives that attempt to weaken public education by diverting funds away from it or that offer alternatives that are not subjected to the same strict standards and scrutiny that public schools must live by, do not have my support.”

Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagen echoed many of Casciano’s concerns.

“I find President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to be unacceptable,” he said in an email. “Education in this country is at an important crossroads. As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education that will prepare them to be active, contributing members of society.”

“As an educational leader and parent of two public school students, it is my goal to provide our children with a globally competitive, rigorous, relevant and challenging education.”

—Tim Eagan

Eagen also has concerns about DeVos’ qualifications.

“I believe that Betsy DeVos is unqualified to run the U.S. Department of Education,” he said. “She is a businesswoman and politician without any experience in public service or public education. She does not have an education degree, has no teaching experience, has no experience working in a school environment, never attended public school or a state university, and did not send her own four children to public school.”

Middle Country Central School District  Superintendent Roberta Gerold stressed that she does not support the appointment of DeVos, stating that she believes all of DeVos’ actions to date evidence a lack of support for, and understanding of public education.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework,” Gerold said. “She couldn’t seem to, for example, understand or explain the difference between growth and proficiency — very basic concepts. And her answer to whether guns should be allowed in schools — please.”

The superintendent said, though, that she is most disappointed that DeVos would even be considered for the position.

“It seems clear to me that this is purely a political appointment, not an appointment that recognizes merit or values authentic education,” Gerold said. “John King — who I don’t believe was a great champion of public education, at least had credentials that deserved respect. The new nominee does not. It’s worrisome and disconcerting….and insulting to the public education system, K–12 and beyond.”

She said her teachers, several who are community residents, are preparing a petition that requests the board of education adopt of resolution in opposition to the appointment.

“I was disappointed with her answers during the hearing – she didn’t appear to do much, if any, homework.”

—Roberta Georld

“I believe that our board will be supportive of that request,” she said. “I know that our board president is in agreement with opposing the nomination.”

The Miller Place school district’s administration and board of education drafted and passed a resolution opposing DeVos’ appointment. Superintendent Marianne Cartisano addressed the appointment in an open letter on the district’s website.

“Our concerns are twofold,” she said. “The first reservation we have is regarding the candidate’s lack of first-hand experience as an educator or administrator within the public school system. Since the majority of the children in the United States are currently being educated within the public school system, we feel that this experience is very important for an effective Secretary of Education.”

Cartisano elaborated on her other issues with DeVos.

“Her record also shows a clear bias towards private, parochial and charter schools and the use of vouchers to attend these schools,” Cartisano said. “This bias leads us to our second overarching concern with Betsy DeVos as a candidate for Secretary of Education. The concern is that Betsy DeVos has been a strong advocate for the use of public funds to attend private schools through vouchers, and this would have a direct negative impact on our public school system’s fiscal stability if it is put into effect on a national level.”

The committee will vote to either approve or deny DeVos’ nomination Jan. 31.

Victoria Espinoza and Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

Mount Sinai Harbor will be a safer place as a result of jetty reconstruction. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police officers and firefighters from the Mount Sinai Fire Department rescued three hunters after their boat capsized in Mount Sinai Harbor the morning of Jan. 22.

James Knipe and his son, also named James, along with Kendrick Pisano, were duck hunting in a boat in Mount Sinai Harbor when their vessel took on water and overturned. After the three entered the water, they clung to the overturned boat and the elder Knipe, 47, called 911 on his cell phone.

Suffolk Police notified the United States Coast Guard and the Mount Sinai Fire Department. When Sixth Precinct officers arrived on scene, they observed all three clinging to the overturned boat and holding onto life jackets. Members of the Mount Sinai Fire Department launched an inflatable vessel and rescued the younger Knipe, 17, and Pisano, 16, from the water. Suffolk Police Marine Bureau Officers John Castorf and Christopher DeFeo, aboard Marine November, pulled James Knipe from the water.

