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Miller Place

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

Miller Place seniors got a proper sendoff during the high school’s June 23 commencement ceremony.

Students displayed decorative caps and proudly posed with parents as they bid farewell to one chapter, and readied to begin a new. Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano, along with valedictorian William Sussman and salutatorian David Argento, were among some of the speakers during the Class of 2017 commencement ceremony.

The Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts saw community members come out with enormous support for each of the 2017-18 budgets.

In Miller Place, voters passed the $126.2 million spending plan 763 to 162.

“On behalf of the board, we thank the community for supporting our proposed budget with a passing margin of 82 percent for the second year in a row,” Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said. “We look forward to partnering with the community to provide relevant and challenging instructional and noninstructional opportunities to our students, while supporting our staff, and maintaining fiscal sustainability.”

With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes, respectively. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

“I’m very happy and honored to continue to serve for the next three years,” Reitan said in an email. “This board has worked so well together that now we can continue on without skipping a beat. I look forward to continue working with the administration and staff here to make Miller Place school district better everyday.”

Rocky Point school district will hold a technology meeting Jan. 26 to gain public input on the preliminary Smart Schools Bond Act spending plan and how to spend leftover funds. File photo by Desirée Keegan

In Rocky Point residents approved the $83,286,346 budget with 663 yes votes and 246 no’s. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is the principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

“I’m honored that the people had confidence in me,” Callahan said. “We’re just trying to continue to communicate with the community, continue what we’ve done and have a more open dialogue. It’s not about me, it’s about what we can do for them.”

Coniglione has two kids in the community, and another on the way.

“I just really want to make sure it’s a wonderful district,” he said. “Rocky Point is already wonderful, and I hope to be a great part in continuing that.”

He said juggling two positions won’t be too much of a challenge, especially with support from the Comsewogue school district, and he’s also hoping to keep the communication lines open.

“I work in a district that’s very, very accommodating — they believe in education not just for their kids but for any community,” he said. “I think [this board] will be a nice team. We’ll collaborate to make good, healthy decisions for kids. We want to make sure we have their best interests in mind.”

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Seventh Squad detectives are investigating a crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist and his passenger in Rocky Point May 12.

Thomas Lowth and his passenger, Sherry Hansen, were traveling eastbound on Main Street when he collided his 2000 American Eagle motorcycle with a 2002 Hyundai being driven by Andrew Netusil at approximately 5:20 p.m. Netusil was pulling out of a parking lot on Main Street.

Lowth, 49, of Sayville, and Hansen, 45, of Rocky Point, were both transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in serious condition. Netusil, 20, of Miller Place, stayed at the scene and was not injured.

The vehicles were impounded for a safety check. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact the Seventh Squad at 631-852-8752.

School officials in Shoreham-Wading River, Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai have proposed budgets that maintain and enhance programs and slightly increase taxes, all while operating within the state tax cap.

Shoreham-Wading River

Shoreham-Wading River proposes a $74, 842,792 budget for the 2017-18 school year, which is a $2.2 million, or 3 percent increase from the current year’s budget.

Under the budget, a pilot 1:1 Chromebook initiative at the sixth-grade level will be implemented, as well as a new math program at the elementary level.

Eleven new, minimal-cost clubs among the three schools, including Pep Band, Robotics, Science Club and a debate team were added.

To maintain facilities and fund capital improvements, the district is asking taxpayers to vote on a proposition to establish a 10-year capital reserve fund not to exceed $7.5 million. If approved, this money will fund Americans with Disabilities Act features, athletic fields, bleachers, auditoriums, ceilings, computers, energy management systems and gymnasiums, among other projects.

The district will receive an additional 3.02 percent, or $330,891 in state aid from last year.

While the budget projects a tax levy increase of 4.6951 percent, this does not necessarily mean a resident’s tax bill will increase by that percent. According to the district, “your personal tax bill depends upon more factors than the change in the district’s tax levy.” This includes changes in a homeowner’s assessed value and changes in the apportionment between Brookhaven and Riverhead.

Voting will be May 16 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

Rocky Point

Rocky Point’s proposed budget for 2017-18 is tax cap-compliant and maintains educational and co-curricular programs while providing enhancements.

