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Mount Sinai

Ethan Agro has always been able to turn tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Even though he was born with a congenital heart defect, the 12-year-old was always a trooper, and especially so when he needed to lay on an operating table last year and undergo eight hours of open heart surgery to repair his aortic valve.

12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“My husband and I and my family were crying tears of joy,” Ethan’s mother Susan Agro said after the operation went smoothly. “Words cannot describe what a difficult time last year was. It was a really, really hard decision to make and we were really surprised. It was a rough recovery for the first few weeks, but Ethan did great, he had an amazing recovery and we are so grateful.”

Again, on Saturday evening at the men’s home basketball game, Ethan turned the triumph of a successful surgery and recovery into happy tears as he won $500 by banking the Gold Coast Bank three-point halftime shot.

“I was just so grateful that he was able to stand out in front of that crowd and make that shot,” she said. “I was crying tears of joy.”

His mother went to the refreshment stand and while away, a student intern group randomly picked Ethan to attempt the shot. He asked his mother for permission and she said yes without hesitation, although warning her son that no one had made the basket yet this season.

But he did.

Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“I was surprised to see it go in,” Ethan said. “When I was taking the shot I wasn’t focusing on what the crowd was thinking. I was focusing on making the shot. I was so excited, and shooting in front of the crowd was an honor. I always admired those people — wanting to get picked.”

Stony Brook Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing Chris Murray said Ethan was randomly picked, not knowing that the family, which has lived in Mount Sinai for the last 16 years, had been to all of Stony Brook University’s men’s home games for the last five years. The Agros are season ticket holders and especially enjoyed using the games as an escape while Ethan waited six weeks after scheduling his surgery.

“I myself was on the court with Ethan when he hit the shot and his eyes lit up and he began to run in circles, unsure how to contain his excitement,” Murray said. “I couldn’t have been more happy for him, giving him a big hug as soon as we got off the court. Ethan is the most humble and appreciative middle-schooler I have ever met.”

Ethan has been on the court before, taking part in summer camps at the school but said being on the court at that moment was extra special.

Susan Agro said the whole moment was exciting as the boy was cleared to return to all normal activity just three months ago, and being that they are such big fans of the team.

Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men's basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU

“I told Ethan he could’ve danced a little bit with Wolfie,” his mother said, laughing. “But I was completely shocked for the rest of the day. Everyone was high-fiving Ethan after the game and telling him it was a good shot and what a great story, they were all really excited for Ethan. It was an awesome experience.”

Ethan’s father Nick Agro said he was more excited to see his son be able to go back to playing basketball, as the boy competes in an intermural league.

“This was just a sort of culminating moment — to see him stand up there and make that shot was awesome,” he said. “It just solidified that he’s doing so well.”

Tom Rotanz poses for a photo with a gold medal and trophy after the U-19 team he was an assistant coach of won a world championship. Photo from Tom Rotanz

A familiar face is stepping onto the college lacrosse scene.

Tom Rotanz, a former head boys’ lacrosse coach for Shoreham-Wading River for 18 years, will helm St. Joseph’s College’s new men’s lacrosse program, which will begin its first season in spring 2017.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rotanz said of joining the college ranks. “I think any competitive athlete and coach wants to show someone what good can come from having the right people around you and the good players that are willing to commit themselves, and I hope to have another successful tenure at St. Joseph’s.”

Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph's College's men's lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph’s College’s men’s lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz has a long history with lacrosse.

His elder brother was on the team that won Ward Melville’s first Long Island championship in 1974, and the younger Rotanz was part of the squad that won the second and third in 1976 and 1977. The lacrosse captain earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977, after his team also made it to the New York State championship game, the first one for lacrosse. The boys lost that game, 12-11.

From there, he was the captain of the Suffolk County Community College lacrosse team that won a national championship and earned All-American honors twice. He then repeated that feat at Adelphi University, where he was also named an All-American twice.

“Tom was a great player,” said his former high school coach, and a legend on the lacrosse scene, Joe Cuozzo. “He was a great competitor, had a great sense of humor about him, and I really enjoyed working with him.”

As a coach himself, with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats’ program only a year old, Rotanz took over a roster of 14 players, including six freshmen. The team went 1-15 his first season, scoring 38 goals on the year. But seven years later, the team was ranked fourth in the country, after winning a New York State championship and scoring close to 400 goals.

“It snowballed into something that was really neat to be a part of,” he said. “In the last 13 years I was there, we won 10 county championships, five Long Island and three New York State. People always wondered why or how we kept winning every year and being ranked one or two in the county. I say if you have bright kids that buy into the system, I think anything is possible.”

Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz earned his first of six Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors in 1999, two years before he led the program to its first county championship in 2001. In 2002, the program repeated as Suffolk champs en route to Long Island and New York State titles. The team also swept Suffolk, Long Island and New York State championship titles in 2007 and 2012.

In 2012, the coach added to his list of accolades, serving as an assistant for the 2012 USA Men’s U-19 lacrosse team that won a world championship.

Now, he hopes to be able to bring that same success to St. Joseph’s, and Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation for the college, thinks Rotanz is the perfect fit.

“We were very lucky in that Coach Rotanz applied,” she said, referring to the school’s intensive, national search across all NCAA institutions. “He has a plethora of experience, and … he knows the landscape of Long Island, and he’s very well-connected with his peers to be able to do good recruiting for what we’re looking for.”

For Rotanz, being on the scene as long as he has and being a part of Long Island lacrosse, serving as an assistant coach at Smithtown West for the last two years, will be beneficial throughout the recruiting process for the Golden Eagles.

“I’m very close friends with a lot of the Suffolk and Nassau coaches, so they’re already contacting me with players that they think will be a great fit, kids that they think would really like to play for me; so that’s the neat thing.”

He added, laughing, “I think there will be a lot more kids that think about not leaving the Island now, hopefully.”

Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz

According to Hill, the school decided the time was right for a lacrosse program after seeing that a number of Division III student-athletes in the college’s Skyline Conference that commit to play lacrosse come from Long Island and that there was interest with incoming and current students. The college also built a new outdoor athletic facility.

Hill said St. Joseph’s found the right coach in Rotanz.

“We think we hit a home run with coach Rotanz,” she said. “He’s not only a wonderful coach, but also a great man, and he will do great things. We’re looking forward to him not only being the face of the lacrosse program, but also being a mentor to our male student-athletes. His tenure speaks for itself. He’s very well-connected, and he has good relationships with lots of people, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Cuozzo, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, said he used to go to Shoreham-Wading River practices and games to watch his former athlete, and has been thrilled with his approach to the game.

“The way he treats kids, he’s a real student of the game, and I can’t say enough on how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “He brings a winning attitude.”

Rotanz, who said he tries to emulate the ways and successes of his former coach, is competitive, according to Cuozzo.

“He hates to lose — I think he got that from me,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t a very good loser.”

Luckily, neither one of them has had to do much of that.

Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys' lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Cuozzo compiled a 699-73 record while at the helm of the Patriots’ program. In 2007, he became the head coach at Mount Sinai, where he brought his win total to 747 in his four years before retirement. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Rotanz amassed a 256-99 record.

Cuozzo also thinks Rotanz will be able to draw athletes to the school.

“A lot of kids like to leave Long Island when they are finished with high school — they don’t want to stay local — but knowing Tom, he’s very convincing,” Cuozzo said. “He’ll do his homework. He’ll go out and scout, he’ll go to high school games and he’ll talk, make phone calls. He’s very organized, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be successful there.”

Three trustee seats up for election next Wednesday

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

By Giselle Barkley

Port Jefferson Free Library will soon have a full board of trustees for the first time in a while, after an election on Jan. 13 in which four candidates are running for three seats.

Residents can meet the group at the library on Monday, at 7 p.m., including incumbents Laura Hill Timpanaro and Susan Prechtl-Loper with newcomers Carl Siegel and Joel Rosenthal.

Susan Prechtl-Loper is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from the candidate
Susan Prechtl-Loper is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from the candidate

The two candidates who win the most votes will secure seats with five-year terms and the third-place finisher will win a seat that carries a two-year term.

The shorter term is available after former Trustee Harriet Martin vacated her seat on the board, leaving a couple of years left on her term.

Hill Timpanaro, the current board president, has been a trustee for the past five years and is seeking re-election. She heads the library’s planning and building committee and has worked on several projects, including securing grants and modernizing the library to keep up with changes in technology.

“The library is moving into a time of change, not only for PJFL but for the libraries in general,” Hill Timpanaro said in an email. “As technology continues to change patrons’ needs we have the opportunity to create a community cornerstone that suits a diverse clientele and becomes [an] anchor for the community.”

Laura Hill Timpanaro is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from the candidate
Laura Hill Timpanaro is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from the candidate

Hill Timpanaro has lived in Port Jefferson for 15 years. Outside the library, she’s also helped secure funds to build a garden at the Port Jefferson elementary school.

She hopes to continue her work on expanding the library in a new term, especially now that the library has acquired two adjacent properties — a residence on Thompson Street and a business on East Main Street.

Fellow incumbent Prechtl-Loper, the board’s financial officer and a member since 2013, is also seeking re-election, with the goal of further improving the library and its services.

She said the biggest accomplishment for the trustees since she first joined was when the library purchased the Scented Cottage Garden property on East Main Street in May, to help satisfy the library’s parking and general needs.

For Prechtl-Loper, a village resident for more than 20 years and a library member for more than 50, the institution is like home.

Carl Siegel is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from Valerie Schwarz
Carl Siegel is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from Valerie Schwarz

“I grew up in the library,” she said. “I have really fond memories there.”

Siegel, like the incumbents, is no stranger to the board of trustees. He served from 1994 to 1999 and is hoping to return this year.

During Siegel’s previous tenure, he helped establish the children’s library and an adult reading room, among several other projects. Now that building plans are underway to address a parking shortage and add a room to host live performances, Siegel wants to help execute those projects.

He was an English teacher at the Port Jefferson high school for 23 years before retiring in 1992. Since then, he’s been active in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Stony Brook University, which offers a variety of courses to its older students. He served as its president in 1997.

For Rosenthal, whose has lived in Port Jefferson Village for 50 years, the election is a new phase. While he’s never been a trustee, Rosenthal is aware of the library’s plans for expansion and would like to work with fellow trustees on the projects.

Joel Rosenthal is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from Valerie Schwarz
Joel Rosenthal is running for the Port Jefferson library’s board of trustees. Photo from Valerie Schwarz

“With the tremendous changes in technology, [the trustees] should make some informed decisions about the library,” he said in an interview.

Rosenthal is a distinguished professor emeritus of history at Stony Brook University. He was also previously the chair of the history department and took on other administrative roles before partially retiring from the university.

Although Rosenthal said he would prefer the two-year seat to a five-year seat, he would “take what I can get.”

Voting is at the library on Wednesday, Jan. 13, between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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Mackenzie Zajac makes her way to the basket in Shoreham-Wading River's 51-30 loss to Hampton Bays. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Shoreham-Wading River girls’ basketball team struggled to recover after an 11-0 start by its opponent as the Wildcats fell to Hampton Bays, 51-30, in their first League VI loss Tuesday.

“Being down 11-0 was a problem,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adam Lievre said. “We talked a little bit about that before the game — I don’t know if I jinxed us — but we played hard. Offensively, at times, we struggled to score, and against a team that can shoot the ball well from the outside, it’s hard for us to trade missed layups for them to get open threes.”

Mikayla Dwyer maintains possession with a Hampton Bays defender on her hip in the Wildcats' 51-30 loss on Jan. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mikayla Dwyer maintains possession with a Hampton Bays defender on her hip in the Wildcats’ 51-30 loss on Jan. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Shoreham-Wading River sophomore guard Mikayla Dwyer put the Wildcats’ first points on the board, and junior forward Lindsey McKenna followed right behind her. Dwyer was fouled heading to the basket after her team forced a turnover, and she sank her first free-throw attempt to cut the deficit, 11-5.

The Baymen went on another tare, this time scoring six straight points, before McKenna scored another field goal. Hampton Bays countered with a field goal of its own, and added a long field goal at the buzzer to bring the score to 22-7.

“Execution is hard,” Lievre said. “We do as much as we can, and sometimes they fall and sometimes they don’t. Tonight was a night where, early on, in the first couple of minutes, they didn’t fall, and it led to a hole that we just couldn’t recover from.”

The hole continued to grow, despite junior guard Jesse Arline coming off the bench to score half of the team’s points in the second stanza, with a long field goal and a three-pointer. At the end of the eight minutes, the Wildcats fell behind 38-17.

“We just need to strategize, but there’s no problem with effort,” Arline said. “We tried really hard and we did a good job. I think movement of the ball was really good. Some of our shots weren’t landing, but you need to play fast against a team like that.”

Lievre said he agreed that despite the loss, he’s never had a problem with his girls giving him their all.

“My girls always play hard until the very end,” he said. “We never have to question effort or intensity, we just have to execute offensively. I never have to worry about them putting everything into a game, because they will — they’ll battle no matter what the score is, good or bad.”

McKenna led the team with six points on the evening, Arline and Dwyer tacked on five apiece, junior forward Maddy Bottari and junior forward Sophie Triandafils finished with four each, junior guard Mackenzie Zajac added three, and junior guard Sam Higgins and junior forward Maria Smith rounded out the scoring with two points and one point, respectively.

Jesse Arline dribbles the ball into Hampton Bays’ zone in the Wildcats' 51-30 loss on Jan. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jesse Arline dribbles the ball into Hampton Bays’ zone in the Wildcats’ 51-30 loss on Jan. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wildcats were off to a 3-0 start in the league before the loss. The head coach said that although the team is halfway to the playoffs wins-wise, they still have some tough competition ahead when they travel to Elwood-John Glenn tomorrow at 4:15 p.m., and then host Mount Sinai on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Arline said her team would recover from the loss and use it to fuel them for their upcoming league matchups.

“We lost, and we’ll take it as a learning experience,” she said. “We’ll put what we’ve learned here into the game ahead. We try to keep a game-to-game mindset, so we’re just worried about the next opponent.”

Lievre also thinks his team will be more prepared moving forward. He liked some of what he saw, and hopes that if his team can execute, they’ll have a better shot of remaining in games against tough opponents.

“There were a lot of good looks and good shots I’d like to repeat again, we’ve just got to hope next time that they fall for us,” he said. “It’s one game; we’ll regroup and move on.”

Tracey Budd poses for a photo with her son Kevin Norris, who died of a heroin overdose in 2012. Photo from Tracey Budd

Tracey Budd’s son died of a heroin overdose in September 2012.

One year later, Budd, of Rocky Point, was asked to speak at the North Shore Youth Council. Since then, she’s ended up on a public service announcement, “Not My Child,” that’s shown in high schools and middle schools along the North Shore, aiding her in becoming an advocate for drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation. She also teamed up with another mother, Debbie Longo, of Miller Place, and the two have become advocates for prevention and rehabilitation along the North Shore.

It is because of their hard work and dedication to this issue on Long Island that they are 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers People of the Year.

“I made the decision not to be ashamed of how he passed away,” Budd said about her son. “Just from speaking that one time at North Shore Youth Council, it was so very healing for me, and so many things have come from that and taken me in a direction that I never thought I’d be in, but it seems like it’s my calling.”

Janene Gentile, a drug and alcohol counselor and executive director of the North Shore Youth Council, helped work on that PSA.

“It was very powerful,” she said. “It was walking her through her grief. She has a lot of courage.”

Budd, who is also a member of Families in Support of Treatment, pulled together as much information as she could, and this past October created a Facebook page — North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates — pooling together families from Rocky Point, Miller Place, Mount Sinai and Shoreham-Wading River to spread the word about the rising concern over dangerous drugs, like heroin, growing in popularity across the Island.

“It just seemed that so many people were inboxing me and asking me for help,” she said. “I created the page so we could have a centralized area where we share information, and organize meetings where the group could all meet up. I also organized meetings once a month so we could to teach people about advocacy.”

Having a 12-year-old daughter, Cristina Dimou attended the meetings to begin to gather information on the issue. About one week ago, someone Dimou knows suffered an unexpected overdose, she said. She immediately reached out to Budd asking for guidance.

Debbie Longo speaks at a Dan’s Foundation for Recovery event. Photo from Facebook
Debbie Longo speaks at a Dan’s Foundation for Recovery event. Photo from Facebook

“She gave me three phone numbers telling me who to call for what and even gave me websites of rehabilitation centers,” Dimou said about Budd. “She checks up on me every day, asking me if I’m okay and what’s going on. I don’t know her personally, but she had a sense of urgency and a willingness to help. I think that speaks volumes.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said with Budd’s outspokenness and Longo’s long-standing knowledge of the issue, they’ll be successful in their efforts.

“These women put their energy, their anger, their frustration, their sorrow into something that is helpful to the community,” she said. “I think they’re going to do amazing work.”

Longo has been involved in advocacy across the Island for the last five years, after her son suffered an overdose 10 years ago. Since then, her son has recovered, and currently lives in Del Ray, Florida as a director of marketing for a rehabilitation center called Insight to Recovery.

She said she found sending her son out of state helped him recover, because once he was done with his treatment, he wasn’t going back to seeing the same people he knew when he was using.

But she too has been involved in outreach and drug abuse prevention, aside from being to co-administrator of Budd’s Facebook page.

“I get a call just about every day from a parent saying they have a kid that’s addicted and they don’t know what to do,” she said. “We’re losing kids left and right. We’re losing a generation, is what we’re losing.”

Longo is a part of a 501(c)3 not-for-profit program, Steered Straight, which spreads prevention in schools. Recovered addict Michael DeLeon leads the program.

“You can hear a pin drop in the auditorium, that’s how dynamic of a speaker he is,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many kids come up to us at the end of the program and say, ‘I have a problem.’”

Longo was the chapter coordinator for New York State for a website called The Addict’s Mom, and is currently the head of Before the Petals Fall, Magnolia Addiction Support’s New York chapter. She is a 12-step yoga teacher to recovering addicts, and does post-traumatic stress disorder programs to help those dealing with grief.

After leaving nursing to go into medical marketing for hospitals, Longo said she thought she’d know where to turn when she found out her son was an addict, but said she really didn’t know what to do.

“There was such a bad stigma about addiction that you didn’t want to talk about it — you kind of suffered in silence,” she said. “If I was a nurse and had these contacts and didn’t know what to do, the average mother may have no idea. I’m trying to open the community up to what we have here on the North Shore.”

Tracey Budd holds a picture of her son, Kevin Norris, at a Walk for Hope event. Photo from Tracey Budd
Tracey Budd holds a picture of her son, Kevin Norris, at a Walk for Hope event. Photo from Tracey Budd

Longo has helped mothers like Sheila “Terry” Littler, of Rocky Point, whose son is a second-time recovering heroin addict. Currently, he is three months sober.

Knowing about treatment and where to get help, because it was something that started for her 13 years ago, Littler reached out to Longo for mental support.

“It was nice to have somebody else that’s gone through it to talk to, to know you’re not alone,” Littler said. “But at the same time, it’s sad that I’m not alone.”

When her son relapsed after being four and a half years sober, she reached out to Budd.

“It takes a lot of guts to come out in the open and do this and help people,” she said. “There are a lot of hurting people out there.”

She recently reached out to Longo about a friend of her son, who is a drug user, and the two were calling each other back and forth to find ways to overcome addiction.

“She cared to take the time to help me,” she said. “She spent a whole day doing that with me — that’s dedication right there.”

With the contacts Longo’s made with support centers and prevention agencies and Budd’s relationship with the county after creating the PSA, the two are teaming up to use their resources to form a coalition based on the Facebook page. It was also have the same name.

It’s in its early stages, but the hope is to help spread awareness about prevention through schools. As part of a coalition, Budd said, you can also apply for grants, which she hopes will help fund the spread of their advocacy.

“I felt Tracey was on the same path that I was on,” Longo said. “She is as tenacious as I am in what we’re trying to do.”

Longo said that she and Budd are trying to be vigilantes and have started Narcan training classes, like ones they’ve previously hosted in Miller Place and East Setauket, to continue to help fight the Island’s drug addiction problem. Narcan is a medication that stops opioid overdoses.

“I think together we’re a good team,” Budd said. “To me, you have a choice. You can either dig your head in the sand and be embarrassed that your child is an addict, or you can be proactive and say, ‘Enough of this, let’s help each other.’ When you speak to another parent that’s going through it, there’s a bond that you automatically create. In a way, I feel like my son is right there with me, helping these families. It’s very important to me, and I’m never going to stop doing it.”

Coram resident Vincent James, right, poses for a photo with his family members at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley

For the past eight years, Rhonda Klch and her company Equity First have made many dreams come true.

This year is no different with Klch’s annual Holiday Dream event, which provides Christmas gifts for Long Island families in need. On Sunday, residents who registered for the event picked up their Christmas presents at the Coram Fire Department headquarters from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Klch, a Miller Place resident, and event volunteers upped the ante this year by getting gifts for around 250 families from Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Selden, Medford and other towns across the Island.

A little girl plays with a balloon during Rhonda Klch’s Holiday Dream event. Photo by Giselle Barkley
A little girl plays with a balloon during Rhonda Klch’s Holiday Dream event. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“These kids feel like they’re walking on a cloud,” said Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), as several children ran around with balloons in the background after receiving their presents and meeting Santa.

Cartright was one of many people Klch called this year when searching for families in need of some holiday cheer. Local schools and churches were also contacted to find these families. While the families don’t need to be homeless to participate in the program, many of these families are financially unable to afford presents around the holidays.

People like Gordon Leonard of Selden said with the recession it’s harder to live on Long Island, making special seasons like the holidays more stressful.

“We came here because some Long Islanders understand the plight of many other Long Islanders, and they’re giving because they know people are struggling just to be New Yorkers,” he said. “We don’t want to leave. What choice do we have.”

While his son Devon received several gifts from the program this year, he said his favorite part about Sunday’s program was spending time with his family.

According to volunteer Priscilla Arena, of Mount Sinai, the event was a success this year.

“The outpour from the community has been tremendous and I’m hoping that it’ll only increase next year,” she said.

Last year, the event helped around 167 families. Arena got involved with the program around a month ago after Klch, a business associate and friend of hers, told her about the event. For Arena, helping the program and the families who benefit seemed natural.

For residents like Tiana Wyche, who lives in a shelter, Holiday Dream was important to bring joy to her children. Wyche is originally from Riverhead but currently resides in Port Jefferson Station.

Rhonda Klch, on right, poses for a photo with volunteer Priscilla Arena at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Rhonda Klch, on right, poses for a photo with volunteer Priscilla Arena at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Unfortunately, financial restrictions impact everybody and it becomes difficult over holidays,” Klch said. “I think people have this perception that just because you live somewhere, you’re doing very well. But unfortunately, people get so blind.”

Klch added that people don’t always realize how many families struggle to live on the Island, much less celebrate the holidays. She started spreading the word about the event among people in the business district. While Holiday Dream is the main event where children pick up their toys and have breakfast with Santa, there are toy drive events prior to Holiday Dream that Klch and her company host to raise more donations.

For Carmen Nunez and her family, who moved from the Dominican Republic to Port Jefferson Station, the program was extra special. Her family wasn’t used to getting presents around this time of year.

“I feel so happy,” she said. “Thank you to [Comsewogue ESL teacher Denise Saul] and everybody who tried to make [the children happy by giving them presents], especially this time for Christmas. It’s beautiful.”

While the family is trying to do the best they can here on Long Island, Saul said they are continuing the event’s mission of giving to others and spreading joy.

“Even though we gave them presents, they’re talking about who they can share [the presents with],” Saul said. “They are selfless themselves.”

According to Cartright, remembering the spirit of giving is important this time of year, and she hopes to keep giving in the future through the Holiday Dream program.

“A lot of community organizations and individuals come together to remind the kids that this is a season of giving,” Cartright said. “The holiday season is not only about receiving. They’re reaching hundreds of kids now, and I can only imagine as the years go by, how many kids we’re going to be changing their lives by letting them know they’re loved and supported by the community.”

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Mount Sinai senior Noah Wessels changes direction in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point’s s

rry Lynch led his team to victory with 30 points in the Eagles’ come-from-behind win over host Mount Sinai, 46-41, in nonleague boys’ basketball action Friday night.

Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point senior Harry Lynch shoots on his way to a team-high 30 points in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Lynch, a senior, went to work early in the opening quarter with three three-pointers and two field goals to help put his team out front 17-10 after the first eight minutes of play.

“We came out hot,” he said. “Everyone was setting screens and we were moving the ball. I was lucky I hit a couple of shots.”

On the other side of the court, Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly carried the load early for the Mustangs, banking a trifecta, a field goal and a pair of free throws for seven of his teams’ 19 points after two quarters of play.

“Harry Lynch is who we’ve keyed on for the last three seasons,” Kelly said. “We played fairly well, but we missed a lot of shots. Had we shot the way we’ve been shooting, we would’ve pulled this one out.”

Lynch remained unstoppable, as he hit his fourth trey and netted a pair of field goals to help his team to a 27-19 advantage by the halftime break.

“We’re lucky to have Harry [Lynch],” Rocky Point head coach James Jordan said. “He was on fire in that first half and he continued in the second half. He’s our general out there so where he goes, we go.”

The Mustangs were fired up coming out of the locker room, though, and because Rocky Point lost the battle of the boards in the first half, Jordan said it forced some adjustments. As a result, Mount Sinai opened the third quarter with an answer for Lynch, as the team closed within one point at the 5:33 mark, 30-29.

Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai senior Nolan Kelly attempts a jumper in a Dec. 18 nonleague loss to Rocky Point, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

“We came out strong in the first half, but we came out a little flat in the second,” Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi said. “We’ve been known to do that, but we stuck with them — we weathered the storm; got right back in it.”

Behind senior Noah Wessels’ six points in the quarter, with four other players contributing, Mount Sinai scored a field goal to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game, 31-30.

The score flip-flopped, and by the fourth quarter it was Rocky Point that was clinging to a one-point advantage, 37-36.

The Eagles looked to finish off the Mustangs, and surged ahead 43-36 with just over three minutes to go, but Mount Sinai battled back and trimmed the deficit to 43-41 with just under two minutes left in the game.

“I didn’t think they were going to be that strong shooting out of the gate,” Mount Sinai senior Vinny Margulies said. “Defensively, we played well the whole game. It’s just that we were shaky shooting throughout the game.”

Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point sophomore Alec Rinaldi drives the lane in a Dec. 18 nonleague win over Mount Sinai, 46-41. Photo by Bill Landon

Mount Sinai had the opportunity to tie the game with 46 seconds left on a 1-and-1 opportunity, but missed. As the clock wound down to 20 seconds, Lynch was fouled and confidently swished both to seal the deal. With 4.4 seconds on the clock, Rocky Point senior Colin Kotarski scored once off his appearance at the charity stripe, to give the game its final score.

“Harry Lynch is an outstanding player and he showed that again tonight,” Mount Sinai head coach Ryan McNeely said. “We played him man-to-man and he was getting real good looks and getting shots, so we changed to a zone where we trapped to keep the ball out of his hands to make someone else hurt us.”

Lynch scored six three-pointers on the evening. Rinaldi banked seven points and Kotarski tacked on six.

Topping the scoreboard for Mount Sinai was Kelly with 12, while Wessels and Margulies tacked on eight points apiece.

Rocky Point will have a week off before hosting Shoreham-Wading River next Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 11 a.m. Mount Sinai hits the road Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff at East Hampton.

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Ann Becker and Edna Davis Giffen, Mount Sinai and Miller Place community members and historians, recently published a pictorial book showing past and present views of the area. Photo from Ann Becker

“I am one of those believers that if you don’t know your history, your life is not complete,” Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Archivist Edna Davis Giffen said. “I believe that you need to not just look forward, but you need to look backward to appreciate what was done before, so that you can carry on into the future.”

That’s why she and Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker decided to collaborate on a single book about the history of the neighboring hamlets that would serve as a continuation of both of the individual books they each previously published.

Becker published a book on the history of Mount Sinai in 2003, while Giffen completed one on Miller Place in 2010. Their latest effort is called “Miller Place and Mount Sinai Through Time” and was released in November.

“I’ve always had a love of history, especially local history,” Becker said. “There wasn’t a lot available for young students to learn about their local community, and the books were provided for the curriculum to look at the documented history of our community and help people understand the rich history here.”

Becker, who received a doctorate in American history from Stony Brook University, is a Long Island history professor at Empire State College who has lived in Mount Sinai since 1982, and has been a member of the civic on and off since 1984, becoming its president four years ago. She was involved in the creation of the Heritage Trust board that was instrumental in creating Mount Sinai Heritage Park.

Ann Becker and Edna Davis Giffen, Mount Sinai and Miller Place community members and historians, recently published a pictorial book, above, showing past and present views of the area. Photo from Ann Becker
Ann Becker and Edna Davis Giffen, Mount Sinai and Miller Place community members and historians, recently published a pictorial book, above, showing past and present views of the area. Photo from Ann Becker

“I love local history,” she said. “History has always been important to me. It’s nice for people to realize that there are dedicated volunteers working hard presently to maintain the quality of life here.”

Community members like Brad Arrington, the civic vice president and corresponding secretary, have noticed Becker’s passion.

“She’s very civic-oriented and I think that’s not a term that people really use or appreciate anymore, in the sense that she really wants to do the best she can for the Mount Sinai community,” he said. “All the work she does, including the book, shows how much she cares about the community and how much she wants to help preserve our heritage.”

He said being civic-minded shapes how she addresses local problems and informs her opinions about the future growth and development of the town.

“I think the book is wonderful,” he said. “I think particularly for folks that might not have lived in Mount Sinai for decades to see the character of Mount Sinai. It also helps show people what’s left from the past and can help galvanize community members to help preserve those pieces of history that remain in our community.”

Giffen, who is a 12th-generation Miller Place resident now living in Mount Sinai, has been a member of the historical society since 1980 and became president when the restoration of the William Miller House was first beginning in that decade.

“I enjoy being part of the history,” she said. “We’ve developed so much since the 1960s that people don’t realize how much country there was here.”

Sharing this information with residents was something that drove her to work on her books.

“It needed to be done,” she said. “Lots of people don’t know what this place was like before the major settlement. I thought it was quite interesting working on the books, because when you see [the area] every day, you don’t pay attention to how much has changed.”

Becker said with the new book, the idea is to have an old picture and a new one side-by-side, to compare what the area used to look like and what it is now.

“We had fun taking the pictures to compare to the old ones that we had in the archives,” Becker said. “It’s a new look at Mount Sinai and Miller Place through time. It gives you that historical context, but it’s bringing us up to modern time. We thought it was important for the community to understand that being involved can have some really good results.”

The two authors received information and pictures from various people to help construct the book and Ann Donato, who has been on the historical society board for 15 years, said the book holds substantial importance.

“This area is so rich in history, going back pre-Revolutionary War,” she said. “We really need to let people know our past so we can understand the present and also the travels that we have taken as a nation.”

She believes Giffen is important to the community as well.

“Edna is so knowledgeable,” she said. “If anyone ever calls me with a question about the area or about a house, Edna has it at the tip of her fingertips. Edna is a treasure to our society.”

Although the two are experts and important in preserving and spreading the history of the area, they do it simply because they believe it’s vital.

“People should know about where they live,” Giffen said. “Everything in the future is based on the past.”

Many of us may think that black-and-white photographs are not interesting. Mimi Hodges, an enthusiastic photographer and Sound Beach resident, doesn’t agree. She likes to take black-and-white photographs of local places. As she puts it, “color can sometimes be a distraction.”

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Santa’s been sticking around the Heritage Center in Mount Sinai for the last few days.

On Sunday, Santa paid a special visit to the park for its annual breakfast. Year after year families get a closer look at Santa. Lori Baldassare, President of Heritage Trust, says residents also bring nonperishable food items that are donated to local pantries.

Tuscany Gourmet Market provided a buffet breakfast, and families met with Santa and could receive a professional photo by Faraz and Patricia Zaidi from Aw Snap Booths from Selden. Children were also given food for Santa’s reindeer to help jolly ole St. Nick find his way around the neighborhood on Christmas day.

Baldassare started Breakfast with Santa 21 years ago when she was the president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association. The event was held in the Handlebar restaurant in Mount Sinai — the restaurant owners sold the property 2008. In 2003, when the park was still in it’s early construction phase, Baldassare left the civic association for Heritage Trust, and the event followed.

“The community place is the perfect place to hold the event because it was created to be the [community’s] gathering place,” Baldassare said. “It signifies the tradition of [a] community.”

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