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TBR Staff

TBR Staff
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TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

The threat of rain could not stop Harborfields High School’s Class of 2021 from waking up more than an hour before classes began on Oct. 23 to watch the sunrise alongside their fellow seniors.

The socially distant gathering, coordinated by the student government, marked the high school’s first ever “Senior Sunrise,” starting a new tradition at Harborfields High School.

Following the postponement of homecoming, the event was the first opportunity of the 2020-21 school year for seniors of different cohorts and virtual learners to connect as a class.

Senior Class President Melina Sandel said, “It’s a great opportunity for us to reconnect after such an abrupt end to last school year. “It was great seeing all of our friends from different cohorts.”

Photos courtesy of Harborfields Central School District

Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

Stock photo

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Oct. 29 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Click here for our full 2020 election coverage.

Congress
Nancy Goroff. Photo from campaign

Goroff The Right Choice for NY1

Knowing what’s at stake in this year’s election, TBR News Media endorses Nancy Goroff (D) for the NY1 House seat.

Goroff has a strong understanding of the issues, especially regarding climate change and the ongoing pandemic. In this time, it’s especially important to have experts not just in advisory roles but in the driver’s seat. We only need to look at places like New Zealand or Germany, both with leaders who have science backgrounds, who have handled the pandemic far better than the U.S. has just in terms of the numbers of new or past infected, and how their economies have also already reopened.

We appreciate Goroff’s answers especially regarding health care and think her concept for Medicare could be a good middle ground amongst all the partisanship surrounding the issue. Also knowing just how cutthroat working as an official in a place like Stony Brook University can be, we feel she has cultivated good interpersonal and administrative skills that will be useful in Washington.

The two instruments of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s public life strike a discordant note. At home, he comes off as a soft-spoken team player willing to work together with both Democrats and Republicans in local office. On the national stage, he has supported the president without question, and has only helped broaden the political divide and partisanship overall through his misleading conversations, both on Fox television network and in his Twitter page.

One can support a candidate while not kowtowing to their every whim, but Zeldin has volunteered to defend President Donald Trump (R) during the impeachment. He attended a Trump rally back in June, with a pandemic raging across the country, without wearing a mask. He went in front of the Republican National Convention to proclaim how great the president’s handling of the pandemic has been, despite experts’ assertions that if the president had acted earlier, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. Zeldin claims he disagrees with the president on such things as the tax bill, on several cabinet nominations and offshore drilling, but when do those disagreements turn into action? 

These two sides to Zeldin do sometimes combine, such as when he attended a rally in Port Jefferson where he lambasted the mayor for a controversy over a pro-Trump sign. Why he didn’t first try to communicate with a local government in his home district to get the issue resolved attests to the purpose of such an appearance: To drum up even more division in an already divided time.

While we appreciate Zeldin’s work bringing masks and other PPE to us at home during the height of the pandemic, doing the expected is no longer enough. We need someone to actively work to bring back the state and local tax deductions instead of putting forward bills that never get any traction. We need someone in Congress who does not split their attention between acting on behalf of the president and doing good by their constituents.

As we hope to come out of this pandemic, we will need a scientist’s expertise to help us get out of the social and economic hole we lay in. We hope whoever takes up the seat can help move both the country and New York’s 1st Congressional District forward.

State Senate
Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Ahearn to Keep 1st District First

Knowing we are losing such a strong voice for SD1 in Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) we believe we need a strong and independent voice in the Senate. We believe Laura Ahearn (D) is the right person to do that.

We appreciate her work locally and know she has built connections with both local and state officials that will be critical in the coming months. We like her answers to questions about getting more funding to deal with our aging septic systems and agree with her that bail reform needs to be reformed,  not repealed.

Palumbo is a strong candidate, having worked in public office for years alongside both parties, though there can be no question that being in the controlling party has real benefit. As evidenced by both LaValle’s and John Flanagan’s departure from the state Senate, lacking that control, even with their seniority, can be a real drag. Palumbo has helped in acquiring land in Shoreham for protection, but he does not have as firm a grasp of happenings in our local area as he does on the North Fork.

