Tags Posts tagged with "Nonprofit"

Nonprofit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot races benefit Hauppauge-based nonprofit Christmas Magic

By Bill Landon

Thanks to Mount Sinai community members displaced children are once again getting what’s on their Christmas lists this year.

The school district’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club members teamed up with Strong Island Running Club and more than 36 local businesses and families for the 7th annual Mount Sinai Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Run to benefit Hauppauge-based nonprofit Christmas Magic.

According to running club founder John McHugh, the organization receives letters from children who write to Santa from area homeless shelters.

“Many were originally displaced back in 2008 as a result of the housing market crash,” McHugh said. “We get those letters, and with the proceeds of today’s race, we’ll go shopping next week and buy presents for the kids and host a dinner for them and their families.”

The races brought out more than 350 entrants, and Mount Sinai student-athletes swept the top five 5K spots. First across the finish line was Mount Sinai junior Sean Higgins, who is a member of the school’s varsity track and field and cross country teams. He clocked in at a personal best 17 minutes, 26:31.

“I practice at 7 a.m. every day,” the 17-year-old said. “I run for a living.”

Second across the finish line was teammate Ryan Wilson, who tripped the timer at 17:55.88. Mount Sinai runner Jackson Law finished in third with a time of 18:23.38, and was followed by his twin brother Christian who covered the distance in 18:24.97.

The first female finisher was Mount Sinai senior Noreen Guilfoyle, who finished in 18:35. It was her third consecutive first-place finish among females in the event.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” she said.

The event had the best turnout of any year so far, with event proceeds totaling just over $7,500, according to McHugh. After dinner, which will be held at Mount Sinai High School Dec. 6 at 5 p.m., there will be a visit from Santa where the kids will receive their gifts and sing Christmas carols.

“These people all have hearts of gold,” McHugh said. “It is our privilege to help make the holidays special for those children and families in need across Long Island.”

For more information about the collaboration, visit www.strongislandrunningclub.com or call 631-806-4649.

Huntington town officials will hold a public hearing on the future of Grateful Paw Cat Shelter Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. File photo

Huntington town officials are weighing the pros and cons of a change of leadership at Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, but some volunteers fear their minds are already made up.

The town board voted 4-1 to schedule a public hearing on Little Shelter Animal Rescue taking over operation of the town-owned cat shelter for Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Little Shelter was one of two organizations who responded to the Oct. 3 town’s request for proposals (RFP) by those looking to operate the shelter. The RFP is for a five-year contract to operate the cat shelter starting January 2018, undertaking the responsibilities of taking in and caring for any stray and displaced cats; emergency pickup of stray cats in the town; operating a trap, neuter and release program for feral cats; and facilitating cat adoptions by residents.

David Ceely, executive director of Little Shelter, believes his nonprofit’s experience as an independent no-kill shelter makes the company qualified for the job.

“We handle a lot of the emergencies, particularly the cat emergencies in Huntington already,” he said. “We think that facility has so much more potential. We would like to maximize the potential that facility has and represent the Town of Huntington.”

While Little Shelter has never had a formal business agreement with the town, according to Ceely, the nonprofit has informally worked to pull dogs from its town shelter to alleviate overcrowding and help prevent euthanasia due to lack of space.

The other application was submitted Nov. 3 by League of Animal Protection of Huntington, according to its president Debbie Larkin, who has run the nonprofit shelter for more than 40 years.

“I’d like to hope every council member and the departing supervisor had the chance to read through the proposals carefully,” Larkin said. “I hope that this response to the RFP was not an exercise in futility for us and their minds were already made up.”

The two responses were reviewed by a five-person panel comprised of representatives from the town attorney’s office and Department of Public Safety, according to town spokesman A.J.Carter. The applications were evaluated based on criteria outlined in the RFP: proof of not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status in good standing; sufficient employees/volunteers to operate the facility; plans for emergency cat pickup; adoption applicant criteria; breakdown of medical services provided for adopted cats; and submission of the past two years of shelter records and IRS 990 tax filings showing a not-for-profit status. Based on these criteria, the panel found Little Shelter to be the “successful, responsive and responsible proposer.”

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (R) was the only board member who voted against scheduling a public hearing on Little Shelter taking control of the cat shelter come January. Edwards said she is in favor of the town signing a contract with LAP.

“We were going to award the contract before to the [League of Animal Protection],” she said. “Now that they got their 501(c)(3) status back retroactively, I think it would have only been fair to give it back to them.”

Town officials first solicited bids from any organization interested in running the cat shelter earlier this spring, after it came to light in April that the LAP had lost its not-for-profit status with the IRS in 2015 but never notified the town. Huntington Attorney Cindy Mangano said the town became aware of this breach of the contractual agreement when drawing up a new document, as the previous agreement expired in December 2016.

At the June 13 town board meeting, council members voted to give LAP an extension until Nov. 30 to regain its not-for-profit status and halting the current RFP process.

The organization’s attorney and accountant were able to get its 501(c)(3) status reinstated by the IRS within five weeks, according to Larkin, and retroactively applied to the date it was lost.

LAP’s president and several of its volunteers called on town officials to make an executive order to immediately approve the contractual agreement previously drawn up this spring at the Aug. 15 board meeting, which would extend the organization’s operation of the cat shelter.

Instead, Supervisor Frank Petrone (R) insisted the town was legally obligated to move forward with the RFP process, otherwise fearing it could run the risk of another interested party taking them into court over the matter.

WWE Wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley poses for a photo with the Castoro family during his event Sept. 7 where he raised funds for autistic families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Kevin Redding

Wanting to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, wrestling icon and Smithtown resident Mick Foley stopped by a local comic book shop Sept. 7 to sign autographs for a cause close to home.

The big-bearded and even bigger-hearted 52-year-old best known to WWE fans as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love visited Fourth World Comics on Route 112 in Smithtown to sign autographs, pose for pictures and raise money for KultureCity, a Birmingham, Alabama-based nonprofit advocating for autism awareness and acceptance.

WWE wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley poses for a photo with young children during an event at a comic book store in Smithtown where he raised money for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Photo by Kevin Redding

Foley helped raise $3,240 for the organization that is helping dozens of special needs families that have been affected by the Category 4 storm in Houston, Texas.

When he found out the group had members on the ground in Texas, and special needs families were struggling with torn-apart homes and lost items, he knew he had to get involved. The organization is also near and dear to Foley, because his son is autistic.

“Anyone who knows about children on the autism spectrum know they tend to thrive on regularity, and so to take everything they have and to suddenly turn that upside down is just devastating — even above and beyond what other families are going through,” Foley said. “This just seemed like a good way to make a difference. The money we raise may not change the world, but it will change the lives of these families.”

As a frequent shopper and celebrity guest at Fourth World in recent years, Foley took his idea for the meet-and-greet fundraiser directly to Glenn Fischette, the comic book store’s owner.

“It was really last minute, [but] as we can’t really go down there and help, we figured this is a good way to do it,” said Fischette, adding that he and Foley spent a day and a half blasting the event across social media after Foley proposed the idea Sept. 5. By 5 p.m. on the day of the event, an hour before Foley was set to arrive, a long line of super fans had already assembled outside.

WWE wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley meets young fans during a signing to raise money for Hurricane Harvey victims. Photo by Kevin Redding

“People just love him. I know a lot of people who’ve been here before to see him, and they want to see him again,” the owner said. “He’s really into the charity stuff, so it’s great.”

Set up behind a table inside Fourth World Comics, Foley put a smile on the faces of hundreds of adults, teens and kids eager to meet their hero as he signed shirts and his own Pop! Vinyl doll for $20 to $30.

The Castoro family, from Smithtown — parents Jason and Nicole, and their 9-year-old kids Marilena and Brandon — were at the front of the line, each of them donning a wrestling shirt. As excited as they were for Foley, they came to support the cause, too.

“I think it’s wonderful he’s using his celebrity status for a good cause,” said Jason Castoro, a lifelong fan. “Sometimes when we go to meet famous wrestlers, you have to wait on a long line, and that’s just to meet them and take a picture. This really adds something special to it. We realized we had to come to this.”

Nicole Castoro pointed to her daughter, Marinella, who she said came up with a similar idea on her own.

“The other day, she said, ‘why can’t all the wrestlers just give the people in Texas the money they make?’ and here he is, giving them all the proceeds,” she said. “That’s really cool.”

WWR wrestler and Smithtown resident Mick Foley signs an autograph for Chance Clanton, of Austin, Texas, who is staying in New York for the week. Photo by Kevin Redding

Another lifelong WWE and Foley fan was Chance Clanton, an Austin, Texas resident staying in New York for the week. He said he has friends in Houston and is grateful for the overwhelming support from everybody, including his childhood idol.

“It’s really cool that he’s taking time out of his really busy schedule to show support for something like this,” Clanton said. “But it also really was no surprise to me when I heard he doing it, he’s so charitable.”

Throughout the event, Foley shared stories from his career, goofed off and laughed with fans, all the while thanking each and every one of them for being there.

“I’m really flattered by the length of that line — I didn’t think there would be this many people,” Foley said. “This shows the strength and the heart of the Smithtown community and the surrounding areas. We’re called Strong Island for a reason. We pull together. And that’s really nice to know.”

Steve Kramer raising money to bring Berlinda to U.S. to undergo surgery on her two clubbed feet

By Desirée Keegan

Through the efforts of a retired physicist, an orthopedic surgeon from Stony Brook University and a dedicated Haitian who has since moved to Long Island, a 16-year-old from Haiti is on a path with more open doors than ever.

Berlinda was born with two clubbed feet, though she is motivated to better herself, with the dream of one day walking on her own two feet. Steve Kramer, a retired Brookhaven National Lab accelerator physicist met the student in Haiti through Life & Hope Haiti, a nonprofit founded by Haitian-American Lucia Anglade, who built the Eben Ezer School in her hometown of Milot, Haiti.

Berlinda practices arithmetic. Photo from Steve Kramer

“She had only been at the school for a few months and she was already learning basic arithmetic,” Kramer said of seeing Berlinda back in March, after meeting her during her introduction to the school in December. “I gave her two columns of work and she handed it back to me with a big smile and said, ‘more.’”

Berlinda has spirit, according to many who have met her, and Kramer was so moved by the story that he reached out to Dr. Wesley Carrion at Stony Brook University School of Medicine’s orthopedics department about performing surgery to fix the girl’s feet. He agreed to do it free of charge.

When he contacted Carrion, Kramer said his secretary Joan mentioned he was deployed in Afghanistan and she didn’t know when he would return. Within a day or two she called to tell him she’d heard from the doctor, who said he’d return by April. In May, the two met.

“I sent him copies of Berlinda’s X-rays and the video and he said he felt he could treat her and rotate the feet, and he would donate his time and get the equipment donated,” Kramer said. “That was a big relief. I felt it might become a reality.”

Carrion had informed Kramer that he would need to get the hospital to donate some of the costs, so Kramer reached out to the Department of Medicine’s Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, who serves as vice president for health systems and chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Hospital.

What the external cages look like that will be used to repair Berlinda’s clubbed feet. Photo from Steve Kramer

“He said they would cover her hospital costs,” Kramer said after his meeting with Pasternak in July. “This was a bigger relief since beside rotating the club feet we need to check out the status of the hole her spinal column might still have from the spinal bifida she was diagnosed as having. Everyone told me the hole doesn’t close up on its own, but she is doing so well that it may have, but it needs to be checked and closed if it is still open.”

To help bring Berlinda to the United States, Kramer set up a GoFundMe to raise money for her flight cost and other post-operation expenses.

“The fundraising has been going slower than I had hoped, even though everyone I contact is verbally supportive,” he said. “As a physicist my human appeal needs a lot of improvement to really move people to give. But then I look at the video and see the determination she has and feel she will deal with it as she has the tragic events she has already endured and I know she will persevere and will learn to walk.”

Following the surgery, Berlinda will be in the hospital for four months, getting her feet rotated to stretch the tendons as part of the healing process. Her legs will be in cages called external frames that will be attached by pins drilled into her leg bones. Because these create open wounds, it’s best for her to stay the hospital instead of returning to Haiti, to keep the wounds sterile. While recovering, she will continue to go through schooling, which will be one-on-one instead of in a larger classroom back in Haiti.

Without the construction of The Eben Ezer School, Berlinda’s struggles might never have come to light for Kramer. What began as a 10-child school back in 2001 has grown to population over 400, according to Anglade.

“I took the $7,000 I received from my tax return and decided I wanted to build a school in my home country — that had been my motivation,” said Anglade, who now lives in West Babylon. “I’m so blessed. I thank God for that, say thank you all the time. It’s a big school now, and we’re still helping.”

Berlinda crawls on her hands and knees because she cannot walk with her two clubbed feet. Photo from Steve Kramer

Anglade first visited Berlinda at her house, and heard from the 16-year-old how her brothers and sisters attended school, and she wished she could join them. Because the school is far from her house, she couldn’t walk there.

“I went to her house and she was quiet, said she can’t go to school,” Anglade said. “I told her I was going to help her, and I took her to the school. I pay someone to stay with her at the school. Her dream is to walk, to learn, to be someone. She wants to be happy.”

Kramer and Stony Brook University Hospital are making her dream a reality.

“Thank God for Steve — he has a good heart and I can’t do it by myself,” Anglade said. “With all my heart, I am so happy. Steve has put in a lot of effort to helping Berlinda make her dream come true.”

Kramer first visited the Eben Ezer School through Wading River’s North Shore United Methodist Church in 2015. He joined a group visiting Haiti in February, and has since visited three more times by himself and with Anglade. They are working toward improving the facilities at the school through solar power and updating the water system.

Kramer also provided economic opportunities for students and natives of the town. He cultivated a group of farmers that grow ancient Egyptian wheat, kumat, which is exported to the U.S.

Now, he’s trying to help provide a future for Berlinda.

“She’s very positive, she’s a sponge for learning,” he said. “I just want to help this Haitian girl who has had a tragic life story so far, but has kept her joy of life and has determination to improve herself.”

Sixteen-year-old Berlinda from Haiti will be receiving surgery on her two clubbed feet at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Steve Kramer

Amy Miller, of Maine, who has helped Anglade since 2007, said she finds what Kramer is doing admirable.

“I met Berlinda and I really respect his desire to help her move forward,” she said. “You meet someone and they kind of capture your heart, and I think you have to follow your heart. That’s what he’s doing.”

Both said they are also moved by Anglade’s motivation.

“I am tremendously inspired by Lucia,” Miller said. “She’s a force. Lucia is a person that astounds most people that meet her — her energy and her commitment. She loves the kids and it’s wonderful to watch. The community once said she should be their mayor after she brought water to the school she also to the community. She’s quite something.”

Anglade said she’s just doing what she thinks is right, in giving back to her hometown.

“My four kids here go to school, they’re in college, they eat every day, but in Haiti, we don’t have enough to feed over 400 kids, so sometimes when we’re down there for a week or two, we can only feed them for one week,” Anglade said. “I can’t go every week, but if I could go every week, every month, I’d go, just to help them. For me to be able to go down there to help those students, my community, I’m so happy to do it. I really feel good about it.”

To donate to help get Berlinda to the United States and to receive the care and post-treatment she will need, visit www.gofundme.com/BerlindasMiracle. To find out more about Life and Hope Haiti, or to get involved, visit www.lifeandhopehaiti.org.

Ring 10 raises money to help abandoned fighters, those down on their luck

Ring 10 boxers smile during a fundraiser. Photo from Facebook

By Kevin Redding

It was one of the few times Howard Davis Jr.’s wife saw him cry in public.

The Glen Cove native and Olympic gold medalist who made history in 1976 as the first amateur boxer to win the New York Golden Gloves tournament four years in a row had just about lost hope that he would ever get back his coveted awards, which were stolen from him and sold at a garage sale.

Matt Farrago with the late boxer and Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. Photo from Karla Guadamuz Davis

That all changed Sept. 13, 2015, when he was honored by Matt Farrago and his New York-based nonprofit, Ring 10, during a gala at Marina del Rey Caterers in the Bronx.

Davis, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer earlier that year at 59 and was on a personal mission to retrieve the mementos for his family before it was too late, was presented with four golden pendants.

Each one was a perfect replica of his lost golden gloves pendants, made and paid for by Ring 10. Veteran fighters from the nonprofit took turns placing them around his neck.

All Davis could do was bury his head in his hands.

“It was such an emotional moment and it was all because of Matt Farrago and Ring 10,” his wife Karla Guadamuz-Davis said, adding that the organization regularly helped pay for her now-late husband’s expensive medical treatment. “After Howard passed away on Dec. 30, 2015, I called Matt and said, ‘Thank you for giving Howard some joy during the last months of his life.’”

For Farrago, 56, a former middleweight boxer who lives in Greenlawn, helping retired fighters who have fallen on hard times is what he does every single day as the founder and president of Ring 10.

Formed in 2010 with a board of directors made up of ex-fighters, a cutman and some boxing advocates that meet once a month in the Bronx, the group stands as one of the few in the world that looks out for those who have been beaten in and out of the ring. Veteran boxers who are often discarded by managers and promoters at the top of their careers have been lost ever since, and that’s where Farrago comes in.

Ring 10 founder Matt Farrago with board member Richard Schwartz. Photo from Facebook

A majority of them wind up in physical and financial ruin because, unlike other professional sports like football, baseball or hockey, protected by NFL, MLB and NHL agencies, there’s no retirement or medical plan or structure in boxing for them to rely on.

You’re by yourself in the ring and in life, Farrago said.

“This is the rare sport that doesn’t take care of its own,” said Farrago, who was a top fighter in the 1980s until he was abandoned by his manager after losing a main event at Madison Square Garden. “There’s nothing — no safety net — nothing for these guys to fall back on. In boxing, if you don’t produce, you’re of no use. That’s the manager’s philosophy.”

He explained that while most athletes are drafted into the pros based on scholarships and achievements in college, that’s almost never the case for fighters, many of whom come up from the streets.

“If they make money, they think it’s going to last forever,” Farrago said. “Then they wake up with $150 in the bank. Whatever it takes, we try and get them back on their feet. We are the most effective club like this in the world.”

One of Ring 10’s proudest success stories is that of Iran “The Blade” Barkley, the World Boxing Council middleweight champion of 1988. The only guy to beat boxing legend Tommy Hearns twice, Barkley went from top of the world to homeless in the Bronx.

Matt Farago with elebrated boxing judge and analyst Harold Lederman. Photo from Facebook

“We were literally told there’s a fighter in the subway system living only with a bag of clothes and his championship belt,” Farrago said. “When Iran retired, he had nothing. We took him in, got him settled, got him a place to live, had social services kick in and about a year and a half ago he got married to a nurse.”

Barkley now serves on the group’s board of directors, which also includes top boxers Mark Breland and Richard Burton, and celebrated boxing judge Harold Lederman.

Since its inception, Ring 10 has raised thousands of dollars through events and banquets to help more than 30 top fighters struggling around the world.

They send monthly gift cards to boxers who can’t afford groceries and clothes, and checks to the families of those suffering from illnesses such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy — an extremely common degenerative disease among fighters that’s brought on by repetitive brain trauma, also known as “punch-drunk syndrome.”

For the last six years the group has helped out former two-time middleweight champion Gerald McClellan, who suffered an aneurysm and collapsed in the ring in 1995 and is now blind and 80 percent deaf; it frequently sends care packages to Charlie “White Lightning” Brown, who was once regarded as having the fastest hands in the fight game and now resides in a nursing facility in Illinois with fluid on his brain and difficulty speaking; and even provided a proper headstone for a Floridian fighter who died from injuries in the ring and was buried in a nameless plot in Flushing, Queens.

Matt Farrago. Photo from Facebook

While most of the boxers helped are between 45 and 60 years old, board members said they anticipate some younger guys currently in the ring coming to them for help.

“Boxers are basically pawns to be moved around,” said Richard Schwartz, one of the board of directors. “I also think there’s the feeling that a lot of people just don’t care — they don’t care about the modern-day gladiators who get in the ring to entertain them, who risk their lives. Once they hang up their gloves and a lot of the hits to the head kick in, many of them don’t even have any kind of medical insurance when they need it most. Where is Don King? Where is Oscar De La Hoyas? These people have made hundreds of millions of dollars from the sweat, blood and tears of these fighters, and where are they?”

To Burton, a boxer who has been swindled out of a fair share of money over the years, there’s hope as long as Farrago is around.

“Everything he says he does, he actually does,” Burton said. “He goes beyond what’s expected of him and he’ll help anybody. If you’re down on your luck, Matt will find a way to raise money for you. Ring 10 is helping as many fighters as we can.”

The Ring 10 7th Annual Fundraiser will be held at the Marina del Rey Caterers in the Bronx Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By Kevin Redding

Since the untimely passing of Tom Cutinella in October 2014, the memory of Shoreham’s beloved student-athlete has lived on within the district, from the dedication of the high school’s athletic field in his name to a life-size bust and memorial wall close to it.

But perhaps no remembrance captures the kindhearted spirit of the fallen football player quite like the newly built “buddy bench,” to be installed on the playground at Wading River Elementary School.

“Character is what sets us aside from one another. This ‘buddy bench’ will inspire you all even more to be like Thomas and Kaitlyn … to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”

—Kelli Cutinella

Adorned with the inscription “Be A Friend Make A Friend” underneath the dedication “In Loving Memory of Thomas Cutinella,” the bench serves to eliminate loneliness and promote friendship among children — when those feeling alone or bullied sit on the bench, other students are encouraged to take a seat next to them and ask if they want to be friends.

It was donated in Cutinella’s honor by Kait’s Angels, a North Fork-based non-profit started just weeks after Mattituck resident Kaitlyn Doorhy, a 20-year-old college student at Sacred Heart University, was struck and killed by a car in August 2014.

So far, the organization has installed more than 10 benches in her memory at every elementary school on the North Fork, including Cutchogue East and Greenport, as well as a senior center in Southold. This is the first one built in someone else’s name.

“This bench defines what Tom stood for,” Kelli Cutinella, Tom’s mother, told students, administrators and parents packed into the elementary school’s gym for the bench’s ribbon-cutting ceremony June 16. Speaking directly to the students, she said, “character is what sets us aside from one another. This ‘buddy bench’ will inspire you all even more to be like Thomas and Kaitlyn … to do the right thing, even when no one is looking … have that character that sets you aside from everyone and always let your peers know they have a friend and are never alone.”

“Their legacy has come together for a special reason and Kaitlin and Thomas will always be remembered here. Even though they’re not here in the flesh, their spirits live on.”

—Darla Doorhy

It was during his years at the elementary school that Cutinella started being recognized as someone special, who took the school’s teachings about trustworthiness, respect and caring to heart.

He was a kind, selfless kid who was quick to help others and make friends with anyone he crossed paths with, no matter who they were.

“[Tom] was a friend to everyone, and I mean everyone,” said Cutinella, who was joined at the event by her husband, Frank, and their children. “He was a natural helper and a best buddy.”

Cutinella’s life was was tragically cut short nearly three years ago following a head-on collision with an opposing player on a football field during a high school game.

Darla Doorhy, Kaitlin’s mother, reached out to Kelli Cutinella around Christmas time to discuss collaborating on the dedication, which took about six months to come to fruition. The bench was purchased by Kait’s Angels from Belson Outdoors in Illinois.

She said Tom and her daughter — who had been a Girl Scout ambassador, National Honor Society member, multi-sport athlete, musician and organizer for countless fundraising efforts — were very similar in their generosity towards others, right down to being registered organ donors.

“Their legacy has come together for a special reason and Kaitlin and Thomas will always be remembered here,” Doorhy said. “Even though they’re not here in the flesh, their spirits live on.”

“The truth is that every one of you has the power to transform the world in the decisions you make. If you see anyone sitting on that bench, that means you go up and ask, ‘Hey, can you come and play with me?’

—Louis Parrinello

Cutinella agreed there’s a special connection between their children, and said she was humbled to be approached by Doorhy and Kait’s Angels.

“Certainly there’s a commonality of the tragedies,” President of Kait’s Angels, William Araneo, said. “Although physically there will always be an empty chair, her presence remains strong … she continues to find ways to bring us together and this is one example of that. And just like Tom, Kaitlin reserved a place in her heart for those who may not have been popular, and persevered to make friends with those who might be developmentally challenged.”

Wading River Elementary School Principal Louis Parrinello called on a few students from each grade, starting with second, to place notes they wrote earlier in the day into a large basket next to the bench.

Scribbled on the notes were ways in which a student could make friends with another; one student wrote, “I can make a friend by playing with them,” while another student’s note said, “I can make a friend by talking to them about what they like.”

A small group of students who knew Cutinella personally were called up to cut the ribbon and be the first to sit on the bench.

“We learn about people in history, like Abraham Lincoln and Betsy Ross … people who have transformed the world,” Parrinello said to the room of students, “but the truth is that every one of you has the power to transform the world in the decisions you make. If you see anyone sitting on that bench, that means you go up and ask, ‘Hey, can you come and play with me?’ It’s about opening up and starting something new.”

The Heritage Trust, a nonprofit, is looking for help in raising funds to repair Heritage Park's playground. File photo by Erika Karp

Heritage Park has some new arrivals.

Following the unveiling of the plant maze and with a splash pad currently in the works, a free book exchange program has landed at the Mount Sinai square.

The Little Free Library, a free book exchange, is located near the playground, alongside the shack at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. Photo by Fred Drewes

The park’s newest addition — Little Free Library — can be found next to the shack concession stand, which sits alongside the playground on the west side of the park. A nonprofit organization, Little Free Library inspires a love of reading and builds community relationships by fostering neighborhood book exchanges. According to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61 percent of low-income families do not have access to books for their children at home, and the organization hopes to increase that access for readers of all ages and backgrounds. The books, which can be borrowed or swapped, are located in a red, house-shaped box on a post in front of a large rock near the shack at the Wedge.

Heritage Trust, the nonprofit that runs the park and the Heritage Center, is also working on enhancing the playground. Repairing and improving the park is a priority for the organization, with the playground being one of the most-used features at the Wedge. With much of the fundraising being weather dependent, the trust has had a difficult time keeping up with events while finding the funds needed to fix sections of the playground. Currently, pieces of the playground have been closed for use, and with the repairs costing more than the trust anticipates — about $7,000 — the nonprofit is looking for the community’s help.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the trust come up with the money to make repairs.

“Our children in the community really love Heritage Park,” the trust wrote on the GoFundMe page. “The playground gets lots of use, but the repairs are costly. We remain dedicated to maintaining and improving our park for everyone who wants a safe place to enjoy the open spaces and participate in community activities.”

To contribute to Heritage Trust’s fundraising efforts, visit www.gofundme.com/heritageplayground.

Andrew Rosa in his new Quadriciser, which was donated by members of the Marty Lyons Foundation and other donors. Photo from the Marty Lyons Foundation

The Marty Lyons Foundation was among a group of donors who helped make a dream come true for Selden resident Andrew Rosa.

The foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illness, together with mother and son Eileen Valenti and Blake Burgan of Sachem and sisters Dawn and Kim Roesch of the Roesch Law firm in East Meadow, raised money to purchase a Quadriciser rehabilitation chair to assist in Rosa’s recovery.

Now 22 years old, Rosa was a college-bound teenager, junior firefighter, BMX biker and snowboarder. In 2010, he was struck by a car while he was riding his bike. The force of the impact left him in a coma for months while he fought for his life. He sustained a traumatic brain injury and became physically disabled, unable to walk or speak.

In 2013, Rosa’s mother JoAnn applied to the Marty Lyons Foundation for a wish for her son. While he was immediately approved for a wish, he and his family were not quite sure what would be the most appropriate wish. When Rosa’s occupational therapist discussed the great benefits of the Quadriciser with his family, it became quite evident that this was his wish.

“The goal is for Andrew to use the Quadriciser in the home setting on a regular basis to improve his physical capabilities,” his mother said. “It is our hope that he will eventually be able to stand and perhaps take a few steps on his own.”

Currently, Rosa requires 24/7 nursing care, while receiving lots of love and support from his friends and family. He is showing signs of regaining brain function as a result of the intense therapy he receives in his home.

Because this miraculous piece of equipment was way beyond the financial parameters of the organization’s guidelines, others became involved to provide outside fundraising to help Rosa. Through the efforts of the foundation’s wish coordinators, Terri Fudens and John Gordon, multiple donors generously contributed to the purchase of the Quadriciser, including a GoFundMe page set up by the Burgans, and a generous donation from the Roesch Law firm.

“Andrew’s wish took four years to complete,” Fudens said. “But it was well worth the effort.”