All three victims were brought to the boat ramp and transported to local hospitals for treatment of exposure and hypothermia. Pisano, of Miller Place, was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson and the Knipes, of Middle Island, were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Marine Bureau officers recovered and secured the vessel, the victims’ belongings and three shotguns from the harbor.

The water temperature at the time of the incident was approximately 45 degrees. The Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau reminds boaters and hunters that New York State Law requires that personal flotation devices be worn at all times on vessels less than 21 feet in length, from November 1 to May 1.

by -
0 424
Rocky Point’s Madison Gennaro shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

For Rocky Point, one of the youngest players on the girls’ basketball team came through big.

Miller Place’s Kelli Ryan drives the lane while Rocky Point’s Nicole Taveras reaches to try to force a turnover. Photo by Bill Landon

In the final minute of the third quarter, the team trailed visiting Miller Place by 15 points, but the Eagles found a way to tie the game at 62-62 with 8.3 seconds on the clock, and Madison Gennaro swished a shot from the top of key to win the game Jan. 3, 64-62.

“I didn’t know if it was going in — I was just going north and south trying to get the foul,” Gennaro said. “We just had to get fouled and get fast-break layups.”

It was Rocky Point’s first League V victory in nearly a decade, according to head coach Scott Lindsay.

The first 22 minutes started out in Miller Place’s favor. Junior Ally Tarantino, on a give-and-go, fed the ball to eighth-grader Alexa Corbin for a layup that gave the Panthers a commanding 53-38 lead with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

But the Eagles refused to go quietly, and their defense presses and aggressiveness forced several turnovers that were converted into points.

Miller Place head coach Joe Read said his team has struggled to put together four solid quarters of play, and it happened again.

“We’ve done this before: We have a really good half, we look up, we get the ball up, we get the ball out, we get down and we sometimes stop doing that and we talked about that at halftime,” Read said. “[We needed] one or two footsteps more getting to the ball, and that was the difference.”

Rocky Point’s Megan O’Neil jumps up the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

Then Rocky Point went on an 8-0 run to draw within four points with 47 seconds left in regulation. Three seconds later, Gennaro went to the foul line and sank both to make it a 2-point game.

Miller Place junior Victoria Iavarone went to the stripe shooting two and split the difference to edge further ahead, 62-59.

With 36 seconds on the clock Rocky Point’s Clare Levy went to the charity stripe and nailed both to make it a 1-point game, prompting a Miller Place timeout.

After a Panther technical foul, Gennaro went back to the free-throw line, and missed the first, but banked the second to tie the game at 62-62.

“That’s the way we play — we’re constantly coming back from behind — this team is just tremendous,” Lindsay said. “That’s the way they’ve played since ninth grade. This team never, never gives up, so it’s a testament to them.”

With eight seconds left in regulation, Rocky Point inbounded the ball one final time, and after three quick passes, Gennaro let the winning shot fly.

The Eagles erupted in celebration, but the officials put 0:00.3 seconds back on the clock for the Panthers’ final possession, but it was barely enough time to inbound the ball.

Miller Place’s Ally Tarantino scores from under the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“We just don’t give up — we keep pushing and we knew we’d come back,” said Rocky Point’s Christina Ferrara. “We just kept chipping away at the lead and we found a way to come back.”

Gennaro led her team in scoring with 20 points and Levy added 16. Tarantino led all players with 27, and Kelli Ryan tacked on 13.

“We had way too many turnovers,” Ryan said of her team’s second-half performance. “We’ve got to communicate more and pass the ball better — not trying to force it.”

With the win, the Eagles are 4-4 overall and 1-2 in League V, while Miller Place drops to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in League V.

According to Lindsay, it was the Eagles’ first league win in nine years.

“What we need to do is to play with a bit more passion early so we’re not in this position where we spend so much energy coming back in these games,” he said. “But this win is a statement for us. It’s a new year and a new beginning, and we’ve written a new page.”

Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore and developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point Mark Baisch team up to build the homes for returning veterans. File photos

By Desirée Keegan

Receiving keys can be a magical moment for anyone, but for Joe Cognitore and Mark Baisch, they’re more excited about handing them over.

The Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 commander and the developer and owner of Landmark Properties, respectively, have been building and giving homes to veterans for the last four years. They’ve created 11 homes so far, and this year, the duo amped up the intensity to build three homes, with a fourth in the works.

For their work in the community and for dedicating their time and efforts to honoring and helping those who served our country, Cognitore and Baisch are Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

“It’s bittersweet,” Cognitore said. “There’s many candidates that we come across and every one of them deserves the home. Just to hear their stories is amazing.”

Veteran Deborah Bonacasa receives keys from Mark Baisch, developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, to her new home in Sound Beach. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Cognitore first met Baisch at a fundraiser Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) was hosting. Not knowing anyone at the event, the two found themselves sitting at the same table, and Cognitore began talking about the possibility of building a home for a disabled veteran.

“I thought it’d be one and done,” Baisch said, laughing, while thinking about the first home. “I never thought it would get to this level, but what we’re able to do for these families is so good that it would be hard for me to think about not doing this.”

The two recently unveiled the 11th home for returning veterans to the Cote family, who now own a home in Miller Place. The Bonacasas and Johnsons also received homes this year.

“I’m at a loss with words for everything they did for me and my family,” Deborah Bonacasa said. She is an Air Force veteran whose husband, Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa from Coram, died after a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Bagram Airfield in northwest Afghanistan. “They’re professional and thoughtful. I think it’s great what they’re doing for veterans and recognizing and advocating and stepping up to do things for those who do so much for our country. This house is, and they are, a constant reminder that there are great people still out there willing to help people.”

Rocky Point social studies teacher Rich Acritelli said no one cares more about veterans — and the entire hamlet — than Cognitore.

“He’s always got the community at his heart,” he said. “He personifies everything that a citizen should be, in terms of national and local service, between being in the military and always working for the betterment of his community.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was proud to see how the two stepped up for the Cote family, who were kicked out of their home when the landlord let the Sound Beach property fall into foreclosure. The family has also struggled with illness. Mother Renée Cote has acute intermittent porphyria, a rare and painful metabolic disorder that requires expensive biweekly treatments, which she has undergone for 14 years at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. Her 7-year-old son, Zachary, was diagnosed with Grade 4 medulloblastoma, brain cancer, in June 2014, and endured 42 rounds of radiation and nine months of intense chemotherapy, until he was also diagnosed with acute intermittent porphyria.

Mark Baisch, at left sitting at table, has new homeowner Deborah Bonacasa, right, sign papers for her new home made possible by himself and VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore, standing on right. File photo from VFW Post 6249

“They are literally warriors to those that need help,” Anker said. “They get out there, they understand the struggles and they’re there to help, and that’s what’s so important. When Mark heard about Zachary Cote’s situation, he came to the rescue. Talk about superheroes, they are our local superheroes.”

Cote’s husband Glen was a U.S. Army combat medic in the Gulf War, before coming home and suffering an on-the-job injury that disabled him.

“Anyone that met them couldn’t believe what a great family,” Cognitore said. “Especially Zachary, what a little gentleman.”

But Renée Cote said she can’t believe what a great group Cognitore, Baisch and the rest of the developers and donators are.

“I could sit there and write a million thank you cards, and to me, it would not be enough for what they’re doing,” she said. “And I don’t even think they realize what they’re doing. To first serve our country, and then to give back — and I mean give back in a huge way — it’s good to be surrounded by people like that. They’re angels walking the Earth.”

Baisch said his contractors and the community showed more support for the Cotes’ new home in Miller Place than on any other house. There were over 30 volunteers, some of whom have been helping Baisch since the first home. Many of them donate windows, garage doors, bathtubs and furniture. Local supermarkets and civic associations also give gift cards to help the new family acclimate to the area.

“They just continue to give and give and give every time we do one of these homes, and they never let me down,” Baisch said of his contractors. “It’s really the only way these homes could come together. We’re not a charity; we consider these homes a hand up, not a hand out. They do the best they can and it’s amazing how much they keep giving. It shocks me after 11 houses that they’re like ‘Mark, let’s do more.’”