The proposed budget is $83,286,346, which is a 3.30 percent or $2,662,703 increase from last year’s.

Under it, there is a 3.21 percent tax levy increase, jumping to $49,629,259 from last year’s $48,084,714. The district will see a 2.78 percent increase in state aid.

A total of $3,385,965 in capital reserve projects that will help fund the completion of facility renovations across the district, which include a $172,125 parking reconfiguration at the high school to make for better flow of traffic, $550,000 in security advancements, music room renovations totaling $585,000 and $1,893,840 for artificial turf on sports fields.

Some goals of the proposed budget are to maintain core instructional program and staffing, continue fine and performing arts and athletic programs, enhance science research programs to provide introductory and honors course options, add new math labs and offer eight new clubs.

Vote May 16 at the Rocky Point High School gym from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Miller Place

Miller Place’s $71,190,675 proposed budget is 0.83 percent or an increase of $587,788 on last year’s budget.

According to the district, the proposed budget maintains all current programs, provides additional reserves for capital project funding and accounts for an additional school guidance counselor, psychologist and cross-country assistant coach at the middle school.

Under the budget, there is a proposed tax levy increase of 0.61 percent, or $271,050, from last year’s $44,757,730. It will be a 0.61 percent increase in a resident’s tax bill, depending on what they pay per year.

The district will see a 1.70 percent, or $362,858, increase in state aid, which will total $21,744,776.

Voting is May 16 in the North Country Road Middle School from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mount Sinai

Staying within the state-mandated tax cap of 1.7 percent, Mount Sinai’s proposed budget of $59,272,525 for 2017-18 is roughly a $1.2 million increase from last year’s budget.

The district projects a tax rate of $255.94 per $100 of assessed value on a property within the school district. The tax levy would rise by 1.7 percent to $39,350,460.

The district maintained its K-12 class sizes, including the recently established full-day kindergarten program, AP offerings in the high school and its recently established Columbia Writing Program.

The budget added an academic intervention services teacher in reading, a second security guard, an additional nurse and three college and technical education courses including Virtual Enterprise, College Accounting and Culinary Arts.

With 300 full-time employees, salary and related costs like social security, retirement and Medicare make up the largest chunk of the budget, totaling $42.3 million. A total $3,121,500 is proposed to fund equipment needs and contractual expenses for private vendors who service the facilities.

The district will receive an additional $460,625 on top of last year’s $17,349,375.

Vote May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School.

Hundreds attended the Lax Out Cancer fundraiser in Shoreham that benefited four local children battling cancer. Photo by Kevin Redding

Alexa Boucher has attended Shoreham-Wading River’s Lax Out Cancer game for years, and this year, she’s one of the fundraiser’s beneficiaries.

In January, Alexa Boucher was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor that’s grown on the 14-year-old’s eye socket.

She was chosen as one of four — alongside 6-year-old Grayson from Miller Place, and 1-year-old Hannah Grace and 10-year-old Jackson from Port Jefferson Station — who were honored in the middle of Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field during the ninth annual event May 6.

Alexa Boucher, above with her family, enjoys playing her guitar, basketball and softball. Photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River, Garden City, Miller Place and Bellport participated in three games, with all money raised through donations and raffles divided equally among the recipient’s families.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Alexa said when she arrived on the school grounds to see hundreds of families, volunteers and corporate sponsors rallying behind her. “I never would’ve imagined that I would be a recipient.”

Kimberly Boucher, Alexa’s mother, was equally overwhelmed by the outpouring support for her daughter, who has been undergoing chemotherapy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the city.

“We’re just so blessed to live in such an amazing community; there aren’t enough words to say how much we appreciate what’s been done for Alexa,” she said. “You never think it’d be your own child that you’re coming for … we’re just so grateful [that] everybody comes together when they hear a child is sick.”

Larry and Vanessa Horowitz, whose son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in February and has been in and out of treatment at Stony Brook Hospital the last few weeks, were grateful to be there with him.

“He’s 6 years old and deserves everything we can give him,” Larry Horowitz said as he watched Grayson, smiling ear-to-ear, pass a lacrosse ball around with his friend. “There’s so much unbelievable selfishness and fundraising and everyone getting together here. The sun is shining and this is what I’ve been praying for.”

Grayson Horowitz tosses around a lacrosse ball. Photo by Kevin Redding

His wife, reflecting on her son’s ability to muscle through his ordeal at such a young age, said, “He’s stronger than I ever imagined and it’s making us all stronger just watching him. … You don’t really know people until you go through something like this, and I have no idea how to thank everybody for doing they they’ve done for us.”

The Shoreham-Wading River-based fundraiser was started in 2008 by Tom Rotanz, the high school’s then varsity lacrosse coach, as a way to acknowledge the father of one his player’s, who succumbed to a rare salivary gland cancer in 2005, as well as others in the community affected by cancer.

Since then, the event narrowed its focus on raising money for the families of kids in Shoreham and neighborhood districts fighting cancer — starting with 10-year-old Liam McGuire, a member of Shoreham’s lacrosse program who has been in remission following a 38-month leukemia battle, and Kaitlyn Suarez, a Shoreham girls’ lacrosse superstar who joined the team after recovering from two bouts with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“It’s such an uplifting experience to feel all the love that everybody throws at these kids,” said Miller Place resident Glen Cote, who, along with his wife Renée and young son Zachary, were beneficiaries in 2014 and 2015. In June 2014, Zachary, 5 at the time, was diagnosed with Grade 4 medulloblastoma, or brain cancer.

“To have your child go through something like this, you’re down in the dumps,” the father said. “But this provides the parents and the little ones with a great feeling.”

Before the event even kicked off, $30,000 was raised for the families through sponsors, which included St. Charles Hospital and FLG Lacrosse, and the sale of program ads, T-shirts and raffle tickets.

A DJ from 101.7 FM “The Beach” emceed the fundraiser and That Meetball Place, from Patchogue, supplied food for attendees.

“They’re competitive kids and they want to play the game, but they understand the bigger purpose of giving back to kids that are not as fortunate.”

— Mike Taylor

“Every year it’s grown and grown,” said Kathy Miller, a member of the event committee and mother of a lacrosse player. “It’s teaching the players a valuable lesson about life, how precious life is and how much this giving means for the families. It’s bigger than just a lacrosse game.”

Mike Taylor, head coach of the boys’ varsity lacrosse team who opened the door for other school districts to participate when he was hired three years ago, said the players are a different breed of athletes.

“They understand the true meaning of this,” he said. “They’re competitive kids and they want to play the game, but they understand the bigger purpose of giving back to kids that are not as fortunate as they are. When they were kids seeing this event, they wanted to be part of it on the lacrosse side. Now that they’re older, and they’ve met the kids that they’re helping, it becomes a whole different thing to them.”

Joe Miller, a senior and varsity midfielder for Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team, said he’s incredibly moved by what the recipients go through.

“It means a lot that we can help them out a little bit,” Miller said. “Seeing the kids and their families here, it makes it a lot more powerful and makes you feel like what you did made a difference.”

Defenseman Kyle Higgins echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“It’s an honor to play for this kind of event,” he said. “Helping those who need support means a lot to us.”

Miller Place board of education trustees Rich Panico and Lisa Reitan are seeking re-election with no challengers actively running against them. Photos from candidates

The Miller Place board of education has two seats up for election, but it seems, with no challengers, that incumbents Rich Panico and Lisa Reitan aren’t going anywhere.

Rich Panico

Panico, a business owner and 20-year resident of Miller Place, was first elected to the board in 2014 and is seeking a second term because he believes the board as it is works well together.

“Right now it’s going really well — it’s a nice calm that we have and, fiscally, we’re in really good shape,” Panico said. “We have really good relations with the different unions and work together with administration well.”

The father of three sons, two currently in the district, tossed his hat in the ring three years ago because, as the owner of a technology-developing company Symbio for 15 years, he thought he could contribute his business expertise to the district. Outside of the board, he runs Friends of Miller Place Sports as well as the Miller Place Touchdown Club.

Looking forward, he said he’d like to focus the board’s energy on mental health within the district in order to prevent suicidal thoughts or actions among students.

“Kids are under so much pressure and the board is trying to do something about it, like putting together some type of program,” he said. “It’s really difficult — we don’t have the answers yet, but, as a group, we’re trying to figure something out in that area. There are some students who will go to counselors, and others who just won’t when they’re in trouble. I want to find a way to make those kids comfortable. Luckily, as a board, we’re all committed to do something, and it’s one of our real big initiatives.”

