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Miller Place

Tuscany Gourmet Market owners Rich Fink and Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

By Desirée Keegan

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

That’s what it’s like when entering Tuscany Gourmet Market. Customers step through the sliding doors of the 10-year-old establishment’s new location on 25A in Miller Place and are immediately greeted by staff members. Restaurant-quality foods, imported cheeses and fine meats are available everywhere the eye can see at the family owned fare. Owner Tommy O’Grady is even known to whip up specialty items if a customer can’t find exactly what they were looking for, and if they can’t do that, they’ll find a way to get it.

But that’s not even half of what Miller Place residents say makes the market so special. To many, it’s that the warm, welcoming atmosphere is coupled with sincere care for the community.

Tuscany Gourmet Market manager Rich Fink and owner Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski first visited Tuscany Market five years ago as a customer. She said right away, she knew it was a place she wanted to shop.

“It felt like family, like they were family,” she said of her first experience, which was at the business’ previous location closer to Mount Sinai. “It didn’t feel like a corporate place. It felt like a mom-and-pop shop where they knew everybody in the neighborhood and everyone in the neighborhood knew them.”

O’Grady gets to know each customer, his or her family and usual orders in what many consider a very tight-knit Miller Place community.

“They are consistently going above and beyond, and in many cases it’s unsolicited,” Kozlowski said. “I try to give them my business every opportunity that I have. I always recommend them. One, because I truly think that their service and their products are well above average — exceptional. And two, because I always think that their service to the community should be recognized.”

Kozlowski, who is also the founder of North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide support services for local families fighting cancer, approached the owner seeking donations as part of a fundraising effort for local boy Thomas Scully, who was fighting anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer.

O’Grady said he’s known Thomas since his mother was bringing him into the store in a bassinet.

“To hear this happening to someone in your community, it’s like it happened to your own family,” he said. “I immediately knew I wanted to do all I could.”

Jennifer Brunet, Thomas’ aunt, said there were two fundraisers held for her brother’s family — at the Miller Place Fire Department and at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, which is now Recipe 7. Brunet said at the second fundraiser, in 2015, O’Grady ran the show.

“They genuinely wanted to be there for Thomas,” she said. “Not only did they donate stuff, every staff member came and donated their time to help — brought food, brought raffle items — they did everything.”

Tuscany Gourmet Market owner Rich Tommy O’Grady is known for helping cater a myriad of fundraisers. Photo From Patti Kozlowski

The business kept raising money for the family until Thomas died in summer 2016 and continued to help amid the wake and funeral.

“When Thomas passed away they reached out to me immediately and said, ‘We want to take care of everything,’” Brunet recalled. “And they did. They could have very well shown up at my house with a hero, but when we came back from the first wake session with my entire family everything was set up — salads, entrées, vegetables; there were choices for kids to eat, everything. And when I came home from the second wake everything was wrapped up and the place was clean. I didn’t have to do a thing. They were unbelievable.”

Thomas’ mother Debbie Scully said the kind, giving, selfless nature of the Tuscany Market owner and employees moved her beyond words.

“We were busy doing what we needed to do to take care of our son and they were giving us gift cards to come get food and showed so much support,” she said. “Tom would never let us pay for anything when we’d go there, he’d say, ‘When you get back on your feet then you can pay, until then, no.’ And it was endless, because after Thomas passed away they continued to give. It was over three years of them taking care of us and not asking for a thing in return.”

Scully said the family started a foundation in Thomas’ memory to help other children with cancer, and Tuscany Market members wanted to remain involved.

“He goes, ‘All right, what can I do? Let me know when the next event is,’” she said of O’Grady. “When you go through what our family went through, you don’t know what you need, but you do need help. And to have somebody preempting that and just being there and being supportive, it made it a little bit easier for us. That’s priceless.”

That caring, community-centric, no-questions-asked attitude reverberates beyond Miller Place.

Jennifer Hunt works with Kozlowski for team Fight Like a Girl, which participates in the LI2Day Walk, a 13.1-mile walk that celebrates cancer survivors and raises funds for local Long Island families battling cancer. The team hosts its own fundraiser, a Chinese auction, for which Tuscany Market has provided gift cards and what Hunt referred to as “high end” baskets.

Tuscany Gourmet Market workers volunteer time to help cater an event. Photo From Jennifer Hunt

“Without businesses like that, the money that we raise to help people in our neighborhood fighting cancer, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “The fact that they’re willing to step up is tremendous. Not many people do as much as they do.”

Most recently, the owners stepped up to help Shoreham-Wading River freshman Alexa Boucher, who was diagnosed with orbital rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the eye socket. A sold-out spaghetti fundraiser was held at the Wading River Fire Department, and Tuscany Market catered the event, donating food, paper goods and wait staff for a 150-person dinner.

“Originally, it was going to be a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse,” Hunt said. “But no one knew how it was going to run — it was a little overwhelming — so Tommy decided he would just do it and cater it from soup to nuts. I’m there shopping all the time because the food is so good and everyone is just so nice and helpful, but it’s also nice that they’re willing to step up in any way you ask them to.”

It’s said it takes a village, and O’Grady is said to emit so much joy doing what they’re doing to support their neighbors.

“Their kindness is alive and kicking in them,” Scully said. “It’s like you’re watching a movie of this little community where everyone comes out and supports each other and has each other’s back and looks out for each other. They are at the heart of that, they embody that. We’re very lucky to have them in our community.”

Tuscany Market helps provide for those that need it most, in a place where everybody knows your name.

This version was updated to correct that Tommy O’Grady is the owner of Tuscany Gourmet Market. Rich Fink is a manager there.

Miller Place comic book kid Jack Soldano sold comics at a stand outside the William Miller House to raise funds to replace the historic building’s roof. Photo by Kevin Redding

Jack Soldano can’t fly or shoot webs out of his wrists. And despite his spot-on Batman impression, he doesn’t spend nights jumping off buildings fighting crime.

But this past summer, the 13-year-old North Country Road Middle School student was inspired by all the comic books he reads to do some saving of his own, and in the process, he earned the title of hero in his hometown of Miller Place.

Every week in July and August, Jack, who was 12 at the time, set up a table at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park and sold 1,000 of his own comic books, as well as pins, magnets and bottle openers he made out of the vibrant panels in extra issues he had. The booming business he dubbed Comics for a Cause — a magnet for Marvel and DC comics lovers of all ages from the area — collected a total $1,220, but Jack didn’t keep a cent.

Miller Place comic book kid Jack Soldano sold comics at a stand outside the William Miller House to raise funds to replace the historic building’s roof. Photo by Kevin Redding

Instead, he gave it all to the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society to help the nonprofit fund roof repairs on its main headquarters, the nearly 300-year-old William Miller House at 75 North Country Road. The night Jack presented the check to historical society members, he sold a few more comic books and contributed an additional $10.

“I was bitten by a radioactive altruistic person,” Jack quipped when asked what made him want to aid in the nonprofit’s effort.

In actuality, Jack, currently in eighth grade, said that he felt compelled to help when he saw in The Village Beacon Record in May that the historical society was in desperate need to renovate the collapsing roof on the structure, the oldest existing house in Miller Place, built circa 1720. While he didn’t know any members of the nonprofit personally, Jack said he had a strong connection to the town landmark, as he and his family were regulars at its annual Postman Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events.

“I figured, I like helping people, I have these comics — way too many of these comics — and people need help,” said Jack, who inherited the large collection from his grandfather, the former owner of a hobby shop in Port Washington. “And also, smiles are contagious, so it makes me happy that I can make others happy.”

When they heard what the young entrepreneur planned to do for them, members of the historical society, who rely heavily on the generosity of others to function, were stunned. With an initial goal of $18,300 to fix the roof, Jack’s contribution had brought the repair fund to $7,500. As of Dec. 20, the nonprofit had reached its goal to be able to start the project.

A brick in his honor — reading “Jack Soldano Our Comic Book Hero 2017” — was recently installed on the walkway around the historic house. Jack was also named an honorary member.

“That boy is a diamond in the rough,” said Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato. “We sometimes have to send out an appeal to the public when we need to raise money, but we certainly did not expect a 12-year-old boy to respond to us the way he did.”

Donato said Jack is not just a role model to other young people but to adults too.

“I think he motivates everyone to think about giving back to the community — giving to a good cause and caring about the world around us,” she said. “He’s truly an inspiration.”

The historical society’s president, Peter Mott, was equally impressed with Jack, who he referred to as a friend.

Miller Place comic book kid Jack Soldano sold comics at a stand outside the William Miller House to raise funds to replace the historic building’s roof. Photo by Kevin Redding

“This young man displayed an uncommon and incredible sense of responsibility and concern for his local community,” Mott said. “We seasoned adults were in awe of his energy and spirit. Jack is, and we predict will continue to be, an amazing person who will benefit his local and larger community for many years to come.”

But for those who know Jack best, this generosity wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

“He’s always doing stuff like this,” said his friend, Cory Gardner, 14, who helped out during the comic book sales. “The levels of things he did, and does, for the community blows my mind. If he’s not a hero, I don’t know who is.”

Cristin Mansfield, Jack’s mom, said her son often helps the elderly on their block by moving their newspaper from the edge of the driveway to where he or she can reach it, and shovels when it snows.

“Jack’s always been an enthusiastic helper, from a very early age,” Mansfield said. “I think he just really feels good helping people out and making them smile.”

A member of his school’s track and wrestling teams and National Junior Honor Society, Jack is a frequent volunteer at Parent-Teacher Association events, including a reading club where he once dressed as Cat in the Hat and read to kids.

“Whatever is put before him, he always jumps in with both feet and takes it to the next level,” said Matthew Clark, principal at North Country Road Middle School. “And the fruits of his labor have created a contagious environment here. He stands out in such a positive way.”

In the midst of the comic book project over the summer, Jack began volunteering at Great Strides Long Island’s Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island, helping developmentally disabled children ride horses and even set up his table at the organization’s annual Evening Under the Stars fundraiser. He made 25 customized magnets and bottle openers and raised $100 for the event that benefits community therapeutic riding and veterans programs.

Of his own accord, he also made special magnets for a “swab drive” Nov. 30 that sought to find a bone marrow donor for a Sound Beach resident diagnosed with AML leukemia, the father of one of his friends.

“Jack’s just one of those kids who’s always thinking of things like that to do for other people,” said Kim Daley, whose husband was the focus of that event and has known Jack since he was in preschool. “He’s always been the boy that goes out of his way to make sure no one sits alone at lunch, and confirms everyone gets a chance at an activity  … He’s observant and sensitive to others. I could go on and on about Jack and what a big heart he has.”

Jack hopes he can inspire more people his age to get involved in any way they can.

“With a great ‘blank’ comes great responsibility,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from Spider-Man. “Go fill in the blank.”

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By Bill Landon

Miller Place’s football team may have fallen just short of a Long Island championship title, but the Panthers have a lot to be proud of.

Despite losing the heart and soul of its running game at the start of the season, the team propelled itself in a positive trajectory for senior Tyler Ammirato. The Panthers finished second in the Division IV standings at 7-1 behind undefeated Babylon.

Miller Place’s football program shook off the semifinal round jinx by shutting out Shoreham-Wading River to advance to the Suffolk County championship game. It was the second time the Panthers beat Shoreham this season in pursuit of the program’s first county title, which was won with a 33-25 besting of Babylon Nov. 16.

“This team had its backs against the wall from the beginning … but we just kept plugging along,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “To get to this point, it’s a true measure of their character.”

Taking care of the running duties all season long was senior quarterback Anthony Seymour, who struck first for the Panthers in a 29-27 loss to Seaford in the Long Island finals Nov. 24 on a keeper up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown with a chance to tie the game. With the point-after kick attempt hitting off the left goalpost, the team was down by one to start scoring for the first, 7-6.

Defense had been the Panthers’ strength this year, and the group came up big with an interception in the end zone by Sebastian Cannon, but Seaford returned the favor on Miller Place’s first play from scrimmage.

Ammirato, who returned to the team midseason, scored the next points by punching into the end zone in the second quarter, and caught a pass for a 2-point conversion to end scoring for the third, which closed the gap to leave the Panthers trailing by two, 22-20 after a Seymour-to-Tom Nealis touchdown pass.

Senior wide receiver Anthony Filippetti pulled down a 22-yard strike from Seymour and went the distance in response to another Seaford touchdown, and kicker Cameron Hammer split the uprights as Miller Place remained trailing by two with 8:50 left to play. The Panthers came up with another stop, but an interception with 1:46 left in regulation sealed their fate.

“These kids have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a part of something you preach about since August — that goal was to get to the Long Island championship,” Murphy said. “They got here, they experienced all of it and hopefully that’s the motivation for the title going forward — to know that they can do it.”

North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce is was in charge of the historic train car on the corner of Route 347 and Route 112. The Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will take over responsibility of it. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

Plans for the future of businesses formerly joined under the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce are coming into focus in the wake of the organization’s dissolution.

The North Brookhaven chamber is disbanding, leaving behind smaller chambers for area communities, an idea that already existed before the formation of the now dissolved chamber. Wading River, Shoreham, Rocky Point, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville originally had businesses forming smaller chambers before the lack of membership forced the groups to consolidate.

Many point to Port Jefferson Station business owner Jennifer Dzvonar as the reason the nine year North Brookhaven chamber has remained afloat. Dzvonar will head up the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce.

“We were losing membership because we were too spread out and some of our members were concerned,” said Carol Genua of Coach Realtors in Mount Sinai. “What Jen did is phenomenal and for her to do it that long I can’t even comprehend how much time she had to put in, and her husband and kids were even helping out.”

Barbara Ransome, president of Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition, which represents almost 20 town chambers who is also director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in the village, said she thinks the group made the right decision to reorganize its efforts.

“We all sat around the table saying, ‘OK, what’s the next move?’” she said. “There was a strong consensus that there needed to be some level of consolidation. I’m very happy that Jen is not dropping out. She’s trying her very best, she’s the glue that’s keeping it together right now.”

Ransome said smaller membership will mean less money, so the chambers will have to be frugal in their operating budgets.

“People will volunteer when it is beneficial to them and their business, which, often times, will be within their direct surrounding area town,” Dzvonar said in an email. “Many are just too busy trying to keep their local business alive. Chain stores, big box stores, online shopping and outsourcing are what is killing local businesses. However, the small local businesses are the ones supporting the communities and donating to the fundraisers in the schools and other local organizations, with minimal loyalty from the consumers.”

Some are concerned the same issues may arise with the new arrangement as the ones that plagued the larger chamber.

“What happens is a lot of merchants join, but don’t take part in the work that needs to be done — people don’t realize it,” said Millie Thomas, of Landmark Realty in Wading River, who used to belong to the Rocky Point chamber when she owned a business there before joining the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce prior to it combining with the North Brookhaven chamber. “What happens is a lot of people want to join the chamber, they pay their dues and they get their name out on the brochures, but when it comes time to do all the work it seems the same specific people do it every year and it gets overwhelming, because we’re all running businesses and trying to do all of these things too.”

Thomas used the example of Wading River’s Duck Pond Day to make her point.

The realtor said putting together the event, which started as a wetlands coastline cleanup effort at the pond and has grown into a picnic following the cleanup with vendors, a parade and a 5K walk/run, takes a lot of time. She has to go to the town and fill out paperwork and pay fees for permits when needed, contact two different police departments to close off the roads, gather vendors, organize everyone involved in the parade and get sponsors whose names go on T-shirts.

“Someone needs to get involved to make all of these things happen — they don’t happen by themselves,” Thomas said.

Genua, who will be working with Donna Boeckel of Awsomotive Car Care to start up the Mount Sinai chamber, which may include Miller Place businesses, agreed that part of the problem was trying to support everything from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River. She’s hoping the step back in time will help regrow a better base of home businesses in hopes of recharging that community connection.

Genua is currently working on creating a list of all of the businesses in the area to make contact with, and already has reached out to local fish markets, restaurants, cleaners and the new Heritage Pharmacy drug store to generate more interest and enrollment. She said she is hoping to bring in local parent teacher organizations and even Heritage Park to create a chamber more entrenched in the community.

“We want to try a new way to get businesses involved,” she said. “We all still have to support each other. My husband had his own business for a while and it’s hard to compete with the big box companies. We want to keep our money local instead of it going out of state. We’re also neighbors. The people who live here, work here, or a lot of them.”

Marie Stewart of Brooklyn Bagels will be pushing forward with her already in existence Rocky Point local business owners group and is welcoming chamber members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach. Dzvonar will lead the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville chamber with help from Sheila Wieber of Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Diane Jensen of Teachers Federal Credit Union. Thomas will be reforming the Shoreham-Wading River chamber once again. All of which will take place in the new year.

“If you have the heart of a volunteer, it’s well worth it,” Thomas said. “Helping to adopt a family and provide relief to a single mom with four kids, or to see children and their families getting excited when Santa is coming down the street on the fire truck, it’s very rewarding. It is a lot of work, but sometimes people get caught up with their daily routine and don’t want to volunteer, and that’s the problem.”

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

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The defensive end's big stop, catches lead Panthers

By Bill Landon

Miller Place’s Panthers made a stand.

The football team’s defense rose to the occasion when the Suffolk County championship title was on the line in a 25-25 game with just under two minutes left to play.

As No. 1-seeded Babylon barreled toward the end zone at Stony Brook University Nov. 16, No. 2 Miller Place’s defense forced a turnover on fourth-and-8 at their 34-yard line, and Anthony Seymour scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to put the Division IV game away, 33-25. The win clinched Miller Place’s first football title since the championships began in 1992.

At the heart of it all was 5-foot, 3-inch senior Anthony Filippetti, who made the stop to force the turnover and followed it up by getting behind the secondary for a 27-yard reception to the Babylon 6 to set up the final score. The catch came after Seymour was sacked for a 7-yard loss.

To cap the championship-winning drive, Seymour faked a handoff to Tyler Ammirato heading over right tackle, and bolted off left tackle for a 3-yard rush into the end zone that snapped a 25-all tie with 21 seconds left.

“After we stopped them on downs I looked at Anthony [Seymour] and said, ‘If we don’t get in the end zone I’m never talking to you again,’” Ammirato said jokingly. “But he did, and we got the win. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

The county title-winning drive started with 1:45 left. Ammirato, a Seymour-to-Tom Nealis connection and Filippetti helped the Panthers drive 66 yards in seven plays.

“With our playmaker — Nealis — it’s comforting to know that you have a kid like that,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “It makes you feel that you’re never really out of it. He’s been doing that all year long.”

Filippetti scored the first Miller Place touchdown of the evening on a 54-yard run on the second play from scrimmage and Cameron Hammer’s kick tied it at 7 with 7:43 left in the first quarter.

Babylon capped the first with another touchdown, but the point-after attempt failed, making the lead 13-7 heading into the second.

Seymour and Nealis were at it again to open the second, with Nealis catching a 34-yard pass from his field general. The teams were tied again when the Panthers’ point-after attempt also went wayward.

Nealis hauled in a 54-yard pass and run soon after, being forced out at the 2-yard line to set up Ammirato’s first of two touchdowns. The kicks failed on both and the scores were separated by a Babylon touchdown.

“In the beginning of the game we ran the ball trying to establish the ground game to eat up the clock,” Murphy said. “We needed that a little bit trying to get Tyler [Ammirato] going.”

Matt McNulty charged the Babylon holder after its final score and pulled off the block, which shifted momentum back Miller Place’s way.

“It was just a big moment — I had to pick up my teammates, I just had to do what I could,” the defensive end said. “I was hyped — I wanted that ball back and a chance to make a play and that’s what happened. We knew that the toughest defense was going to win today and making a stop like that in a championship game is what it’s all about.”

Miller Place (10-1) will meet Seaford (9-2) Nov. 24 at noon at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in its first appearance in the Long Island Class IV championship game.

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Tyler Ammirato rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in Miller Place's first Suffolk County semifinal win in seven seasons. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was an accomplishment seven years in the making.

Miller Place’s football team had its postseason cut short in a semifinal appearance each of the last six seasons, but Friday night was different.

Anthony Seymour completed two of six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 72 yards on seven carries during Miller Place’s win. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite frigid temperatures and howling winds, two Miller Place interceptions and two Tyler Ammirato touchdowns drove the scoring in a 28-0 shutout of No. 3 Shoreham-Wading River in the Division IV semifinals Nov. 11.

Ammirato, a senior running back, showed how anxious he was to get back on the field after missing several games to injury. Rushing for 130 yards on 18 carries, he scored both first-half touchdowns, the second set up by an Alex Herbst interception at the Wildcats 40-yard line. He broke free for touchdown carries of 55 and 30 yards, and with kicker Cameron Hammer scoring on the extra-point kicks following each of the runs, the Panthers were up 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.

“It’s the best feeling for us as a program — we’ve been to the semifinals six years in a row and to break through is a dream come true for everyone out here,” Ammirato said of the win. “On Sunday we’ll watch film to prepare for Babylon. We lost to them the first time so we’ll watch that film to see what we did wrong, we’ll watch a couple of other games of them and we’ll just keep rolling.”

No. 2-seeded Miller Place will face No. 1 Babylon in the county final at Stony Brook University Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for this program — nobody realizes that this has been our swan song and to finally break through is a tribute to the kids because they believe in themselves,” said Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’re finally healthy with Tyler [Ammirato] coming back — that’s a big piece of the puzzle for a kid who last year scored 30 touchdowns.”

Miller Place head football coach Greg Murphy smiles as he embraces coaches following the Panthers’ semifinal victory. Photo by Bill Landon

But Murphy’s “tough group of kids” had other athletes rising to the occasion.

After a scoreless third, junior linebacker Rob Morales also came up with an interception after stepping in front of a screen pass. He covered 35 yards before scampering into the end zone. He also had 13 tackles.

“When the plays come you’ve just gotta make them,” Morales said. “I saw the ball, I caught it and I ran. This is big this school has never won a Long Island championship and this is a big stepping stone towards that goal.”

Shoreham-Wading River, three-time Long Island champion, had its season cut short when Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour threw deep to the right side of the end zone to Tom Nealis who never broke stride for a 25-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

“They left me one-on-one with the cornerback and I knew they were going to come to me with a fade, and I was open, just beat ‘em,” Nealis said. “I’ve been coming to these games since I was 5 years old and to know that broke this streak, and to do it beating Shoreham-Wading River for a second time this season, it feels great.”

Kelly and Donna and McCauley held the third annual Butterfly Breakfast for a Cure fundraiser at Applebee’s in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

A mother-daughter duo from Rocky Point raised thousands of dollars last weekend to help those with epidermolysis bullosa — a rare and painful skin disease that hits close to home.

Donna McCauley, who was born with the genetic condition that causes the skin to blister and tear at the slightest friction, and her daughter Kelly, a former Girl Scout, raised $4,000 during the 3rd Annual Butterfly Breakfast for a Cure fundraiser Nov. 4 at Applebee’s in Miller Place. More than 100 locals gathered at the restaurant to eat pancakes, take part in a Chinese auction with huge prizes for adults and kids and learn about “EB,” which is largely considered “the worst disease you’ve never heard of” and affects one in 20,000 births in the United States.

Donna McCauley auctioned off prizes to raise more funds. Photo by Kevin Redding

All proceeds are going toward Debra of America, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides assistance and support to families with children born with the disease through funding research for a cure and treatment initiatives.

As a teenager, Donna McCauley, whose parents were told she was going to die young from this “genetic anomaly,” made a conscious choice not to let EB — which turns run-of-the-mill activities like getting out of bed, taking clothes on and off and showering into daily struggles — define her life. Instead, she strived to be a role model for other “butterfly children,” a term given to young people with the disease, as their skin is said to be as fragile as a butterfly’s wings.

She became involved with Debra when she was 16, which opened her eyes to a community of others like her, and made sure to get her license, go to college and pursue jobs, vowing “not to be afraid to live” despite her condition.

“I can sit in the corner and rock and be sad, or I can get up and do what I need to do,” said McCauley, 49, who lives in constant pain and must wrap her wounds in bandages each day in order to prevent infections. She is currently in a clinical trial for a new treatment drug by Amicus Therapeutics that helps mend her wounds. “Things like this fundraiser give me hope that people become more aware, and more money is raised. Each day they are getting closer to finding a treatment and a cure.”

Although McCauley has been the face of the event since it started in 2015, the Rocky Point resident who referred to herself as a professional volunteer and remains a coordinator with local Girl Scout troops, pointed to her daughter as the real driving force behind the fundraiser.

“I can sit in the corner and rock and be sad, or I can get up and do what I need to do.”

— Donna McCauley

“One of the things that strikes me the most is that Kelly has a sense of empathy and compassion that I don’t think you can teach,” McCauley said. “I’m so proud of her initiative to make other people more aware of disabilities. She has always been the person who includes the one that isn’t included.”

Kelly McCauley, 19, a current student at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York, started advocating for EB support as a sophomore at Rocky Point High School by selling bracelets decorated with butterflies to peers and administrators and ended up raising $500 for Debra. This prompted her to want to step things up a notch, and she soon went door to door to local businesses in search of a venue for her own bigger and better fundraiser.

McCauley’s daughter said growing up and witnessing her mom’s perseverance encouraged her to get involved in the first place.

“I saw just how strong she was and how much it took for her just to wake up every day,” she said. “She’s definitely the strongest woman I know. This disease is so much on a person. You wake up and you hurt no matter what. But she still gets up, she goes to church, she volunteers, she works as a religion teacher — she does all these things even though she’s always in some sort of pain.”

McCauley’s determination to live a normal life has served as a foundation for her younger brother, Bob Newfield, a Setauket resident who was also born with EB.

“It’s tough — what would take most people 15 minutes to get ready for work in the morning takes me an hour,” Newfield said. “But there are other things in life that are tough too, so you just have to deal with the cards you’re given. It’s such a rare disease and doesn’t get the funds it needs.”

Local residents, like Miller Place resident Joan Lowry, on right, attended the fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

His wife, Marianne, explained how it’s been to observe the disease firsthand.

“His mind wants to go, go, go, but his body holds him back at times — but those with it are the strongest people I know,” she said. “They don’t really let anything get them down. Bob puts on a happy face every day even though his feet kill him; many days are hard.”

Residents that donated to the cause by purchasing raffle tickets ranged from those living with the disease to others who had never heard of it before.

Bonnie Harris, who grew up in Port Jefferson, said she and a majority of her family have the condition.

“The disease itself doesn’t get better when you get older, but you get better as you get older,” Harris said. “You’re not as clumsy when you’re falling and you’re able to take care of it better. My mom, who had it, always said, ‘You can do anything you want to do — you just have to work harder than everybody else.’”

Miller Place resident Joan Lowry heard of the fundraiser through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, a parish where McCauley is extremely active.

“There are too many people who fall in the cracks and need the help,” Lowry said, “and that’s the reason I’m here.”

If you wish to make a contribution, visit Debra.org/butterflybreakfast2017.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is up against Coram resident Democrat Mike Goodman to represent the 2nd Council District Nov. 7. Photos by Kevin Redding

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running against incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) because he said he thinks he could bring positive changes to the town — ones that will streamline services, create more jobs, keep young folks on Long Island and make transparency changes with lasting effects.

An English major from St. Joseph’s College, who also studied religion and computer science, the Democrat challenger said he takes major issue with the lack of job creation and affordable housing in the town.

Flooding in Rocky Point has been a cause for concern in relation to sewers on the North Shore. File photo from Sara Wainwright

“My brother is a recent graduate, he’s a really smart, great, hard-working guy and it’s hard for him to find a place to live here, and I’ve seen all my friends leave for the same reason,” he said. “I want to put a stop to the brain drain. There are a lot of companies that don’t come here because it takes so long to deal with the bureaucracy of the town. I’m personally affected by a lot of these problems.”

Bonner, who is running for her sixth term at the helm of the 2nd Council District, said during a debate at the TBR News Media office in October she didn’t know if it’s her 27-year-old opponent’s age or inexperience but he lacks knowledge of affordable housing issues.

“To say you want more affordable housing, it’s a lofty and noble goal, it just has to make sense where you put it,” she said.

She also pointed out the flaws in fulfilling some of her opponent’s goals in her district, specifically constructing walkable downtowns and affordable housing complexes.

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running for political office for the first time. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Sewers are very expensive and with that, developers are going to want density,” she said. “Density doesn’t work if you don’t have mass transportation to have these walkable downtowns, to have trains and expanded bus system, but also the county cut the bus system in the districts that I represent and the current legislator wrote a letter to not bring sewers to Rocky Point and Sound Beach. We don’t have expanded gas lines in Rocky Point either, and the seniors in the leisure communities are struggling with getting heat. As the closest level of government to the people that’s responsible for the least amount of your tax bill, we are great advocates to other levels of government to help the residents out because we’re the ones that end up cleaning up the mess.”

Goodman also suggested more housing attractive in price and environment to millennials, and Bonner pointed to the current project proposed for the site next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai, but also pointed to issues with affordable housing.

Stimulating job creation was a goal raised by both candidates.

Bonner said 500,000 positions could be created if Brookhaven wins the bid to bring an Amazon headquarters to the Calabro Airport in Mastic and the site of former Dowling College.

“Something that takes 45 days to get cleared with any other town takes two years to do here,” Goodman said in response. “I don’t think Amazon of all companies wants to deal with a town that’s bragging about recently getting computers. If we want to deal with the tech sector, if we want to have good paying jobs in manufacturing or technology, instead of the more and more retail I see happening, we need to attract big businesses here, and that happens by streamlining bureaucracy.”

Millennial housing was a topic for discussion, which there are plans to construct in Mount Sinai. Image top right from Basser Kaufman

The Newfield High School graduate pointed to his software development background at Hauppauge-based Globegistics, and side business building websites and fixing computers, as evidence of his abilities to cut administrative “red tape.”

“I would like a publicly-facing forum,” he said, referring to a ticketing system like JIRA, a highly customizable issue-management tracking platform. “Everyone can see all of the issues that have been called into the town, who in the town is working on it, how long it will take to get done and what it’s going to cost. I think town contracts should be made public so people can see who is getting the work done and how much they’re being paid, so people aren’t just getting family members jobs.”

Bonner emphasized many of hers and the town’s efforts in streamlining services, managing land use and implementation of technology, but also noted her and her colleagues’ desire for transparency.

“I think it is an overused expression, because I don’t know any person I work with on any level of government that doesn’t advocate for transparency; gone are the days of Crookhaven,” she said. “We’ve become more user-friendly, we aren’t as archaic as we used to be.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is seeking her sixth term. Photo by Kevin Redding

Bonner has a long list of accomplishments she said she’s proud of playing a part in during her 12 years on the board. Bringing single-stream recycling to her constituents; refurbishing and redoing most of the parks and marinas; and working on a land use plan for the solar farm at the old golf course grounds in Shoreham that will generate about $1 million in PILOT payments for 20 years were some of the examples she noted.

She said she is also looking forward to improving handicap accessibility at town parks.

“When you’re walking in a particular park you see maybe a park needs a handicap swing and think about where in the budget you can get the money for it,” Bonner said. “The longer you’re at it there’s good things you get to do, they’re very gratifying.”

Goodman said he’s hoping to just create a better Brookhaven for the future.

“I’m running to make the town I’ve always lived in better, and not just better now, but better 10, 20 years from now,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things that can be done better, I want to do the work and I think I’m qualified to do the work.”

The current councilwoman said she hopes to continue to improve and build on the things already accomplished.

“The longer you serve, the more layers you can peel back in the onion and you see problems that need to be solved,” Bonner said. “With length of service you can really get to the root of the problem, solve it significantly and hopefully, permanently.”

Miler Place Girl Scout Troop 227 members make a presentation to the board of education about energy efficiency. Photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place High School has the potential to save large sums of money and energy this year thanks to the environmental efforts of a group of middle school Girl Scouts.

Sixth- and seventh-grade members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 urged the board of education during the Sept. 27 meeting to consider replacing the 120 fluorescent lights in the high school cafeteria with more energy-efficient LED lights. This installation could save the district approximately $1,044 in the cafeteria alone over the course of the 180-day school year, the Girl Scouts said.

“Switching to LED lights would allow the district to focus that money on education,” 11-year-old Lilah Lindemann said.

Analynn Bisiani, a sixth-grader, informed board members 180-degree LED lights release significantly less heat energy than tube-shaped, 360-degree fluorescent lights, making them safer.

“They do not contain dangerous chemicals and will project light only down instead of 360 degrees,” Analynn said. “A lot of energy is wasted when light is projected upwards.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan speaks at the Miller Place board of education meeting about the importance of energy efficiency and the ways in which the Girl Scouts project could help the district. Photo by Kevin Redding

The troop’s presentation was based on an energy audit of the high school cafeteria the girls conducted in May with the help of a PSEG Long Island representative as part of their Girl Scout Journey project — a long-term initiative to find a solution to a local environmental problem.

One of the requirements for the project was to focus on conserving energy, so troop leaders and members decided to conduct an audit of a public building, specifically the high school cafeteria, where the group holds its meetings twice a month.

With the help of Scout mom Kim Soreil, a PSEG Long Island manager of customer operations, the girls studied different forms of energy, made circuit cards and calculated the energy savings of switching to LED lights by counting all 120 lights in the cafeteria. The girls figured out
approximately 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour could be saved, which, assuming a 14-hour school day with extracurricular activities, equates to $5.88 in savings per day and $1,044 a year.

“They picked up on everything very quickly and just took off with it,” Soreil said of the troop’s excitement about the project. The girls, including Soreil’s daughter Lauren, also learned about phantom energy and the benefits of unplugging electrical appliances even after they’ve been turned off.

“They were peering through windows to try and see if lights were left on in the offices in the back and trying to turn off the lights on the vending machines so the school could conserve
energy,” she said.

During the presentation, Girl Scout Sarah DiPersio offered the board another environmentally-based solution in the cafeteria.

“Although it is not an electrical energy savings, we also noticed there is a traditional water fountain in the cafeteria, instead of a bottle refill fountain,” Sarah said.

Troop co-leader Candace Lindemann, who guides the girls alongside Morgan Caufield, said while she was impressed by the research and work her Scouts took part in, she wasn’t too surprised.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth.”

— Lilah Lindemann

“We have a very environmentally concerned and diligent group of girls,” Lindemann said, noting their other environment-based initiatives include beach cleanups and water health studies. “I think growing up near the beach definitely encourages an interest in the health of the environment for them.”

Her daughter Lilah said she has been passionate about the environment for a long time and hopes to be an engineer one day.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth,” the 11-year-old said. “And helping the environment and the community is what the Girl Scouts are about.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan said she hopes by saving money through this proposal, the school district could afford to provide more art programs.

At the end of the board of education meeting, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presented each Scout with a certificate and thanked them for their presentation.

“That was very comprehensive,” Cartisano said. “We’re very grateful you did this and we’ll certainly be taking your recommendations and findings into consideration.”

The school district is currently in the process of bringing more energy efficiency to its buildings by installing solar panels on top of its high school and Andrew Muller Primary School.

Members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 that participated in the audit are Sara Bally, Analynn Bisiani, Molly Caufield, Sarah DiPersio, Mary Cait Duffy, Lindsey Galligan, Lilah Lindemann, Maris Lynch, Ceili McNicholas, Madelyn Miller, and Lauren Soreil.

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Rocky Point's field hockey team celebrates its first Suffolk County championship title since 2014. After losing to Miller Place in the county finals the last two years, Rocky Point shut out the Panthers 4-0 Oct. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner felt different about this county playoff game.

For the first time after her pregame ritual, which involves showing a picture slideshow to her field hockey team, she wasn’t crying.

Bella Fusco passes the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

“I always tell them I get very nervous before games, and I always get very scared before a county game because it could mean goodbye,” the coach said. “But they looked at me after we did our picture slideshow and they said, ‘Look, she’s not crying.’ And I wasn’t crying, because today I knew wouldn’t be goodbye.”

Bella Fusco fulfilled Bittner’s prophecy, finding the back of the cage twice in her Rocky Point field hockey team’s 4-0 blanking of Miller Place for the Suffolk County Class B crown Oct. 28.

“We wanted it a lot more — we’ve been working for so long, we work hard, we practice, we run a lot to stay in shape, and we just deserved it,” Fusco said. “We’re all a big family so to move on [to the Long Island Championship], nothing could be sweeter.”

Fusco, a sophomore at top-seeded Rocky Point, scored her first goal nine minutes into the contest off a pass from Sara Giammarella. The senior set the tone 40 seconds later, when she rocked the back of the box with a hard hit off of a feed from senior Christiana Bellissimo for a 2-0 lead at the 20:20 mark. But Giammarella was quick not to take all of the credit.

“It’s our defense,” she said of what helped her Eagles soar. “Nicki Taveras holds our backs on the defensive side; she’s a wall, no one can get past her. And Lizzy Wiener, she’s awesome, just fantastic.”

Miller Place’s Nicole Beck and Rocky Point’s Sara Giammarella fight for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Rocky Point proved faster to the ball, passed cleanly and pressured the No. 2 Panthers, which struggled to get the ball past midfield.

With 12:51 left in the first half, Fusco struck on a crossing pass from senior Emily Molinaro for a 3-0 advantage at the break.

Deflated, opportunity came knocking for Miller Place when Rocky Point went a down a player with 24 minutes left in regulation, but was unable to capitalize.

Senior forward Hannah Luchsinger scored the final goal on a solo shot to close out the scoring for the Eagles, which had previously lost to Miller Place in the last two county finals matchups.

“I have 10 seniors who want it [more than anything else],” Bittner said. “I have 10 seniors who have gone to the county championship the past three years and have not won it, so all I saw today was heart.”

Rocky Point will face Garden City in the Long Island championship Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles last faced the Trojans when the team made it to the regional game in 2014.

Rocky Point’s field hockey team shut out Miller Place 4-0 for the team’s first Suffolk County Class B title since 2014. Photo by Bill Landon

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