Cognitore said he enjoys creating a community of veterans.

“Once they get into these homes, they’re a great neighbor, a great citizen, they keep up their homes, they pay their taxes, so everything works out,” he said. “It’s a win for everybody.”

The veterans appreciate that as well.

The Cote family’s new home in Miller Place as part of the local homes for returning veterans program. File photo by Kevin Redding

“It makes me feel at home knowing there are veterans out there like me,” Bonacasa said. “If we ever needed each other, we’re right there.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said she’s thankful that most of the homes have been built in her district.

“It’s very heartwarming,” she said of the welcome-home ceremonies. “It’s impossible to not get choked up. Especially the most recent one with the Cote family — they’ve had some significant challenges. They were struggling, and Joe and Mark saved them.”

Baisch said that the real tragedy of it all is the fact that without his help, the families wouldn’t be able to remain on Long Island.

“They had no real chance of having a family here and living here if it weren’t for these homes, so that’s the all-encompassing enjoyment out of it,” he said. “These people would have been long gone, and they’re not the types of people we’d like to see leave Long Island. They served their country and they’re Long Islanders, each and every one of them. For them to have to leave because they can’t afford to live here, there’s something wrong with that.”

Bonner said what the “dynamic duo” does shows their true character.

“Mark is very altruistic, and he’s never looking for a pat on the back about it, he just feels passionately about it and does it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “And Joe is a tremendous advocate for veterans and a true Patriot. Their hearts are bigger than their wallets. It’s more about doing the right thing than it is about making money.”

Baisch said as long as Landmark Properties is around, he’ll continue to do something like this.

“It’s one of the best feelings of my life,” Baisch said. “I can’t explain it. I can’t come up with words enough to tell how wonderful it feels. The thought of not continuing doing this doesn’t even enter my mind.”

Coram resident raises donations in Miller Place to help sick children

Santa, played by Michael Carnes, hugs a child he delivered gifts to. Photo by KT Leung

Coram resident Ashley Leung put the drive in toy drive for the second year in a row.

Last year, Leung, 24, wanted to brighten up the holidays for kids who have cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in the community, so she collaborated with some local good Samaritans to create the Kids Need More Toy Drive to go above and beyond to make a difference in children’s lives.

Once all donated gifts were collected at the drop-off station at Corrective Chiropractic in Miller Place, they were loaded up in a fully decorated “holiday cheer bus” and brought directly to the door steps of kids and families in need by Santa — played by Leung’s uncle and local chiropractor Michael Carnes — and a group of volunteer “elves.”

A family shows off the new gifts Santa, played by Michael Carnes, delivered. Photo by KT Leung

Leung said it was important to her that the delivery was personal.

“We wanted to donate to the children in the area, but also be the ones to deliver those gifts because there’s a lot of different toy drives in New York and nationwide, but no one really knows where the toys go,” she said. “We wanted to document everything … so for every toy donated, we gave a picture to the donors showing them ‘this is where your donation went.’”

For the second annual Kids Need More toy drive, Leung, Santa and his elves headed back on the bus Dec. 18 for an even bigger and better night of giving.

Leung said this year a total of five buses were launched, as opposed to two last year —   two in Suffolk County, two in Nassau and one in New Jersey. The volunteer turnout also increased. The Suffolk buses, for instance, had a total of 40 parents, friends, family and even former cancer patients on board this year, compared to eight to 10 on each bus last year.

Hundreds of gifts were donated by members of the community —  everything from Disney Infinity games for PlayStation 3 to stuffed animals and hats. A blue and black mountain bike was donated anonymously and raffled off to a 15-year-old patient.

Young girls especially loved receiving Cancer Barbie. The hairless doll comes with different wigs they’re able to swap out and serves as an inspiration for those undergoing chemotherapy. The girls see a doll that looks like them and suddenly don’t feel different, Leung said.

Many of the kids went home from the hospital just to see Santa.