We believe Ahearn is the right pick to keep 1st District first.

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2.
Photos from campaigns

2nd Senate District Too Close to Call

We feel the race for the state Senate in the 2nd District, between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Michael Siderakis, is going to be a close one. Based on our virtual debate, we are not endorsing a candidate in this race.

We feel both candidates have their fingers on the pulse of the area, recognizing the importance of providing local students with the same excellent education they have received in the past and keeping residents on Long Island.

Most importantly, during the pandemic, both understand the importance of strictly following public health guidelines while also assisting businesses to fully operate once again. 

Siderakis’ background as a state trooper and representative for the troopers’ PBA would be an asset during the current conflicting views regarding law enforcement, while Mattera’s work with the Town of Smithtown on its advisory board is a plus regarding bringing new businesses to an area while not overwhelming its infrastructure.

Either will be a freshman senator if they win, and we urge them to partner with their colleagues to learn the intricacies of the office. Republican former Sen. John Flanagan held the seat for 18 years, and either candidate will have big shoes to fill.

Gaughran Has District in Mind

In the race for state senator in the 5th District, TBR News Media endorses incumbent Jim Gaughran (D). His record during his first term has been impressive, and we would like to see him continue his work. He will have more seniority which is needed in the district to get more accomplished.

Even as a freshman senator, after the bail reform act was passed, he and other legislators worked to amend it. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also endorsed Gaughran.

We encourage challenger Ed Smyth to continue pursuing public office beyond the Town of Huntington. He has good ideas, and as a self-proclaimed “debt hawk,” he can lend an important, practical voice to any budget talks.

Knowing the complicated and challenging time ahead for New York State as we move through the ongoing pandemic, TBR News Media endorses Steve Stern (D) for Assembly District 10.

State Assembly
Jodi Giglio. Photo from campaign

Giglio the Best Choice for AD2

We feel that filling Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo’s seat for the 2nd District is going to be tough and both Laura Jens-Smith and Jodi Giglio (R) are great candidates. And while they both made good arguments, we have decided to go with Giglio for Assembly District 2. 

Jens-Smith’s experience as Riverhead Town supervisor is impressive and we appreciate the efforts she made during her time there, but we think that Giglio will bring a different perspective and continue the work she has done for the town as a councilwoman. A woman with tough skin and many different skills, we think that she will continue to bring more work and people to the East End, while balancing her other roles as well.  

For our areas of Wading River through Mount Sinai, we ask that whoever wins this election gives extra attention to our communities not out on the North Fork. As our communities deal with issues ranging from nitrogen pollution to development concerns, we would like to see somebody listening to the problems of folks a little farther west.

Steve Englebright

Keep Englebright in the Assembly

We feel that, although Michael Ross is knowledgeable in what he stands for and his excitement is honorable, we believe Steve Englebright (D) should continue to lead Assembly District 4 as he has for over two decades. Based on talking to both candidates, we will be endorsing Englebright for
this campaign.

Ross is young and enthusiastic, with life experience that could definitely bring a pair of fresh eyes to the area. However, Englebright has brought many policies that have benefited Long Island’s environment and he continues to strive to do better. 

As we head into a future that will likely involve more severe weather events, and as Long Island’s water ecology remains in jeopardy from nitrogen pollution, it’s imperative that we have scientists at the decision-making table. Englebright has a long history of supporting environmental causes, from the Pine Barrens to the Shoreham woods to Stony Brook Harbor. As we lose environmental stalwarts in the state Senate like Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), voices like Englebright’s will be in even greater need.

Mike Fitzpatrick. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fitzpatrick a Strong Choice for AD8

In the race for Assembly District 8, TBR News Media is looking for somebody with a history of bipartisan activity and deep knowledge of Smithtown’s issues, and that somebody is Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

He has a good depth of knowledge of issues such as Gyrodyne, and seems to be working toward some kind of compromise that could make both environmentalists and proponents of downtown revitalization happy. The Kings Park state park issue is something Fitzpatrick has a deep knowledge on, in particular, and we hope he may be able to move forward with some kind of funding source to finally remediate that property.

Rice has a good head on his shoulders and his enthusiasm and comprehension of the issues makes him a strong future candidate for public office once he gets a few years’ experience under his belt. We hope he continues in public service in some way, shape or form.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

Stern a Man of Common Sense

Stern has the right approach when dealing with COVID-19, and his common sense mindset regarding bail reform is something to be appreciated amongst the constant calls for complete repeal.

The assemblyman’s talk about money for sewer infrastructure is also sorely needed, and we hope he can work with other members of the Long Island delegation in order to bring those funds home to Suffolk County. This is not something local municipalities can do on their own.

Silvestri has some straight answers but does not bring much new to the table. We hope with some years under her belt and some experience in local government she can come back later with a fresh new take on such a diverse area as the 10th assembly district.

Michael Marcantonio. Photo by Kyle Barr

Marcantonio Our Choice to Succeed Raia

In the 12th District race for the New York State Assembly, TBR News Media endorses Democrat Michael Marcantonio, but we do so with a bit of caution. We would agree with his Republican opponent Keith Brown that the Democrat can come across as aggressive at times, and we hope he can manage that trait a bit to ensure that he can work with those on both sides of the political aisle.

However, that passion shouldn’t be reeled in too much as it shows determination to get things done and bring new ideas to the floor. He mentioned many times that if elected he will be part of the Assembly’s majority. This would be a boon to a district that needs original ideas to help it over the hump the LIPA decision will have on the community’s tax base.

We hope that Brown will continue pursuing local office in the future as we feel he has a good grip on what local businesses need to survive. 

 

Photo courtesy of Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Each year, the Northport-East Northport School District hosts Recovery, Awareness, Prevention (R.A.P) week to spread the word about substance abuse and important preventative measures. The weeklong event kicked off this year on Oct. 19 with all grade levels finding ways to acknowledge the topic and learn more about how to prevent and address substance abuse.

R.A.P Week began in April of 2012 when a district teacher suggested a substance use prevention day at Northport High School. Since then, the passion and dedication of students, staff and community has expanded the idea, leading to a full week of guest speakers and activities that focus on drug and alcohol prevention.

The district’s substance abuse counselor Anthony Ferrendino shared that R.A.P week is important because the issue affects many families. Whether it’s a loved one who is struggling or a student who is experimenting, substance abuse is widespread and addressing it is crucial to reducing the stigma.

R.A.P week is executed differently at the elementary, middle and high school levels. For telementary schools, the message is heavy on prevention, and discussion topics include positive goal setting and ways to lead a healthy lifestyle. At the middle school and high school levels, there’s more explicit discussion about substances and how to combat substance abuse.

Recognizing that this issue is especially pertinent for high school students, the district typically brings in a variety of guest speakers, from professional athletes to former students who are in recovery, to address the larger group.

This year, the district had guest speakers provide a recording and shared them to a dedicated R.A.P Week site, along with past speaker recordings, and has asked teachers to make the videos a class assignment. This ensures students still have access to the critical information and can either discuss or write down their thoughts about the topic.

“I am beyond thrilled that despite COVID-19, the teams that we have in the buildings were able to figure it out and offer the students what they absolutely need,” said Mr. Ferrendino.

Science experiment tests structures

During a recent Project Lead the Way lesson, students in Mrs. Amato’s class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in the Smithtown Central School District learned about structure and function in science. Each student designed and built his/her own strong and sturdy house for the characters in the “Three Little Pigs” story. They all watched to see if their homes held up when the Big Bad Wolf tried to blow them down.

Photos courtesy of Smithtown Central School District

Second graders in Ms. Gabriel’s and Mrs. Chester’s classes at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in the Smithtown Central School District created jack-o’-lanterns and worked on a writing element on how to carve a pumpkin. They used transition words and adjectives to improve their writing.

Smithtown Central School District

Pictured are the Smithtown High School West InvenTeam with Principal John Coady (left), Smithtown High School West science research teacher Dr. Joanne Figueiredo, (second from left) and Smithtown Central School District’s Director of Science Laura Snell (right).

Smithtown High School West was one of just 13 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam this year. As an award winner, Smithtown High School West will receive a grant for $10,000 by Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam® to create their invention, a personal space monitor to help autistic children improve their social interactions.

InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers and mentors that receive grants to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. This initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors. “The InvenTeams program represents the future,” said Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer from the Lemelson-MIT Program.

“We place an emphasis on STEM-focused projects to develop interest in these fields among youth. With InvenTeams, our primary goal is to foster high school students’ passion for invention, in turn inspiring them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math,” she added.

Led by Smithtown High School West science research teacher Dr. Joanne Figueiredo, the application process began last spring. She worked with her team of students – Sinead Doyle, Jensen Herbst, Liza Lleshaj, Rehan Mian, Tyler Nagosky, Patrick Noto, Eric Pentecoste, Madeline Raeihle and Aaquib Syed – during the summer to prepare the final proposal. A panel of judges composed of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, as well as representatives from industry and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners, assembled virtually this fall and selected this year’s InvenTeam grantees.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects approximately one in every 59 children in the United States. “These children sometimes exhibit difficulties understanding the idea of interpersonal space,” said Dr. Figueiredo. “Our invention, the Personal Distance Monitor (PDM), is a cost-effective solution to this problem. It uses an IR sensor to alert the user when they are getting too close to another person. It also reports to an app that can help a teacher or parent to monitor progress.”

The Smithtown High School West InvenTeam will also work with Glen Meyerowitz, a graduate student at UCLA and former engineer at SpaceX, who will guide the students through the development of their invention.

“This is a remarkable group of students who have come together to solve an important problem faced by their peers in our school and other students across the country; we are eager to support them,” said Principal John Coady.

During the next nine months, the Smithtown High School West InvenTeam will develop its PDM. The team will build a working prototype of their invention that is showcased at a technical review within the local community in February, and then again as a final prototype at EurekaFest, an invention celebration in June 2021.

Washington Drive School launches ‘Chew and Chat’ initiative

In the time of social distancing, students at Washington Drive Primary School in Centerport have found new ways to build relationships not just with their fellow classmates, but with they’re virtual friends as well.

On Oct. 20, students kicked off a new initiative: “Chew and Chat,” during which they connected with in-person learners from different classes and grades, as well as remote learners using Google Meet.

Students were eager to discuss their plans for Halloween and offered three clues, allowing their classmates to guess their costumes. At the end of the month, students will meet again for the second “Chew and Chat” session to reveal their costumes and determine if they guessed right.

With limited opportunities for students to interact with others outside of their classrooms, Principal Kathryn McNally said that she plans to offer the “Chew and Chat” sessions on a regular basis. “Because of the pandemic, students have been confined to interacting only with their immediate classmates,” Mrs. McNally said. “These sessions offer an opportunity for the kids to socialize and build those important relationships outside of their classrooms.”

Photo courtesy of Harborfields Central School District

Ms. Edwards celebrates her marathon finish with her children.

Norwood Avenue elementary school music teacher Maureen Edwards ran a very different race this year for the New York City marathon. Having been a runner for 17 years and running her first NYC marathon in 2017, Ms. Edwards has mastered the art of marathon running while raising money for a good cause in the process.

Since her first race in 2017, Ms. Edwards has raised over $12,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which treats children free of charge thanks to generous donations like Ms. Edwards. This year alone, she has raised over $2,600.

While the race this year was “virtual” and runners had to race individually, Ms. Edwards didn’t let that stop her spirit. “It was very challenging to run a solitary marathon without the excitement and crowds of the usual NYC marathon,” said Ms. Edwards. “However, I was incredibly blessed with family support.” In addition to her children and husband cheering her on from the sidelines with words of encouragement, some Norwood students even came out with signs and encouraged her as she ran past their homes.

When discussing how her lessons from running apply to her classroom, Ms. Edwards shared that, “Sometimes life requires grit and we have to buckle down and push beyond our limits to make amazing things happen.  Even when you want to give up, you can’t; someone is always counting on you. This is true for running and it is true for music!”

         Photo courtesy of Northport-East Northport Union Free School District