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Ryan Wilson

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.

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai faculty took to the court in front of a capacity crowd for a basketball fundraising game with the proceeds benefiting the Mount Sinai Booster Club. With the silent auctions, tee shirt sales, raffles and the half-time shooting contest, the Friday night event, which was the 15th for the school, raised $3,000, according to event co-chair Kim Vengilio.

Tipoff came shortly after 7 p.m., and pitted the Red team against the Blue team with district-wide bragging rights up for grabs.

In a game that featured two 25-minute halves, the Red team, consisting of high school staff, got to work early, breaking out to a 12-7 lead nine minutes in.

Assistant principal and starting center Matt Dyroff made his presence known down low as he showcased his rebounding prowess — dominating the boards most of the night.

Trailing by nine with 10 minutes left, the Blue team, made up of middle school and elementary school staff, shook off the cobwebs and started to find the rim, led in part by Michael Pappalardo, the Mount Sinai girls’ varsity head coach, as the point guard found the open player time and time again with his no-look passes.

Blue team shooter Tom Walker, referred to as “the doctor” throughout the game, performed much like famed Utah Jazz player Pete “Pistol Pete” Maravich, as he put on a 3-point shooting clinic with a brilliant long distance performance to trim the deficit to four points with seven minutes left in the half.

The Red team rallied, and began to stretch its legs in the closing minutes of the half, featuring its superior ball handling skills and several fast breaks, to surge ahead 39-28 at the break.

All of the students rushed the court for the shooting competition that took place at both ends of the floor. At a dollar a shot, those who found the net received five dollars in return. With the odds clearly stacked in favor of the house, Chris Caputo was first to cash in as the sophomore found nothing but net to lead the way. Seventh-grader Anabella Cole struck next as her shot found its mark, as did Ryan Wilson’s ball as the freshman swished his for the five-dollar payout.

The student-athletes began to find their range, turning the odds against the house when Nicolas Arciello, a sophomore, nailed his shot. From there, the tables turned.

Dyroff, who played college basketball at SUNY Potsdam, got the idea for the halftime shooting contest from when the cheerleaders of his alma mater took to the court to raise money.

“I said I’ll organize it — I put it out to the staff and opened it up to everyone, so we do it in two groups. Because there are so many little kids, we [decided to] move it up much closer,” Dyroff said. “The booster club donates so much back to our district so this is just a great event. Best Buddies is a program that we run here in the high school where our students work with disabled kids, so it’s nice to be able to give back to those who’ve given us so much.”

Both teams began to loosen up in the opening minutes of the second half, trading points along the way until the Red team caught fire — finding its 3-point game to break out to a 66-43 advantage with 14 minutes left.

“It’s been 15 years that we’ve been doing this and Matt Dyroff gets all of the faculty together,” Vengilio said. Dyroff has been putting the event together for all 15 years it has been going on in the district.

“Joann Satori, a board member of our booster club, organizes all the tee shirts the tickets and she handles the publicity,” Vengilio added. “The community just loves to come out and watch the faculty play.”

Mount Sinai student Amanda Didonato said she’s attended the event many times and said it’s great watching the faculty play.

To arrest the scoring, the Blue team had to lean on the Pistol, and the doctor delivered. Draining treys, Walker carried the load in the final minutes, to help his team draw within four points as time ticked off the clock. But it was too little too late, as the Red team, with an 84-81 win, accepted the championship trophy and, with it, bragging rights for another year.

“Every year the Mount Sinai crowd comes out and does an amazing job — the booster club, the coaches, the parents, the teachers, it’s just an amazing event for the community,” Pappalardo said. “Look at the crowd participation, the turn out, all the hand-made signs; this is a great community to live in, work in and be in.”

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