Santa spreads some holiday cheer throughout Suffolk County. Photo by KT Leung

“We made a really big difference,” she said. “I think the kids we visited this year truly appreciated us visiting them. We really kept the holiday spirit going; I think the kids we saw were honestly shocked.”

Leung’s charity venture spring boarded while she was attending St. Joseph’s College. A professor told her about Camp Adventure, a week-long sleepaway camp on Shelter Island for kids diagnosed with cancer, which remains Long Island’s only camp of its kind. She was excited to get involved and wanted to immediately.

The year she joined the summer program — which now serves the East Coast and tri-state area — as a camp counselor, the organization found itself without funding.

The American Cancer Society had been providing funds for the camp since 1990, but suddenly had to stop in 2013, so a dedicated group of Camp Adventure volunteers began Kids Need More to parent the camp and ensure its longevity.

Kids Need More Camp Adventure is completely free for all kids and siblings who want to attend and involves everything from a day camp, to peer mentoring programs and visits to children’s hospitals.

It even partners with a volunteer pilot organization called Patient AirLift Services that flies patients living in rural areas who need specialized treatment to centers and hospital appointments. For the last two years, PALS has flown kids who live outside of Long Island — like those in Ohio, New Jersey and even in Albany — to the camp for free.

When Leung was working in the Corrective Chiropractic office last year, she began talking to her uncle about wanting to do something to give back to the community, and a partnership with Kids Need More to donate to children in the area seemed like a no-brainer.

According to Melissa Firnes, the founder of Kids Need More, the event has “snowballed” and served 200 kids while making lots of stops.

“These kids love it,” Firnes said. “We show up to their house for caroling and things like that. It’s simple, but very nice.”

She said what matters most is that the organization isn’t asking families to leave their homes.

Local volunteers for the Kids Need More toy drive smile in front of one of the buses as it drops off gifts to the homes of local children. Photo by KT Leung

“We’re actually coming to them, and I think that matters a lot to them,” she said. “It’s hard for [the families] to get around when there’s somebody sick in the family. Kids come out to the bus and choose a gift from the volunteer elves.”

She said Leung is willing to do anything Kids Need More needs to be successful, which makes her stand out.

“[Leung] is really great at being the cheermeister for the kids and being all enthusiastic, but is also willing to do all the legwork and logistics that’s needed in putting together the toy drive,” Firnes said. “She’s been such a big part of the organization and has now brought her whole family into it, which is really special too.”

Carnes, who brings Santa to life for the kids, said it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to touch people’s hearts and directly impact their lives.

“Children really thought I was Santa when I came up and they would give me a hug and say ‘thank you Santa,’” Carnes said. “Some of these children don’t have much and some families barely have anything, so to bring joy to people is just amazing … it’s the spirit of the holidays.”

He said he believes we can all use more happiness in the world.

Jaime Pacheco, PALS outreach coordinator and cheer bus volunteer, said the toy drive prides itself on the fact that it’s not about the gift you’re getting, but the time spent with people and the emotional support they provide.

Leung said the toy drive continues to be the best day of her life.

“Just getting off that bus — and some of these kids don’t even know we’re coming — they see Santa at their front door, and they’re just completely shocked,” she said. ”I think that’s the best thing we can give them.”

Carol Hawat will continue to serve the Miller Place Fire District. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place residents voted against change Dec. 13 when they took to the fire district and cast their vote in the commissioner race.

Carol Hawat, who has served in her position since 2001 on the board of fire commissioners, won her fourth five-year term with 242 votes against her challenger Guy Schneider, a lifelong firefighter in the community, who received 71 votes, according to Miller Place Fire District. This is the second time Hawat beat out Schneider, who ran against the incumbent in 2011. Schneider could not be reached for comment.

A full-time EMT supervisor at the Rocky Point Fire Department, Hawat has been an advocate for bringing more ambulatory services to the Miller Place community since she was first elected to the position.

