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Stonebridge Country Club

Richard Panico, of Miller Place, speaks as the Friends of Karen’s honoree at the organization's Long Island Gala. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Richard Panico is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

So it took some convincing when Friends of Karen wanted to honor Panico, a Miller Place resident, for his charitable nature during their third annual Long Island Gala on Friday, Dec. 4, at the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown. The organization’s Regional Director, Nancy Mariano, approached Panico earlier this year, asking to spotlight him at the event. Initially, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“I read this somewhere [that] if more than one person knows you did a good deed, it’s no longer a good deed,” Panico said. “So … to me it’s just not necessary to have that kind of ego.”

Panico got involved with Friends of Karen three years ago when he purchased the building on Perry Street in Port Jefferson that the organization operates out of. Currently, Panico’s company Symbio, which provides clinical trial management services for pharmaceutical companies, and Friends of Karen share the building. He turned his efforts toward helping the organization, which aims to offer emotional and financial support to families of children with life-threatening illnesses, but his efforts didn’t start with Friends of Karen.

In 2003, one year after Panico’s company was established, he kickstarted its annual bike-a-thon at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It held the fundraiser for seven years and raised more than $50,000.

“It was good for the company,” said Susan Swamback, an employee of Symbio. “It was good for all of us to feel like a team. … He loves that.”

Swamback also helped with the annual bike-a-thon, but the fundraising stopped after the company didn’t raise as much money as it had hoped, despite its efforts.

Over the past few years, Panico has donated skin creams to families that frequent hospitals and helped one child and his family attend a New York Mets baseball game. Panico’s nephew Tom McGuire added that his uncle also tries to help his family and friends.

During the gala, Mariano said Panico “is the kindest most generous father, husband and friend to all.” Mariano added that the organization was proud to acknowledge Panico at the event.

While the gala was a means to highlight people like Panico, it also helps Friends of Karen raise awareness and money to further its mission. In the organization’s 37 years, it’s helped around 5,500 sick children and their families. Panico said the organization works hard to achieve its goal, and even continued his own effort to help the organization during his honoree speech.

“If you are able to donate — if you’re able to buy raffle tickets, if you’re able to [participate] in the silent auctions, that would be fantastic,” Panico said during the gala. “If you can’t … tell your friends, spread the word.”

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The Stonebridge Country Club is doused in flames Tuesday night. Photo from Jeff Bressler

By Phil Corso

A brutal blaze overtook the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown on Thursday night.

Calls came into the Smithtown Fire Department around 6 p.m. for the fire at 2000 Raynors Way inside the country club’s maintenance shop and golf cart storage facility, a spokesman for the department said. It took several crews of emergency responders to battle the flames, but no one was injured in the incident, officials said.

The cause the fire was under investigation.

Firefighters battle the blaze at the Stonebridge Country Club. Photo by Jeff Bressler
Firefighters battle the blaze at the Stonebridge Country Club. Photo by Jeff Bressler

“Upon arrival at the scene, the alarm was quickly upgraded to a working structural fire,” said Jeff Bressler, public information officer for the Smithtown Fire Department. “The two-story building was fully engulfed in fire and exterior attack began to get it under control.”

Bressler said the building suffered major damage. Its upper level, which was used to store golf carts, was deemed a total loss. The lower level, which housed maintenance equipment, was also heavily damaged.

Firefighters knocked down the front entry of the building once the flames were under control and started searching the inside, where they found no one was in the building and there was no extension of the fire, Bressler said.

It took fire officials from Smithtown, Hauppauge and Nesconset’s fire departments and ambulance support from Central Islipe and Hauppauge’s volunteer ambulance groups.

This version corrects the day of the fire.

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