Lisa Reitan

Also coming off her third year on the board, Reitan, a fourth-grade teacher in the Brentwood Union Free School District for 25 years, is seeking a second term to continue the work she and her colleagues have been doing.

“I feel like the district has come a long way,” Reitan said. “We’ve added programs, clubs, upgraded our buildings, brought in full-day kindergarten, upgraded libraries in the elementary schools, put in a brand new playground, increased communication with the community, all within constraints of the tax cap. This board has worked so well together and we bring so much. We have a lot of consensus … and we’ve done a lot for the kids and that’s most important.”

Reitan, a longtime Miller Place resident and mother of three, said she ran the first time because she thought the board could use a teacher’s perspective. A big push to run again this year, she said, is to defend public education amid the federal government’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. DeVos has talked about taking funds away from public schools and expanding private education and charter schools.

“That’s wrong and people’s taxes would increase as a result of that,” she said. “I really believe in public schools and the whole idea of education for everybody. I would really like to tow the line with the secretary coming in and make sure our school district gets everything it’s entitled to.”

She added that between the school district and community: “I don’t think you could find a better place to be on Long Island.”

Sean Haplin shoots past a diving West Babylon goalkeeper. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Jitters are to be expected when a freshman takes the field for the first time, but looking at Shoreham-Wading River’s Jake Naso, you wouldn’t know it.

Jake Naso carries the ball into West Babylon’s zone after gaining possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The freshman won 22 of 25 faceoffs to give the boys’ lacrosse team the possession it needed to come away with a 17-4 nonleague win over West Babylon May 2.

“I felt good,” Naso said of his first varsity start, smiling. “I’m getting used to it, and I hope to take more in the future.”

Naso was a piece of the total team puzzle, with the Wildcats outscoring the Eagles 7-2 in the first quarter.

“We got up on them early and that affected the whole outcome of the game,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “I thought that we were very crisp and we did the things we wanted to do right away. I’m very happy with the boys executing what we practiced to run against them.”

He also liked seeing 10 athletes sprinkling the score sheet with points throughout the afternoon.

Chris Gray scoops up the ground ball with a defender on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been trying to get to that level — creating a team concept offensively,” Taylor said. “And now we’re getting guys more game experience, and with Jake winning the faceoffs, that’s going to be huge for us depth-wise. We already have a good faceoff guy with Joe [Miller] so to have two guys, we’re almost spoiled.”

Highlighting the offense was senior Chris Gray, who contributed five goals and five assists. Most notable, was Gray’s score off a cross-field pass from James Mirabell. With West Babylon’s goalkeeper out of the net after carrying the ball to the opposite end of the field, Gray grabbed hold of the pass and dribbled it in mid-air until getting a good enough hold to whip a shot behind his back and into the back of the cage as goalkeeper Mark Esposito tried to get back between the pipes.

James Mirabell and Chris Sheehan defend against a West Babylon attack. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were relaxed on offense and then the defense got a big turnover,” Gray said. “The ball was bouncing in and out of my stick and I saw the goalie wasn’t in the net yet, and the best opportunity as he was making his way between the pipes was to shoot it behind my back, and luckily it went in.”

He also liked what he saw from his young teammate, Naso.

“He comes out to practice and works hard every day,” Gray said. “Winning the faceoffs and getting us all those extra possessions was big. This is a huge confidence-booster for him.”

But Taylor said there’s still room to grow. As the Wildcats learned last season, even with a near-flawless record, complacency can set in.

Gavin Gregorek looks to fire at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“There are a lot of great teams out there that will be good competition,” he said. “We learned last year that we made it far, but we didn’t win it all. To win it all you have to continue to get better, so every day we have to come ready to work.”

Gray said the team’s two early-season losses — to East Islip and Eastport-South Manor in April — shaped the team. Now, they’re looking to gauge where they’re at with the games ahead.

“They helped us figure out what we were lacking,” Gray said. “We’re definitely getting better, and we have two big games coming up against Miller Place and Garden City that will really test our team.”

Shoreham-Wading River travels to Miller Place May 4 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup, and will host Garden City May 6 at 2 p.m.

As the number of drug-related overdoses on the Long Island grows, one parent refuses to bury his head in the sand.

On the one-year anniversary of his son’s fatal heroin overdose, William Reitzig wasn’t in bed grieving. Instead, the Miller Place parent was on stage at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai asking hundreds of community members to hug one another.

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

—Michael Reitzig

“Hug your loved ones like I hugged my son every day … don’t let a minute go by without saying ‘I love you,’” Reitzig said to a crowd of emotional parents, extended family members, friends and strangers. “My hope is that you leave here today with the same mission as my wife and I — that with love and compassion, we have the power to overcome the perils of drug addiction.”

That mission resonated throughout Hope Walk for Addiction, an April 22 fundraising event created by Reitzig and co-sponsored by Brookhaven Town and Hope House Ministries — a nonprofit based in Port Jefferson that supports people suffering the disease of addiction.

Reitzig, whose 25-year-old son Billy struggled for years with opioid pills and ultimately died after a one-time use of heroin last April, kickstarted “a war on addiction” by raising awareness, educating about addiction, raising money to help those struggling and unite the community.

“This is [really] for the community — it’s not about me, it’s not about my son, it’s to try and make a difference moving forward,” Reitzig said. “I can’t do anything about the past at this point, but going forward we can all chip in … we’re all in the same boat. Today is about all the families that struggle every day with this disease getting together because this is no longer acceptable and we need to do something.”

The large crowd, mostly loved ones of those battling addiction or those who died from it, collectively walked Cedar Beach’s Nature Pathway in memory of those who overdosed. About a dozen names could be seen on signs along the scenic trail.

“I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable.”

—Francis Pizzarelli

Local leaders, self-help experts and bands occupied the stage to address the issue that brought everyone together. Various sponsors, including WALK 97.5 and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, were set up at tables taking donations and educating others, and representatives from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office gave seminars on how to use Narcan, a life-saving nasal spray that can revert the effects of an overdose.

More than 500 people registered for the event, and all proceeds — totaling more than $34,000 at the end of the day — went to Hope House, which currently doesn’t have enough space for the overwhelming amount of people who need its services.

Father Francis Pizzarelli, founder of Hope House, counseled Billy while he was rehabilitating in the facility’s outpatient treatment program for a few months, and ultimately presided over his funeral.

Reitzig worked closely with Pizzarelli, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), to make the Hope Walk a reality.

“Billy was a loving and caring guy, but like a lot of people today, he had his demons and struggled with that,” Pizzarelli said. “I don’t think people realize how many people are depressed and they don’t know how to handle that and so people self-medicate and that’s part of the issue. Ninety-one young people die every day [from this] and that’s unconscionable. [William] elected to say ‘we’re not going to let this continue, we’re going to do something about it and we’re going to protect the quality of life of all our younger and older people addicted to heroin.’”

This is a time to come together as a community, Pizzarelli added, and celebrate the hope Reitzig embodies.

“We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision.”

—Sue Meyers

“I don’t think I’ve met more resilient, strong, dedicated and passionate people in my whole life as I have in William and his family,” Bonner said. “He’s changing the future of so many people by doing this. We’re losing a generation to addiction and this is an opportunity to lift each other up and strip the layers of shame back. It’s all around us and no community is safe from it.”

Patty Eiserman, of Sound Beach, wore a shirt bearing the face of her nephew David Smallwood, who died in 2013 when he was just 22. She said her goal is to educate children as young as possible so they don’t start using.

“I don’t want to say it’s impossible to get them clean,” she said, “but it’s very, very hard.”

Manorville resident Melanie Ross, whose brother died last year after a 10-year battle with addiction, said the situation ravaged the family. It was the first time she’d attended an even like this.

Sue Meyers, a Setauket resident, said she was walking for her son, Michael Moschetto, a Ward Melville graduate who died in December at 28.

“It’s in his name, but I’m also here to help show support for other people and donate as much money as I have in my pockets,” Meyers said. “We need to help stop the stigmatized feeling that comes with addiction. The users feel alone as it is, they don’t feel proud of themselves. They are good people that made one bad decision. I think events like this really give people hope and a sense of direction.”

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