Carol Hawat has been voted to serve Miller Place Fire District for a fourth consecutive five-year term. File photo from Carol Hawat

Her extensive background in the EMS field has been a much-needed skill set, with 60 percent of the district’s total calls requiring urgent medical care, whether for those involved in motor vehicle accidents or in-home injuries, among others.

Hawat said she hoped to continue serving as commissioner because she considers herself the voice for the medical portion of the community. She said providing people with good quality care has been a lifelong passion.

“I feel like I make a difference,” she said. “I was raised to not walk by somebody who needs help … [I] help whoever needs it. … When I go on calls to a person’s house, they’re at their worst, they’re in pain, they’re worried, they’re scared … and to be able to help them, provide a friendly face and comfort and get them through that and bring them treatment, is very rewarding.”

Under Hawat’s leadership, the district provides top-of-the-line medical equipment, such as blood-pressure monitors, and 24/7 advanced life-support care — lifesaving protocols that extend support for its patients until hospital medical treatment is available. She said she’s helped supply whatever has been needed in the district, from new ambulances to fire trucks.

Rocky Point District Manager Edwin Brooks, who has known Hawat for many years as EMT supervisor, said it’s clear she’s the right person for the position.

“She’s very conscientious, very dedicated to her job, she’s hardworking and she cares,” he said. “Obviously she won by almost a 3-1 margin, so she must be doing her job. She’s been commissioner for quite a while.”

Josh Hagermann, Miller Place department chief, said Hawat is good for the community.

“I think she’ll [continue to] do well at the job she was elected for, and she’ll be helpful to the community,” he said. “She’s a very likable person.”

Hawat holds numerous CPR seminars at local schools and community centers to provide more education and awareness on what to do in emergency situations, and moving forward, she aims to do something similar to help stop the frequency of heroin overdoses in the area.

“I’m looking to be able to do classes on my own and go out there and provide more awareness of the drugs, educate people on how to know if someone is involved and provide Narcan [an opiate antidote] training at schools,” she said. “We have Narcan in the ambulance already.”

Her new five-year term begins Jan. 1, and will run through Dec. 31, 2021.

Current fire district leader is seeking fourth five-year term

Guy Schneider will be taking on Carol Hawat for her commissioner position of the Miller Place Fire District for the second time. Photo by Kevin Redding

The heat is on at the Miller Place Fire District this month, as retired firefighter Guy Schneider challenges incumbent Carol Hawat in an upcoming commissioner vote.

Hawat, recognized in April as EMT of the year by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), has held her position as one of five on the Board of Fire Commissioners since 2001. As her third five-year term comes to a close, she said she hopes to continue serving as commissioner and bring to the job her experience as a full-time EMT supervisor at Rocky Point Fire Department — a perspective that’s proven to be especially beneficial in Miller Place as 60 percent of the emergency calls to the fire district require medical care. Motor vehicle accidents and home injuries make up most of the calls to which volunteers respond.

Having been born and raised on Long Island in a family of police officers, Hawat said that helping people and working for the community has always been part of her life.

In 2008, she helped initiate an Advanced Life Support program in the community, which has provided people with a set of life-saving protocols that extends support until a victim receives full medical treatment at a hospital. Hawat feels she’s made a difference by bringing EMS to the table at the district and takes pride in the fact that the budget has been handled well and taxes haven’t been raised in years.

Guy Schneider. Photo by Kevin Redding
Guy Schneider. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I just love what I do … I want to continue providing quality care and safety to the people of Miller Place,” Hawat said. “This is where my children were raised and grew up. I have strong ties here and I like helping others. I feel like I have a purpose … giving back to the community. It’s what I was raised to do.”

She also stressed her urgency to put a stop to the rise in heroin overdoses on the North Shore. She said while Narcan, the opiate antidote used to treat overdoses, is supplied in the ambulances, she hopes to provide more awareness and training to schools in the future.

Schneider has been in fire and rescue service for more than four decades, and at 64 years old he’s still responding and volunteering every day. He volunteered for 12 years as a firefighter at the Babylon Village Fire Department starting in 1970, served as a hull maintenance technician in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War between 1971 and 1975, and was at the Holtsville Fire Department briefly before working at FDNY Firehouse Engine 60 and Ladder 17 between 1984 and 2004.

He said he sustained some disabling breathing problems in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, and so he decided to slow down and move to Miller Place from Sound Beach. He’s been a volunteer at the Miller Place Fire Department ever since, mostly as “chauffeur,” driving the fire apparatus and getting the volunteers where they need to be.

He said what pulls him out of bed — sometimes at 3 a.m. to a call — is that he wants to help people.

“I’m still on the first engine to a fire,” Schneider said. “I’ve been to just about every fire in Miller Place since I’ve been here. Always first too. That’s me.”

Schneider ran against and lost to Hawat in 2011 but said he’s running for commissioner this year because “it’s time for a change.” He believes strict term limits should be implemented to commissioners because after a while complacency has a tendency to kick in.

Carol Hawat. Photo from Carol Hawat
Carol Hawat. Photo from Carol Hawat

“I want to try to get in there and spice things up,” Schneider said. “Right now we’re working with 27-year-old pumpers, which should’ve been taken out of service a long time ago. It’s gotten to the point where [the current commissioners] are holding on to all the old stuff, because they’ve been around for 15 or 20 years. We need someone with a little more finesse, to try to get in there and work things out.”

He said he has great respect for Hawat and considers her a great EMT but wants to be more active within the district.

“I love Carol, she’s great to work with, but it’s time to move on,” Schneider said.

Hawat said that she doesn’t understand why Schneider has run against her twice when there were two open spots on the five-person board in the previous five years for which he didn’t run.

“I feel like I’m more qualified because of my experience in what I do in the fire department and I’d like to continue doing that … it’s a service for the community,” Hawat said. “I know there’s equipment he feels the firemen aren’t getting and things like that, but it’s not true.”

Josh Hagermann, Miller Place department chief, had good things to say about each candidate.

“I think [Carol] has done a very good job … she’s fair, helpful and has made sure the community is getting the best care,” Hagermann said. “And Guy is very active and he’s a very reliable apparatus driver for us. He’s got a very good firefighting background as well. So, we have two good candidates running for one position.”

Community members can cast their votes Dec. 13 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Miller Place firehouse, located at 12 Miller Place Road.

by -
0 327
North Shore residents kick off Shoreham's Thanksgiving Day Races with the 5K. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

While some were busy thinking about what they’re thankful for, hundreds that flocked to Miller Avenue Elementary School, Shoreham were thinking about crossing the finish line.

In cool, dry conditions, more than 400 athletes dashed through the 1-mile, 5K and 5-mile events during the 36th annual Thanksgiving Day Races.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia crosses the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia crosses the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon

The gun for the main 5K event sounded at 8 a.m., and for the men, 2014 Shoreham- Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia was the first-place finisher, with a time of 16 minutes, 39.99 seconds. He competes now for the University at Albany’s track-and-field and cross-country teams.

The first female to cross the finish line was Maegan Gorman of Wading River in 20:38. Danelle Rose, a Miller Place freshman from Sound Beach, finished second for the women with a time of 20:42.

Udvadia has competed in the event 13 times and was thankful for the race and the weather during it.

“Running this race is kind of a tradition,” he said. “But it’s fun to come out here and get a good workout.”

A two-time All-State selection in cross country at Shoreham-Wading River, Udvadia still holds the school records in the 3,200-meter and 2-mile events.

Proceeds, which came in the way of $15 preregistration and $20 day-of-the-event entry fees, went to the senior scholarship fund. This past June, $10,000 in scholarship money was granted to Shoreham-Wading River’s Class of 2015. In 2014, $11,500 was awarded.

The total raised from this year’s race was not available by press time, but proceeds are combined with the annual July 4 Shoreham-Wading River Foot Races, to create the grand total given to graduates.

This version correctly identifies the first-place female finisher.

Social

4,614FansLike
5Subscribers+1
900FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe