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Northport

Photo from National Oceananic and Atmospheric Administration.

A Northport man was struck by lightning in front of his home at 10:48 p.m. June 2 during a heavy thunderstorm.

Northport fire department officials said Jonathan Borriello, 29, went out to his front porch to get a better view of the thunderstorm and realized the U.S. flag was still being displayed. He took the flag down and placed it on the porch. He remained on the porch and a moment later, a tree about 11 feet away, was struck by a bolt of lightning. The bolt ricocheted and struck him on the left shoulder and arm, and he was thrown about twenty feet.

The Northport Police and Fire Departments responded to the scene. Police on the scene observed burn marks to the victim’s hands and he complained of tingling in his legs. According to Northport Fire Department Chief John Jacobsen, the victim was transported to Huntington Hospital via Northport Fire Rescue with non-life threating injuries. He was treated and released from the hospital.

Jonathan later stated that at the moment the bolt struck, there was an incredible white light and crashing sound, and then he was on the ground. He also reported that there are embers on the porch where he was standing.

The Northport Police would like to remind everyone that thunderstorms can be very dangerous and that you should remain inside a secure structure until the storm has passed.

Northport VA Medical Center. File photo

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the appointment of Dr. Antonio Sanchez as the new director of the Northport VA Medical Center. He is taking over for interim director Dr. Cathy Cruise. Sanchez will oversee delivery of health care to more than 31,000
veterans.  

“We are excited to bring Dr. Sanchez on board as the new director of the Northport VA Medical Center,” said Dr. Joan E. McInerney, director of Veterans Integrated Service Network. “His sound leadership qualities and proven experience will be valuable assets for the facility, the employees and volunteers, and most importantly, for the veterans we are honored to serve. We anticipate he will arrive at the medical center within the next 45 to 60 days to begin his appointment.”

Sanchez joined the VA more than 18 years ago and has held positions at the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most recently, he has been serving as the acting medical center director in Puerto Rico, operating 230 hospital beds, 30 psychiatric beds, a 122-bed Community Living Center, among others for a total of 382 operating beds. He has overall responsibility for 3,700 full-time equivalent employees and a $600 million budget.

Sanchez is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has a board certification as a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives. He received both his doctor of medicine degree and master’s in healthcare services administration from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Science Campus.  

The VA hospital has been without a full director since Scott Guermonprez left the position in July of last year after only one year at the helm.

The Northport VA has been plagued with staff shortages in recent years, including a federal investigation last year showing a chronic nursing shortage.

Lisa Cooper embraces her son Dante Lombardo at a recent reunion. Photo from Lisa Cooper

Mental health, particularly among service members, often seems to be a forgotten topic. One man and his Northport High School friends want to change that by riding bicycles this June from New York to California to raise awareness about mental health concerns among those who have served our nation’s military. 

Dante Lombardo in uniform. Photo from Lombardo

Dante Lombardo is a former U.S. Marine who was medically discharged due to his mental health. The East Northport resident,  who graduated from Northport High School in 2015, served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 2015 to 2019. He was trained as a digital wideband transmission equipment operator and as a field radio operator. 

Throughout Lombardo’s time in the Marine Reserves, he struggled with depression and anxiety, and like many others in a similar position, tried to “tough it out,” because that’s what he said the current military culture dictates. “Nearly anybody who has served can tell you that it is highly frowned upon to seek out mental health care,” he explained.

These issues came to a head in April of last year for Lombardo, when he attempted to take his own life. Thankfully, he was connected with a local behavioral health service, giving access to the counseling and the psychiatric care he needed. 

“Had it not been for these services, I do not believe I would have ever begun the path to wellness that I am on today,” said Lombardo.

Unfortunately, many service members suffer from similar mental health issues but do not seek out the help provided by the military, Lombardo said, in fear of being separated from duty due to their issues.

The statistics are staggering.

“We see 20 veterans each day take their own lives,” said Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist who created in 2005 a national network of professionals who provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones and their community. “People think that because the war is over, so are the challenges, but that’s not the case.” 

‘People think that because the war is over, so are the challenges, but that’s not the case.’

— Barbara Van Dahlen

As for Lombardo, he may no longer wear his Marine uniform, but he and his bike team are committed to fighting for their fellow service members. 

Lombardo, Brian Fabian and Anthony Rubin, all Northport High School graduates,  just earned their college degrees. Lombardo graduated from Clinton College, Fabian from SUNY Plattsburgh last weekend and Rubin from SUNY Buffalo. Now, they’re raising money in a GoFundMe campaign to pay for expenses that occur throughout the trip. Proceeds remaining will be donated to Give an Hour, which earns exceptional ratings as a charity on Guidestar. 

Give an Hour was chosen, the bike team stated, because it is an organization that is not affiliated with the Department of Defense and can provide mental health services to those in need, without running the risk of negative consequences from the service members chain of command. Lombardo said that the charity could provide service members the opportunity to get help and start healing before their issues become a crisis that demands the official attention of their command, or one that brings harm to themselves or others, while simultaneously defending them from the stigma of needing mental health care while serving.

“The need is huge,” Van Dahlen said in a phone interview. She is honored and grateful for Lombardo’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for the non-profit. 

Van Dahlen emphasizes the need for collaborative approach to address the issues. “We really can take care of the understandable mental health needs of those who serve and their families,” Van Dahlen said. “If we work together and coordinate services — we in the government, nonprofit and private sectors — our country can hopefully step up to serve those who have given so much.”

Northport residents Dante Lombardo, Brian Fabian and Anthony Rubin are riding bicycles cross-country to raise awareness about military mental health issues. Photo from Coast to Coast for Mental Health, Dante Lombardo’s supporters.

It’s a concept that Lombardo and his bike team understand. “This fight is not one person’s burden to bear, but instead one we face together.”

During the team’s travels cross-country, they plan to volunteer in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, elderly care homes and other places that offer opportunities to give back. Their journey aims to seek out and hear the testimonies of veterans nationwide so their stories may be heard. 

The bike team has created a Facebook group page, Coast-to-Coast for Mental Health, which will be updated to post stories and experiences of the team, as well as testimonies of those who have suffered. This trip is a humanitarian interactive wellness journey as seen through three young Long Island men who are raising awareness for those who suffer with mental health issues all too often in silence. 

Lombardo encourages people to share the funding page, the Facebook page, as well as sharing their own stories. His message to the public, “We’ll be seeing you on the trail.”

The Times of Huntington will provide updates of the team’s journey in upcoming issues.

The GoFundMe page, Give an Hour website and an overview of the charity from Charity Navigator  can be found at: 

GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/tmt6z-coast-to-coast-for-mental-health

Give an Hour: www.giveanhour.org

Charity Navigator: www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=17415

Northport-East Northport school district. File photo

Three seats are open, and three candidates are running for the Northport-East Northport Board of Education. All three candidates have a range of experience in the education field. One incumbent, Allison Noonan, who is seeking a second term, is among the people on the ballot.

Larry Licopoli

Larry Licopoli, now retired, was a school superintendent for 22 years and has lived in the Northport community for 17 years. Two of his children graduated from Northport High School in 2011 and 2013, and he has two young grandchildren who currently live in the district. 

Licopoli, according to his published statements, would like to see more transparent and easier to understand budget process and strategic plans. He would also like the board meetings to incorporate a more friendly public comment portion that “ditches the timer.” As a board member, he hopes to better engage the community in the district’s schools. 

“As a professional educator for 47 years, I believe my experiences can further serve the Northport-East Northport community as we grapple with revenue and enrollment issues and, more importantly, what it means to educate the whole child,” Licopoli said. “I will be that board member who will collaborate and work with the whole board focusing on our district mission.”

Thomas Loughran

Thomas Loughran works as a federal litigation paralegal for a law firm that represents the interests of school districts, municipalities and police departments. He is currently finishing his Bachelor of Arts degree at Fordham University, majoring in organization leadership and political science. He’s been a district resident most of his life. 

Loughran’s published statements on the district’s website explains that one of his goals, if elected, would be for the district to better utilize the committee structure to address issues such as potential declining enrollment. He also would like the board of education to exhaust all options to reduce the tax burden on citizens. 

“I am running for the board of education because I have lived in Northport/East Northport for most of the last 40 years. I love this community,” Loughran said. “I started becoming involved in the school district several years ago, by attending board of education meetings, and it didn’t take long to figure out that the school district is facing some serious obstacles.”

Loughran said that he plans to use his skills and passion for his community to help the school district that he grew up in.

Allison Noonan

Allison Noonan has worked in public education for 25 years and is currently employed as an educator in the Syosset Central School District.  A Northport resident since 2009, She has twin 9th graders in the district. Noonan has previously served as co-president of the district’s PTA council and in 2012 the National PTA Founders recognized her with a life achievement award. Noonan has also been honored in 2014 by the Harvard Club of Long Island as a Distinguished Teacher of the Year. 

Noonan says she is well-versed in the LIPA case. That issue and shrinking enrollment are two matters she considers the most pertinent for the community to address through long-term planning that involves all stakeholders.

Former Northport Mayor George Doll with Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe. File photo from Tom Kehoe

Northport trustee Tom Kehoe has stepped down from his appointed position as deputy mayor of Northport but will remain in his elected position of trustee. Kehoe began construction on his Northport home, he said, before receiving proper permits. In consultation with the mayor, it was decided to be the best option, since the situation was too much of a distraction.

Kehoe’s home has been boarded up and vacant since it burned down in May 2017. After the town granted permission to demolish the structure, which was in December 2018, Kehoe said that he poured a new foundation in January and started framing the house in March.

“Shame on me,” Kehoe said. “I’m taking responsibility, I’m taking my medicine.” He is waiting now for the proper authorizations before continuing with the work, he said, and his paperwork has been filed with the building department.  

Kehoe attributes the delay in authorizing the demolition of his home to a conflict with the village’s architectural review and preservation board. He said that he had to prove that his home was neither historical nor architecturally significant.  

Kehoe has served as a Northport trustee since 2006 and was most recently re-elected in 2018.

“I have two years and 11 months to fulfill my term,” Kehoe said. He said that he expects to continue to serve village residents.  

Kehoe said that he will need to meet with the zoning board to address issues related to removing a side entrance and correcting an 18-inch error in footing positions.

Northport inn and restaurant is planned. Rendering from Kevin O’Neill

After a nearly two-year site-plan process, the Northport Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved March 26 the proposed Northport Hotel at 225 Main St. 

The hotel project, once complete, will include a 24-room hotel, a 124-seat restaurant with 50 additional seats in the lobby and bar area.

“This is probably the largest investment on Main Street since the [John W. Engeman] theater,” the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Tony Catapano said.

His agency approved in February a $1.3 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the hotel. The 15-year agreement offers the hotel savings on mortgage recording and sales and property taxes.  

Catapano said the agency determined the tax incentives would save the hotel developers about 29 percent over the span of the 15 years. By 2035, the hotel would be paying full taxes estimated at $174,268 a year. Once the hotel is built, the owners will pay about $87,000 in taxes the first year with 3 percent tax increases each following year, according to the agency. 

Catapano said the agency projects approximately 66 jobs will be created during the construction period. Once in full operation, the agency expects the hotel would also create about 40 jobs with an average salary of $34,000. Construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

The executive director noted that while the tax agreement will save the developers money, developers are also spending $1.3 million on the hotel’s parking structure.  

“This will be a positive for Main Street,” Catapano said. “The hotel is going to be a tourist destination for people outside the region and for residents in Northport.” 

“The hotel is going to be a tourist destination for people outside the region and for residents in Northport.”

— Tony Catapano

Despite being a substantial investment for Main Street, many Northport residents have expressed concern about accessibility and how the hotel could exacerbate parking issues in the village. Hotel co-owner Kevin O’Neill — with Richard Dolce — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Both men own the Engeman theater.

But O’Neill responded to residents concerns at a Jan. 29 village public hearing saying the hotel’s parking lot would be able to facilitate about 150 cars. 

Similarly, a study released in December 2018 determined there are plenty of parking spots if people are willing to walk.

The Village of Northport hired Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates LLC to perform a paid-parking study of Northport. Their survey, which took place from August to October 2018, concluded the village’s 615 parking spaces are sufficient, with a slight exception of summer evenings.

On a typical weekday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Level G Associates found 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and Main Street lots were full as well. However, the study cited roughly 100 available spaces in the waterside lots and Lot 7, located off Woodside Avenue by the American Legion hall.

“These are normal/healthy parking patterns for an active [central business district],” the report stated.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, Level G Associates found most metered parking spots and lots on Main Street were full. However, the study found “ample available parking” in the free waterside and Woodside Avenue lots that are within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.

The only time traffic experts found an issue with the village’s parking was on summer nights, from 5 to 9 p.m. The study found the village’s parking is 95 percent full, often due to concerts and special event attendance, and could be improved through the addition of 72 spaces.

Northport residents protest LIPA's ongoing lawsuit with the Town of Huntington. Photo by Donna Deedy

By Donna Deedy

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, more than 100 residents of all ages, including many families with young children and pets, attended another public rally against Long Island Power Authority. At one point, their chant filled Cow Harbor Park in Northport village where they gathered April 7. 

“Stop LIPA now,” they repeated in protest.  

The power authority, a quasi-governmental state agency, is suing the Town of Huntington to reduce its $82 million property tax burden by 90 percent. LIPA, since the state’s public bailout of LILCO, and its failed Shoreham nuclear power plant project, has been paying the property taxes for power stations now owned by National Grid.  

Northport power plant. File photo

Protest organizer Paul Darrigo formed a Facebook advocacy group called Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA in mid-March, whose membership now totals more than 3,000 people. His group is concerned that if LIPA is successful it would devastate the Northport-East Northport school district, which currently receives $54 million annually from LIPA.

Northport village residents Kathleen and James Wansor have two very young children and attended the rally to learn more about the situation. Funding for education is important to the young family.

“It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t seem fair for us to all of a sudden see increases in our taxes,” Wansor said. 

Darrigo’s group is also reaching out to people across Long Island. 

“I want to coordinate our efforts with the residents of Island Park, whose school district is also under assault due to LIPA’s tax certiorari filed in Nassau County,” he said. “The objective is to communicate with LIPA and our elected officials with a consistent message and reiterate a ‘strength in numbers’ mantra.” 

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) was among the elected officials who addressed the Northport crowd. He’s currently calling for LIPA reforms. 

“LIPA is a runaway authority that is not serving the public’s interest with their frivolous lawsuit. As I’ve said to LIPA, LIPA should uphold the promise that was made to my constituents and that the tax certiorari challenge should be dropped. Anything short of that would be detrimental to the vitality of the communities that I serve and would have a direct impact on their ability to provide indispensable programs and services.”

“The objective is to communicate with LIPA and our elected officials with a consistent message and reiterate a ‘strength in numbers’ mantra.”

— Paul Darrigo

But elected officials on different levels of government lack a firm position on the issue. Both County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) offered similar public comments on the LIPA tax lawsuit against Huntington.

“While we do not comment on pending litigation, we are monitoring the situation closely,” said Jordan Levine, deputy communications director for energy and the environment with the office of the governor. “It is our hope that LIPA and the Town of Huntington can reach a mutually beneficial agreement that is fair and beneficial to all parties.” 

Northport Village Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe is particularly critical of the state’s position. 

“The governor better wake up and jump in on this,” he said. “People are mad.” 

Celebrated chef Michael Maroni died unexpectedly at age 57 Friday, March 8, while swimming in an indoor pool. One week later, his namesake restaurant in Northport resumed operations to the rhythm of the rock ’n’ roll music that he loved. 

Jose Vasquez of Maroni Cuisine. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Maroni’s is open,” said wife Maria Maroni. “Not only our doors but our hearts. Mike always said, ‘Maroni’s is not just business … it’s a beating heart.’ That’s what everyone feels when they come through these doors, not only amazing food and service … but love. Not only will that continue, but that heart will beat stronger and better than ever to make Mike proud. The beat goes on … come and see for yourself. If I can do it … so can you. Love wins.” 

Operations will continue with the same six chefs that have been cooking in the kitchen since Maroni Cuisine was established in 2001. The dining room and kitchen staff, Maria said, are committed to carrying on the legacy. 

The spot gained renown for both its menu-less, gourmet tasting meals and its hotpots of meatballs, prepared from the 110-year-old family recipe of Michael’s grandmother. The meatballs are served in cherry red enamel crockpots that are available for take out in a variety of sizes. 

The novel idea of serving fine cuisine alongside good home cooking became a quick success, Maria said, when she and her husband opened the restaurant near the harbor 19 years ago. 

Just a few wooden tables are arranged in the dimly lit dining hall. Candlesticks decorate the tabletops, while rock ’n’ roll memorabilia hangs on the wall.

The couple married in 1995 and from 1997 to 2003 they owned and operated Mirepoix, a popular upscale French-American restaurant located in Glen Head, before opening a second restaurant.

Somehow they have connected with the Northport community in a special way.

The couple’s photo is on display in the restaurant’s dining room. Photo by Donna Deedy

“Yes, the meatballs are good, but it’s really not just about the meatballs,” said Emily Climo, who prepares floral arrangements for the restaurant. “It’s about the love.” 

Lindsay Ostrander is co-owner of The Wine Cellar on Main in Northport. Her establishment offers patrons the cooking of other village restaurants, including Maroni Cuisine. She said that Maria’s eulogy for her husband was a moving, powerful and life-changing experience for her.

“I’m not sure if there’s a greater message,” Ostrander said. “Love wins.”

The original version of the story that appeared in the March 21 edition of the Times of Huntington Northport & East Northport incorrectly had the date of Maroni’s death. We apologize for the error.

Residents file into Northport High School to speak out over LIPA's power plant. Photo by Donna Deedy

By Donna Deedy

More than 500 residents joined forces in the Northport High School auditorium March 16 to challenge the Long Island Power Authority. The quasi-governmental agency is seeking through the courts a 90 percent reduction in the approximately $82 million in annual property taxes it pays to the Town of Huntington for the Northport power plant. 

A number of Northport residents were galvanized to take action. Paul Darrigo, a local commercial banker with Capital One, launched a new Facebook page, Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA.

“We now have 1,200 members and are still growing at a rate of 15 members per hour,” Darrigo said. 

LIPA states in its report, “2019 Fair Property Taxes for Electric Customers,” that New York charges more of the cost of government on utilities than other states. As a result, the not-for-profit entity alleges that it’s overassessed for its aging assets. 

“I am advocating for the governor to support my two initiatives to provide Long Island residents with $139 million in state aid to communities impacted by tax certiorari issues.”

— Jim Gaughran

“The plant’s units were built in 1967 and 1976 and its technology is outdated,” LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said. The plant operates at 12 percent capacity today compared to 54 percent capacity in 1999, a 78 percent decline. 

The tax reductions LIPA seeks will reportedly be used to reduce customers’ electric bills.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group Renewable Energy Long Island, stated by email that he agreed. 

“All LIPA customers pay more than would be the case if the properties were assessed at fair value,” he said. 

But many Town of Huntington residents aren’t buying into what they call more empty promises. 

If LIPA’s case is successful, as the agency has been in previous cases, critics say it could inflict a major economic blow to the community. Northport schools would annually loose an estimated $49 million out of some $54 million it receives from LIPA, according to district’s attorney John Gross.

To compensate for the loss, the Town of Huntington states on its website that residents would be forced to pay higher property taxes.

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) organized the town hall meeting to answer questions and to let the community know that he aims to seek funding to soften the blow if LIPA’s case prevails. His legislative bills, however, would require the approval of state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The state senator said he’s working to build consensus in Albany, but urges citizens to contact elected officials at all levels of government to encourage cooperation in the battle. 

“I am advocating for the governor to support my two initiatives to provide Long Island residents with $139 million in state aid to communities impacted by tax certiorari issues,” he said. “I am fully supportive of the town and school district in continuing their fight against LIPA.” 

The situation raises questions about how education is funded in New York state. However, many community members question why National Grid and PSEG aren’t bearing tax liabilities when shareholders are earning dividends. National Grid, a business based in the United Kingdom, owns the Northport plant and operates under contract to LIPA; PSEG Long Island manages transmission and distribution for LIPA. 

Gaughran said that he’s looking into reforms that ensure the public’s interest is properly represented.

“Local communities should not be bankrupt by runaway authorities like LIPA,” he said.

“I love this place, but if I can’t afford to pay my bills what good is it.”

— Joseph Sabia

Northport resident Michael Marcantonio was among people who spoke during the meeting. Now a lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and hostile takeovers, the Northport High School graduate blames the problem on the government’s practice of using public funds to bail out shareholder-owned businesses. LIPA, he explained to the crowd, was formed when officials used the public’s money to buy all the debt and some of the assets of the Long Island Lighting Company after it mismanaged the Shoreham nuclear project, which
ultimately failed. 

“This is what corruption looks like,” Marcantonio said. “Do not trust LIPA, they are robbing us, and we need to fight this.” The Northport resident ran for the state’s 12th Assembly District in 2018, largely on the LIPA issue, but he was forced to drop out due to a court decision over him voting locally in 2012 and 2014 while a student at Duke University Law School in North Carolina.

Newspaper reports from 1998 show that the now defunct Bear Stearns, the investment firm involved in the subprime mortgage crisis, served as the state’s financial adviser for the LILCO bailout, before quitting to successfully bid and broker the deal’s bond offering. At $7 billion, it became the largest public offering for municipal bonds in U.S. history.  

The LILCO deal was originally promoted publicly as a 20 percent rate reduction plan, as reported in the May 28, 1998 New York Times article titled “The End of LILCO, as Long Island has come to know it.” Long Island ratepayers reportedly paid the highest electricity bills in the nation at the time. As details began to surface, critics found the scheme entailed delaying interest payments on the debt and permanently saddled ratepayers with 33 years of liability.

Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the think-tank Manhattan Institute wrote a 2013 op-ed piece in Newsday titled “Long Islanders are still paying for three bailouts.” The policy analyst explained that Long Islanders need to understand the past mistakes related to the bailouts to prevent similar situations in the future. 

LIPA restructured part of its debt in 2013. That plan, as reported in Newsday, aimed to reduce the cost of debt, instead of paying it down.  

LIPA reports today that customers pay 10 percent in debt reduction and another 10 percent goes in interest. An additional 15 percent of a LIPA bill pays taxes and other fees. LIPA’s report does not specify what those other fees are. 

“Do not trust LIPA, they are robbing us, and we need to fight this.”

— Michael Marcantonio

Business leaders, who also spoke at the meeting, urged others to join the Northport Chamber of Commerce. School board members passed out red business cards instructing residents to visit STOP LIPA NOW on Facebook and get involved.  

LIPA states in its report that it ensures it’s working on all customers behalf to lower tax bills on its power plants and other equipment to reflect their fair value. It estimates the plant tax valuation at $200 to $500 million. Huntington assessed the value on the tax code at $3.4 billion.

The plant sits on some 244 waterfront acres near Asharoken, which LIPA estimates is worth “roughly $50 million.”

“We are confident that the court will agree that the Northport power plant is accurately assessed,” said Nick Ciappetta, Town of Huntington attorney. 

For people like Northport resident Joseph Sabia, the situation has become unbearable. 

“I love this place, but if I can’t afford to pay my bills what good is it,” he said.

The original article had the wrong first name for Sen. James Gaughran. We regret the error.

Seventh-grade science teacher John Braun donned a green mohawk and bellowed on bagpipes as he led a group of students into a packed Northport-East Northport Middle School auditorium. At the district’s St. Baldrick’s Day event, March 8, around 39 students and staff volunteered their time and lined up to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. 

Since 2007, the middle school has raised nearly $215,000 and its team, The Bald Tigers, has raised more than $14,000 this year. 

“I thought it was going to run its course, maybe be a year or two, but it has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Braun said. “The kids get really excited to get involved and be a part of it.”

When Braun was in middle school, his best friend’s older brother died of cancer. He said that story is why he became involved with St. Baldrick’s. 

Over the years, the district has been impacted by childhood cancer, and for this year’s shave they honored a number of individuals including Caleb Paquet, who died in August 2017 after a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Danielle DeSimone, a former student who at 19 was diagnosed with leukemia. 

DeSimone couldn’t be at the event but sent a video thanking the crowd for participating in the event and for continuing to raise awareness for childhood cancer research. 

The crowd listened to her story of how one week she was surfing with her friends, and the next week she was in a hospital bed where she stayed for five months receiving treatment. After seven rounds of chemotherapy she was informed that she was a candidate for a bone marrow transplant. She received a transplant from a person in Germany and went on to say one day she hopes to meet them.   

“I’m still in recovery — it’s tough and a really slow process but one thing that has been consistent throughout everything has been the support of the Northport-East Northport community,” DeSimone said. “Every well-wish just reminds me every single day to keep going and that I have a full community of people behind just rooting for me and pushing me to get to my goal of getting better.” 

Nicole Paquet, the mother of Caleb, also spoke at the event about her personal experiences.

She said her son, up until he received news of his diagnosis, was very much like Danielle, a robust, healthy person who was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed long distance walks. 

“You are not just shaving your head, wearing a T-shirt and getting a green hair extension, you are a part of a much bigger mission today,” she said. 

Caleb’s mother added many research hospitals are able to receive grants to help them come up with better treatments for cancer thanks to the money raised from St. Baldrick’s events. 

“Many children’s lives will be saved because of this research and treatment — I have hope that more types of treatment will be developed in the years to come,” Paquet said. “I also have a grand hope that there will be a cure for cancer in my lifetime.”

This year’s St. Baldrick’s event also honored Charlotte Stewart, a current middle school student who is battling cancer. When she was called up on stage to participate in the head-shave she received a loud ovation from the packed crowd.   

Braun couldn’t have been happier with this year’s turnout. 

“The community is great — I grew up here, I went to school here, I still live here — they’ve always been super supportive of any event we do, and I couldn’t imagine doing this
anywhere else.”

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