The Quadriciser Rosa received stimulates the brain and simultaneously encourages muscle memory in the extremities which later results in neurological connections and advancements.

The equipment lets a patient move his or her arms and legs in patterns that closely simulate walking and crawling. For the first time in years Rosa’s arms and legs can move simultaneously.

Local nonprofits gathered in East Northport to share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

A community bank and a financial education group recently partnered up in an effort to help local nonprofits thrive.

On March 25, the Equity First Foundation, an organization that primarily works with small businesses in financial distress, hosted a community breakfast for nonprofit organizers and supporters at Investors Bank in East Northport.

The networking event gave the crowd of good-hearted people who advocate for important causes across Suffolk County a rare opportunity to exchange business cards and ideas with one another.

Equity First Foundation Founder and President Rhonda Klch, a Rocky Point resident, speaks to local nonprofits during a community breakfast. Photo by Kevin Redding

Representatives from a wide range of volunteer organizations — that help everybody from families to children to veterans — bonded over their shared interest in providing a service to those who need it most.

Priscilla Arena, executive director of Suffolk Asperger-Autism Sport and Information, a Mount Sinai nonprofit that serves the needs of the autism community throughout Long Island, said the event benefitted nonprofits far better than social media ever could.

“There’s nothing better than a face-to-face meeting with anyone, with any decision makers,” Arena said. “And here you have a room of decision makers and people that make things happen. You have the right people in the room, it’s communities helping other communities and it’s fantastic.”

Communities helping other communities is exactly what pushed Investment Bank Branch Manager and Miller Place resident Amanda Seppi to pursue the idea of the gathering with her frequent collaborator Rhonda Klch, a Mount Sinai resident and executive director of the Equity First Foundation.

Seppi, whose bank is geared toward community grassroots organizations and overall community giving, said she wanted to bring nonprofits from the local area together to network with one another and potentially help strengthen their individual causes.

“I was finding that nonprofits don’t necessarily interact with one another to develop strategies to grow, and I figured it was a win-win for everybody to be able to learn about one another,” Seppi said. “[Ultimately], I want them to be able to reach a wider audience, to be able to raise funds in order to escalate and continue to do the good they’re trying to do for the community.”

The nonprofits don’t have the exposure they deserve, she added.

“I’d like to bring as much attention to the people who are doing good for nothing, it’s important to me to have them grow and do well,” Seppi said.

Klch agreed, feeling as though the nonprofits could use all the help they could get in terms of funding, which all nonprofits rely on to survive.

Through Investors Foundation at the bank, nonprofits can receive grants and scholarships.

Members of local nonprofits share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

“With a lot of changes happening in the economy, a lot of grants are no longer available, qualifying for funding is much more difficult and even your local business community that would normally support different fundraising initiatives, because of their own setbacks, aren’t able to provide as much,” Klch said. “What we’re looking to do is have nonprofits partner and work uniformly. If I have money or resources coming into my organization, I can offer it to somebody else.”

Klch presented “The Haven,” a beachside retreat that nonprofits can offer to clients who may be facing economic hardships caused by illness, death and addiction. The retreat would serve as a mental reprieve for individuals and families, as well as a sponsorship opportunity.

Among some of the organizations at the gathering were Youth Directions & Alternatives, a community agency that serves youth and families in the Northport-East Northport-Elwood-Harborfields school districts; Maria’Z Hope Foundation, a group made up of women dedicated to providing support for those seeking an alternative approach to medical healing; and East Northport-based General Needs, which helps homeless Long Island veterans and their families through charitable donations and support.

Lonnie Sherman, founder of General Needs, started the group 10 years ago when he realized there were 5,000 homeless veterans on Long Island without basic necessities like socks, underwear and boots. Today, the group takes care of about 3,000 of them, cooking food, helping to treat those suffering from PTSD and delivering hundreds of pairs of boots so they can get jobs.

A recent grant from Investors Bank allowed the group to help veterans get apartments.

“When I go to an event like this, I want to walk out having had a conversation with one person that’s going to listen, so we get the word out … ultimately that’s going to make a difference,” he said. “We [nonprofits] are the ones who can make a difference.”

Social

4,852FansLike
5Subscribers+1
1,013FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe