Movers and Shakers

Dr. Jennifer Englebright, center, with her father Steve Englebright, left, and her husband, Charles Regulinski.

Working toward an English degree, most students would never expect to become a dentist.

Jennifer Englebright was the honored speaker during Stony Brook University’s English Department Convocation Ceremony in May. Photo from Stony Brook University

However, that’s exactly what happened to Dr. Jennifer Englebright, the speaker at the 2022 English Department Convocation at Stony Brook University. A dentist at Port Jefferson Dental Group, Englebright, who graduated from SBU in 2005, told attendees that she considered her “English degree to be of utmost importance in my career.”

“It prepared me in ways I could never have imagined, and its value has become an inherent part of my work,” she said.

The Setauket resident continued in her speech that her English degree helped with the human side of dentistry by giving her “the power and expression of language.”

“Communication is vital in helping to alleviate the stress and anxiety so many patients feel,” she said. “Uncertainty often drives fear, but by methodically explaining exactly what the procedure is, in such a way that the patient can really understand it, helps temper that fear.”

Andrew Newman, professor and chair of the English Department at Stony Brook University, said it was the first in-person convocation since 2019, and Englebright was well received by students and faculty.

“While some of our outstanding graduates go on to careers in education, law or business, Dr. Englebright demonstrates that English is also great preparation for health care providers,” Newman said. “I think she would agree that she’s a better dentist for having studied Virginia Woolf with Professor Celia Marshik.”

Englebright said in a phone interview that many people don’t realize how versatile an English degree is.

“I found my English classes to be more inspiring for my career in medicine than science classes,” she said.

She agreed that reading the works of Woolf was a major influence in her life. Her senior honors thesis was about the author.

“She was all for women’s rights and women in higher education, trying to push and drive women forward to make their own money in their own careers,” Englebright said.

She also has been inspired by the poet William Carlos Williams who was also a doctor.

“I found writers like that to be actually more inspiring to go into medicine than just pure science,” Englebright said.

In addition to majoring in English at SBU, Englebright took several science courses. She was considering different career paths while attending college and ultimately was drawn to health care, especially dentistry. She volunteered at the college’s dental school and then worked with a local dentist.

After Stony Brook, she attended The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and graduated in 2009. She went on to do her residency at St. Charles Hospital. For the last 10 years, she has practiced at Port Jefferson Dental Group.

Englebright said science runs in her blood. Her father is state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a geologist by profession who still works at SBU occasionally. Her mother June is a retired earth science teacher.

Jennifer Englebright said both her parents encouraged her to follow her passions in life and never steered her toward any one career.

“I had complete autonomy to explore whatever I wanted to do in life, and both of my parents gave me that platform to be able to do that,” she said.

When in third grade, she, her mother and sister moved to Wading River after her parents divorced, she said. After returning from Pennsylvania and living out east and in Melville, she decided to move back to Setauket. In 2020, Englebright married Charles Regulinski, Setauket Fire Department assistant chief. 

“I really wanted to come back to my roots,” she said. “I wanted to be in the Three Village area. I just love this area.”

Recently, Englebright, like many health care professionals, had to navigate her career through the pandemic.

At the beginning, dentist offices could function only during emergencies. Once doors opened to all patients, she said it was tough because there was no vaccine or any treatment for COVID-19. However, she said they didn’t have to change procedures majorly because they are always prepared to fight infections.

“We’re a very strict discipline, medicine, especially dentistry,” she said. “We’re very strict with infection control.”

She said, at first, people were hesitant to go back to the dentist, but ultimately the office rebounded as many were overdue for routine care or bad situations worsened as some people didn’t immediately attend to dental problems such as a broken tooth.

During her speech at the convocation ceremony, Englebright said she hoped she inspired the graduates to feel that they didn’t need to be “typecast to a role,” because they have an English degree.

“You don’t have to go into this expected role as a teacher or a lawyer, this traditional route,” she said. “You can really go into whatever you want, because you have the foundation to succeed in any field.”

Doug Bilotti, back row behind mascot Mr. Marinara, recently opened Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar in Northport with the encouragement of his family. Photo by Miguel Garcia

By Chris Mellides

Nestled in a strip mall on Fort Salonga Road in Northport, Regalo Trattoria & Pizza Bar is a family run Italian restaurant owned by attorney and St. James resident Douglas Bilotti. 

Chef Miguel Garcia, left, and Bilotti, right, present a freshly baked pizza. Photo by Claudia Reed

In addition to being a restaurateur, Bilotti operates his own law firm and serves as a justice for the Village of Nissequogue. The one dream that seemed to elude him for years was pursuing a career in the culinary industry. In January, however, the self-proclaimed “home chef” finally made that dream a reality. 

“When I was in high school, I always wanted to be a chef,” Bilotti said. “I enjoyed making food and I thought about going to culinary school at the time. For some reason, I decided to go to college and go to law school, but I always enjoyed cooking and enjoyed food, and I have some good friends in the restaurant industry as well.”

With its relaxing atmosphere and homey decor, Bilotti strives to make Regalo a prime destination for Italian comfort food on Long Island. The eatery has an expansive menu and serves everything from pizza to hamburgers, wings and a popular chicken francese dish, which the enthused owner claims is the “biggest seller that comes out of the kitchen,” apart from the pizza, of course. 

Previously, the restaurant went by the name La Casa Pizza, until Bilotti purchased the business at the start of this year. He kept the old kitchen staff and in part credits the success of Regalo to their expert knowledge and dedication.

A big part of what also makes Regalo special, according to Bilotti, are those family members he employs. Working alongside him are his sister Claudia Reed, his daughters Isabella and Christina, niece Laura Burns and his nephew Jimmy Burns. 

Reed said that she’s thrilled that her brother is pursuing one of his oldest dreams and she couldn’t be more supportive. 

“I am so happy for him,” she said. “It’s not often that we get to do something we dreamed about when we were younger — life gets in the way.”  

“We set out on a path, we get married, have children and we don’t have the time or financial security to do something our younger selves would have wanted to do,” she added. “I love that my brother is getting to fulfill a dream that he once had, and I love that I get to be part of it.” 

Reed is responsible for overseeing the operations of the staff. She moderates group texts for the delivery drivers and for the counter and also works the register, sweeps and buses tables. “I help where I’m needed,” she said. 

Bilotti’s nephew Jimmy Burns, left, and the owner share a table. Displayed on the wall behind them are photos of Bilotti’s grandparents when they were children.

Reed’s son, Jimmy Burns, is proving to be a vital employee with aspirations of becoming a business partner with his uncle one day.

The young restaurant employee graduated with an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College and said he doesn’t have plans to return to school. Instead, he sees himself becoming more immersed in the operation of his uncle’s restaurant.

“It means a lot to me,” Burns said “I like having the responsibility for the restaurant. I like that my uncle trusts me, I like that I know I’m doing something important for my family.”

“The highlights are that I have fun with my co-workers,” he added. “We laugh a lot. There are times when it’s busy, but there are also times when it doesn’t feel like work, and I like that.” 

Bilotti, when asked how he balances being a restaurateur, attorney and a village judge, admitted there have been a lot of late nights spent keeping up with everything and that it’s been a challenge to maintain his legal work while also ensuring that Regalo continues to thrive.

“Some days I do my legal work from the restaurant,” he said. “I take calls here, I bring my computer here every morning and get to work. So, it’s been working out and it’s been working out well. I have additional work and weekend time is always there as well to get some stuff done.”

Through continued hard work and a large emphasis on the support he receives from his family and the community his restaurant serves, Bilotti is confident that his business will continue to flourish. 

“It’s beyond Italian food, it’s everything,” Bilotti said. “It’s comfort food. It’s what people like, and it’s what people enjoy. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. We just want to be part of the community and have people feel that we’re part of the community and serve the community the best that we can, really.”

Maria Hoffman, above center, receives a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven from Supervisor Ed Romaine, left, and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich at the Three Village Community Trust gala last year. Below, Maria spending time on the water. Photo by Patricia Paladines

The Three Village community is mourning the passing of Maria Hoffman, who was chief of staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright for nearly three decades.

Maria Hoffman enjoys some time on the water. Photo from George Hoffman

According to her husband, George Hoffman, the Setauket resident died April 29 of metastatic breast cancer, which she bravely battled on and off since being first diagnosed in 2010.

Maria and George married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park. It was the second marriage for both. “When Maria and I married, I moved to Setauket from the South Shore,” he said. “She was Assemblyman Englebright’s chief of staff and had an extensive network of friends and colleagues. She loved the Three Village community and was involved with every aspect of it. I always tell people that she gave me an express ticket to the front of the line with all of the leaders of the Three Village community.” 

In a November 2019 Village Times Herald article, Maria shared advice for a successful relationship: “We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat. We make time to balance all the busyness.”

Born on Oct. 14, 1958, Maria was a 40-year resident of the Three Village community. A graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she received a Human Ecology degree, Maria was familiar with busyness. In addition to being Englebright’s chief of staff, she was also an avid photographer of landscapes and wildlife, a writer, beekeeper, birder, sailor, naturalist, a co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force and a lover of wolves, whales, elephants and bees.

She was an illustrator of field guides on seashores, wetlands and woodlands. In a collaborative effort with Stony Brook University’s Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences, her illustrations can be seen in “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Woodlands,” “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Freshwater Wetlands” and “A Field Guide to Long Island’s Seashore.”

Maria was also a wonderful, helpful friend and frequent contributor to The Village Times Herald. Whenever a reporter was unavailable to cover a local event that she attended, she would always be willing to send in her own photos. Her nature photography also appeared in the Arts & Lifestyle section of TBR News Media papers.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, left, and Maria Hoffman, center. Photo by Patricia Paladines

Colleagues and friends honor Maria

Englebright and Maria’s working relationship goes back to when he was director of the Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences in the 1960s. He secured a state grant to develop a water resources curriculum for Long Island schools, he said, and Maria interviewed for a position to help develop the curriculum. Englebright said she was a standout due to her photography, illustrating and writing skills. Once the project was completed Maria continued to work with the museum and Englebright. For the museum, she illustrated public education pamphlets, booklets and newsletters and also would write.

“I had the great, good fortune of being able to hire her, and I was able to retain her,” he said. “She was extraordinarily productive in public service in the preelected office capacity, too.”

Maria continued to work with Englebright when he became county legislator and then assemblyman, and he said even though she wasn’t originally from the Three Village area she made a point to learn about the community when he was running for legislator.

“She began to realize what a wonderful part of Long Island we live in, and she really enjoyed learning about the legislative reach of the office, and it opened a new vista of capability of serving,” he said.

Englebright added that Maria’s skills were based “on how she cared for everyone she met.” He said he will miss how genuine she was, and that many related to her which enhanced everything his office was involved in.

“It’s not possible to replace her,” he said. “Certainly, we can continue to do the work that she invested so much of her life into, as long as we remember and honor the work that she has done.” 

Laurie Vetere, chair of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, described Maria as “an integral and founding member” of the task force, along with George.

“She loved taking pictures of the harbor and its marine life and waterfowl which were compiled into our annual calendar that we gave as a thank-you to our donors,” she said. “Her photography was stunning. She also loved going out on the water at daybreak to do the water testing that we do for Save the Sound, and she would spend hours the night before calibrating the scientific equipment that we utilized. She was one of our most ardent volunteers and she was an activist who lived her life trying to protect the environment both locally and around the world.”

In November, Three Village Community Trust honored Maria at its annual Fall Fundraising Gala at the Old Field Club. TVCT recognized her contributions as an artist, photographer and naturalist, and called her “everybody’s best friend.”

TVCT president Herb Mones said Maria touched countless people during her lifetime

“It was heartwarming to see so many people come together on that evening to honor Maria,” Mones said of the gala. “It was a who’s who of elected officials, community leaders, friends and neighbors that praised Maria as a unique figure in guiding, directing and helping in ‘all things Three Villages.’ Maria never wanted the spotlight on herself — but, thankfully on that night, Maria lit up the room. She was involved in everything and anything that touched our community — historical preservation, open space protection, environmental issues. There was no issue too large or small that Maria wasn’t part of — and always with a smile on her face. Her involvement was done with a quiet style and grace, and while her voice was soft and light — her influence was great. Anyone who enjoys West Meadow Beach, the Greenway, the cultural, historical and art institutions in the area — they all need to give thanks to Maria’s legacy.”

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich also commented on Maria’s influence on the community. 

“She was a beautiful and gentle person, humble and kind and wise and funny, and her life touched so many in the community who were lucky enough to know her,” he said. “She gathered beauty through her eyes and through the lens of her camera, and shared kindness and compassion to everyone she met. Although she has taken her last breath in this world, her warmth remains. Goodbye, Maria — you are loved, and you will be missed.”

Patricia Paladines, naturalist and environmentalist, said sometimes, while Maria was waiting for treatment at Sloan Kettering, she would text her photos of fish swimming around the waiting room fish tank. Paladines described her as “a beautiful sprite, friend to all.”

Photo by Robert Reuter

She said she had texted Maria after the TVCT gala: “Thank you for all you have preserved in this community because you were sensitive to its beauty and historical importance. Sleep well dear friend knowing you are loved and appreciated by so many.” 

“I repeat now, ‘Sleep well dear friend knowing you are loved and appreciated by so many.’” 

Paladines’ husband, Carl Safina, author and environmentalist, also remembered Maria fondly.

“In the forty-plus years that I knew Maria, she was always devoted to helping other people do their best work in the world,” he said. “She never wanted the credit that was due her. But a lot of good work by many people would not have been as good if Maria hadn’t laid the foundation and built the frame.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn remembered Maria for her community as well as worldly contributions.

“In spirit, Maria was a photographer, who intently focused on capturing the essence of a moment while ensuring her presence wasn’t a distraction from it,” she said. “In life, Maria was a humble leader who embraced the approach she used behind the camera throughout her professional career to serve her neighbors and improve our community. Maria’s compassion for all creatures from the bees, which she tended, to the advocacy for the protection of elephants and elimination of big game hunting in Africa. She approached all things with a quiet tenacity and gentle hand. Maria will leave a legacy of friendship and generosity that will be cherished by all those whose lives she touched.”

An outdoor gathering for Maria’s friends and colleagues is being planned for Saturday, May 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Three Village Community Trust grounds at The Bruce House, 148 Main St., Setauket. Attendees are welcome to share their stories about Maria.

Photograph of an American tank during the Battle of the Bulge, above. File photo from Getty Images

“The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha [in Germany]. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.” — Supreme Allied Cmdr. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

At that moment almost 78 years ago, Hitler’s Third Reich was rapidly crumbling away.

This was in large part due to the massive strength of Eisenhower’s armies, which were determined to finish the war in Europe. With the end in sight, Allied soldiers entered German soil with the hope of receiving a speedy surrender. During this advance, American soldiers quickly noticed that the enemy had some notable similarities to their own countrymen. 

The German population was similar in size to the American middle class, and lived in heated homes surrounded by picturesque natural beauty from the German and Austrian landscapes. As Allied forces continued their eastward push, however, any feelings of closeness with the enemy quickly evaporated, as they had come to learn of Hitler’s “final solution.” American soldiers, many from neighborhoods along Long Island’s North Shore, had discovered and liberated the German death camps. 

For the men who witnessed this shocking brutality, these experiences would never be forgotten. Although hardened by the Battle of the Bulge and other combats against a fanatical resistance unwilling to surrender its losing cause, Americans were utterly unprepared for the scenes at these camps. Some had heard of the cruel treatment inflicted by the Nazis, but they were horrified after entering these camps. At once, the medics distributed food, water and medical treatment to save as many lives as they could. 

After visiting the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945, a sickened Eisenhower said, “We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, we know what he is fighting against.” Renowned journalist and radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow accompanied the American 6th Armored Division into the Buchenwald concentration camp. Laying witness to the atrocities, he reported, “I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. … If I’ve offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry. I was there.”  

“The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.”

— Robert Murphy

Diplomat Robert Murphy was also present to see the conditions of these camps. He recalled: “The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.” Many American soldiers were ordered to see these camps for themselves, as Eisenhower wished to prevent any future deniers of the Holocaust.

Two local heroes

Among these soldiers was the late John D’Aquila, resident of Belle Terre. A member of the 11th Armored Division, he served under Gen. George S. Patton’s famed Third Army. D’Aquila was a native of Middletown, Connecticut, who landed in France during the Battle of the Bulge. As a medic, he was ordered toward the strategic Belgian town of Bastogne which was surrounded by German forces. During one of the worst winters in recorded history, D’Aquila treated wounded soldiers as they turned back this German offensive. For his valiance and unceasing treatment of wounded servicemen, D’Aquila received a Purple Heart after being wounded during this battle.

Like many other soldiers at the end of this war, D’Aquila wondered if he would survive. On May 5, 1945, the 11th Armored Division entered the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. By the end of the war, those camps in Central Europe had considerably higher death rates as they were the last to be captured by Allied forces. D’Aquila remembered the inability of the local Austrian citizens to accept responsibility for the savagery committed there, despite the stench of death that hung in the air, the piles of bodies stacked up “like cordwood.”  

After the war, D’Aquila attended college and later earned a degree in law, where he defended the interests of insurance companies. Locally in Port Jefferson, he was on the board of directors of Theatre Three, and a play was later created by Jeffrey Sanzel, “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust.” Until his death, D’Aquila openly addressed his wartime experiences because he wanted to ensure that citizens, especially the youth, did not forget the severity of the Holocaust.

In 2008, D’Aquila described his experience of liberating Mauthausen during a Veterans Day program at Rocky Point High School. As though it had just occurred, D’Aquila spoke of his duty to medically care for the survivors of the concentration camp as they were finally being liberated. At another program at the high school, D’Aquila joined Werner Reich, who had survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, and was liberated by the 11th Armored Division.  

Reich was a 17-year-old young man who weighed only 64 pounds at the time of his liberation. In this condition, he was not expected to survive. At RPHS, he looked at the audience and vividly stated that if it had not been for Americans like D’Aquila, then he would have surely perished from starvation. Although from different backgrounds, both men were inextricably tied to one another through their shared experience of “man’s inhumanity to man.” For years, Reich has spoken to high schools across the North Shore to ensure that good people do not stand by when innocent people suffer from such atrocities. 

Even though World War II ended long ago, the world now watches history repeat itself through the images of fighting in the Ukraine. Americans are again learning of the massive losses of Ukrainian civilians suspected of being killed by Russian forces. People such as D’Aquila and Reich made it their mission in life to alert people that history will repeat itself if good people do nothing. We must learn from the examples of the past, we must always act, protect and preserve the rights and freedoms of people everywhere.  

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Founder Daniel Gale, above, and his assistant Miss Jean Wallice — the future Mrs. Kent Gale — in front of the Daniel Gale Huntington office, circa 1940. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty

Not many companies make it to 100 years in business, but Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty did just that this year.

Below, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty’s President and CEO Patricia Petersen poses in front of the Cold Spring office around 1990. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

Daniel Gale founded the company on Feb. 9, 1922, and chose Main Street in Huntington for his real estate and insurance agency. When he picked the spot, the founder was encouraged by the fact that the town was a stop on one of the Long Island Rail Road lines. A century later, the company remains family owned. Through the decades the founder’s son Kent, until his passing in 2014, grandson Stan, and Kent Gale’s protégé current chairperson and president Patricia Petersen have continued to head up the company along with CEO Deirdre O’Connell.


In a recent phone interview, Petersen and O’Connell discussed the company’s history. Over the hundred years, Daniel Gale has grown from a business with one office to 30 locations not only on Suffolk County’s North Shore but across the Island. In 2014, the brokerage company opened offices in Queens and this year Brooklyn.

Petersen said she believes one of the company’s assets is that it has been family owned. She learned the benefits of this early on when she started in real estate in 1975 in the Cold Spring Harbor location, which was the company’s second office. Petersen said as a mother, she was hoping to work part-time but quickly found out it was difficult to become a successful real estate agent with limited hours. She said Jean Gale, the wife of the founder’s son Kent, would help get her children off the nursery school bus, give them lunch and then get them to day care.

“Somehow we cobbled it together and made it work,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of how we run the company. Whatever the agents need, Deidre and I figure out a way to provide it.”

Petersen went from agent to office sales manager, company general manager and relocation director through the years. She credits Kent Gale with recognizing she had potential. In the early ’90s, she began buying the company with Kent’s son Stan Gale and became president and CEO.

Kent Gale, son of founder Daniel Gale. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

In turn, one of the talents Petersen recognized was O’Connell. The latter said her career in real estate began with another company in 1991. She opened her own office in Manhasset and her second one in Cutchogue. Daniel Gale then bought her offices, and she became part of the company in 2007. O’Connell helped the brokerage expand to the North Fork. She went on to become a regional manager then general manager of the company, and became CEO four years ago.

Both said they appreciate the history of Daniel Gale. As the centennial celebrations began, Petersen said, it was a reminder of everything the company had been through since its founding. The ups and downs of the current pandemic, she added, can be likened to founder Daniel Gale’s early days.

“Daniel Gale went through the Depression and went through the [second] World War,” she said.  “In fact, he started the company right after the first World War, and then he had to go through the second World War. We have had our own challenging times over the years, but certainly that’s not new to us. We’ve always been able to not just survive but thrive in really any kind of market.”

O’Connell said she believes the company thriving goes back to its foundation. 

“Certainly, in times of crisis we use that as an opportunity to assess the crisis and to utilize that and to come out of it as a growth opportunity, because after every crisis comes opportunity,” she said. “We’ve always been able to seize those moments.”

As for the pandemic, O’Connell said the company realized the importance of pivoting early on during the shutdowns by going virtual. Within a month, she said, Daniel Gale had an open house with 150 homes virtually showcased.

“Yes, everyone could do it eventually, but we seized the moment to once again help our agents help their customers and clients in providing them the service and marketing of the moment,” O’Connell said.

Petersen and O’Connell also recognize the importance of marketing in the real estate field. An early marketing tactic of founder Daniel Gale in the 1920s, Petersen said, was buying a tract of land along with two investors. One lot had a miniature model house buried in the ground. Petersen said whoever bought the plot would win a house built for them. She added that the person turned out to be a builder, so he was given two more lots instead of having a house built for him and the win spearheaded his own business in the area.

Pat Petersen and Deirdre O’Connell. Photo from Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International

Another milestone in Daniel Gale’s history was when the company became affiliated with Sotheby’s in the 1970s. The auction house needed an outlet for its clientele. After Sotheby’s International Realty was created, Daniel Gale became affiliated with it on Long Island and went on to become its No. 1 affiliate in the world.

O’Connell called the move a game-changer which allows Daniel Gale agents to bring their properties around the world but still have representation on Long Island.

“Larger firms that are represented, even here on Long Island, their decisions during hard times aren’t made here locally,” she said. “They’re made maybe in New York City or across the country somewhere. We live and we work, we do everything with our people first in mind.”

She gave the example that during the Great Recession of the 2000s, while big corporations laid off people, “Pat Petersen put personal money into the company to make sure that we didn’t have to cut our people.”

Keeping employees in place is something the company was able to do during the pandemic, too.

“We kept everyone on the payroll because we could make that decision,” O’Connell said.

The present and future

Later this year, Daniel Gale plans to open a new office in Huntington located cata-cornered where the original 1922 building was on Main Street. The company also recently launched the Daniel Gale Foundation to enable the company, which has donated tens of thousands in the past, to make a bigger impact.

O’Connell said Daniel Gale offices have always been involved with their communities “through a wide range of community service initiatives and donations.” With the new foundation, offices will choose a few events each year to work on with the whole company.

“The Daniel Gale Foundation will enable us to make an even greater impact with our giving by consolidating our giving efforts across the Island from Brooklyn to Shelter Island and make them even more impactful,” O’Connell said. “The foundation is about more than giving dollars, it is having the Daniel Gale family roll up their sleeves, put on their sneakers or pick up their shovels to work in our communities as a team.” 

The two said it’s important to be proud of the past but it’s also essential to keep an eye on the future. Currently, like other realty companies, Daniel Gale is keeping up with the current seller’s market. O’Connell said while inventory is low, sales are high.

“We get 10 houses on the market, or an office has five houses on the market in a weekend, and they’re all gone by Monday,” O’Connell said, adding she believes the market will normalize in the near future.

Petersen added the importance of pricing correctly in any market.

“Part of our job is to be good counselors,” she said.

As they look toward the future, Petersen and O’Connell said the ways of communicating continue to change with social media platforms, but the key is to maintain high quality just like they do in ads and online.

“You have to be true to yourself, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done in the last 100 years,” Petersen said. “Not that I had much to do with the first 50, but I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished and what is still yet to accomplish.”

Sheriff Toulon said he intends to address mental health and substance abuse during his second term. Photo from Toulon’s office

This week, TBR News Media had an exclusive interview with Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D). During our conversation with the sheriff, he addressed his battles with cancer, the challenges of steering the sheriff’s department through a pandemic and his surprising place in the history of the New York Yankees.

Sheriff, what is your professional background and how did you land in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office?

I started my career in 1982 as a New York City correction officer and I worked with the New York City Department of Corrections for 22 years on the uniform side. From 1982 until 2004, I worked on various assignments in numerous jails throughout the department. We had almost 25,000 inmates in our city system back then. I worked in our emergency services unit for almost 10 years. I was a captain there and also a captain in our detectives unit for almost three years before I retired. I also worked in the compliance division toward the end of my career.

I had to leave because I had some health issues. I’m a two-time cancer survivor. Uniquely, after I was able to recover from my illnesses, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s, master’s and I received a doctorate in education. I worked with County Executive [Steve] Bellone [D] as his assistant deputy county executive for public safety for almost two years, where I tell people that I truly got an understanding of the landscape of Suffolk County. Then, I returned back to New York City as the deputy commissioner of operations, overseeing almost all of the operational aspects of the department from 2014 until 2017. I then decided to run for sheriff in September of 2017.

How has your battle with cancer impacted both your outlook on life and the work that you do for Suffolk County?

One of the things that I realized as a two-time cancer survivor is that you never know what the person next to you — whether you’re on the ball field watching kids play or you’re in the movie theater or the supermarket — you don’t know if someone has health issues, financial issues, relationship issues. I think I have become a lot more sympathetic and also empathetic to the plights that people are going through.

Earlier in your career, you worked at Rikers Island. How has that experience shaped your later approach as county sheriff?

My father was a warden on Rikers Island for 36 years, starting off as a correction officer. I remember during one of the early conversations I had with him, I asked him about his employment. He said, ‘We rehabilitate men and women who are in jail.’ That kind of resonated with me throughout my career. 

When I became sheriff, I noticed that almost 85% of the men and women that are in our custody are returning back to our communities. In order to help them and to have less victims in our communities, while we have them within our custody why not try to provide them with the resources so that they can be successful when they return back to our communities?

What are some of the struggles that your department had encountered due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how did you attempt to overcome them?

When I was the deputy commissioner, we had to deal with the H1N1 and Ebola viruses. When we learned about COVID-19 in Washington state in 2020, we started preparing for the possibility of there being an outbreak. By the end of February, we had our plans set. We implemented them around the second week of March because the first [confirmed] case of COVID in New York state was March 1 and the first case in Suffolk County was March 8. By that second week of March, we started implementing measures of social distancing; we had masks that were mandated to be worn; we started doing temperature checks; and we told our staff that if they were not feeling well or had any of the signs of identified symptoms for COVID-19, that they should seek out their health care professionals. 

With the jails, we cleaned our facilities three to four times per day. Inmates were required to wear masks. We were able to “cell skip’’ our inmates, so instead of inmates being in cells 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, they were in cells 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. We did stop visits because, if you remember, [former] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo [D] had said that if we shut down visits for two weeks, we’d be OK. We did shut down our visits for any individuals coming in and for any service providers entering our jails. It proved to be somewhat successful, but we had to do it for longer than we anticipated. 

From March, when we first implemented those measures, until the beginning of December, we only had five inmates that had tested positive — and I should say, three tested positive in the jails, two came into the jail positive. I think we were very successful.

What we also did was that every newly admitted inmate had to go into a quarantine for 14 days while our medical staff checked up on them three or four times a day. We wanted to make sure that our new admission inmates weren’t exposing any inmates that had been in our custody with any potential virus. 

You were recently sworn in for a second term as sheriff. What is your vision for the next four years at the department?

There are three things that I’m working on.

Mental health and substance abuse seem to be the primary traits for the majority of the men and women not only in our custody but throughout the nation’s prisons and jails. We’re working very hard to understand those two components because we want to be able to help those men and women, and even those that are not in jail — maybe there’s no criminal activity in their lifestyles, but they’re still suffering. 

We want to see what we can do, working with various community partners and service providers to look more holistically and see what’s going on. We do understand, even with some of our youth, who we are learning may have adverse childhood experiences, not only are they experiencing mental health and substance abuse in the home, but there are also traumatic issues, domestic violence issues and socioeconomic challenges. Those are the things we intend to focus on.

We’re also looking to create the first network of information sharing for jails and prisons throughout the United States. We think this will be very beneficial. We know that most police departments are sharing information with each other, but jails and prisons throughout the country are not. We want to tap into that resource because if we learn of different trends that are occurring, we can also alert our law enforcement partners to these things that are occurring, specifically in the jails and prisons throughout our region and our country. 

Your office has donated bulletproof vests to the people of Ukraine. What are some of the other philanthropic initiatives that your office has been part of to benefit both Suffolk County and the greater global community?

That was a start by donating those decommissioned vests, but one of the things we are embarking on is that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is now an advisory component to a sheriff’s foundation. This is not run by the Sheriff’s Office, but by a group of individuals. They’re a 501(c)(3) and their goal is to have fundraising events. We do so much in the community that they want to assist us in really helping these kids that are having certain issues. Whether it is donating school supplies or the various community events that we want to do, we want to strengthen the bond between the community and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

Also, we really want to engage our youth because they are the ones that we want to make sure are on the right path, that they look at law enforcement as a positive role model, and that they maybe even want to come join our forces and work at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

You are the first African American elected as Suffolk County sheriff. What does that distinction mean to you?

To me, and I know that’s something that has been said to me a lot, my first goal is to be the best sheriff possible, regardless of my race. I do realize that being the first African American not only as sheriff, but the first African American elected to a nonjudicial county-wide position on Long Island, Nassau or Suffolk, it’s something that I’m very cognizant of wherever and whenever I go somewhere. 

I know there are a lot of people looking at me, some favorably and some unfavorably. I think I need to be who I am and not necessarily who people perceive due to the color of my skin. 

Baseball season is now underway and I have learned that you also occupy a place in the history of the New York Yankees. Could you elaborate on this?

Yes. I was fortunate enough in 1979 and 1980 to be a bat boy with the New York Yankees. They had just come off of back-to-back World Series championships in 1977 and 1978. Tragically, in 1979 our captain, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash and we fell short of making the playoffs that year. Subsequently, in 1980 we did make the playoffs, but we lost three straight to the Kansas City Royals. In the third game, I was the ball boy down the right field line watching George Brett hit a three-run homer off of Goose Gossage, which went into the upper deck. I realized then that my career as a bat boy had quickly come to an end. 

What are your thoughts on Aaron Judge’s contract fiasco? 

I hope they do sign him. I think he’s proven to be not only a great ballplayer when he’s not injured, but more importantly a great role model. Mr. [Joe] DiMaggio and Mr. [George] Steinbrenner — both of whom I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with — would say that he is the type of person they would want to be a Yankee for his entire career, very similar to Derek Jeter.

Sheriff, thank you for taking this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our local readers?

Yes. I firmly believe that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is changing the paradigm of criminal justice, not just in Suffolk County but throughout New York state. We’re continuing to look for partners, both from the governmental side but also the community side, to make sure that we are not only able to engage but also help those that need us. That’s why we’re here. We’re really here to help our community.

Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale says she wants to run for reelection in 2022. Photo from the Suffolk County Clerk Facebook page.

This week, TBR News Media sat down with Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale (R). In our interview, Pascale was candid about Women’s History Month, the controversy surrounding her upcoming bid for reelection and her legacy in the county clerk’s office. 

What is your professional background and how did you get to the county clerk’s office?

My husband has a business, and I was the chamber president for the Mastics and Shirley Chamber [of Commerce] many years ago. I was the first woman that was ever running for president of that chamber. It was kind of a contentious race of predominantly men and, to cut a long story short, I won by one vote. 

Later on, I went to work on a congressional race as a volunteer for Ed Romaine’s [R] campaign. After that, I worked on a district attorney’s race. When Ed Romaine ran for county clerk, he asked me to join him and that’s when I first went to the county clerk’s office, which I believe was 1989.

I went in as senior deputy, in charge of court actions. Ultimately, I became the chief deputy county clerk and served for him for about 16 years. He decided to leave to go back to the [county] Legislature — he was term limited — and when he left, I became the acting county clerk because in New York, you have to have a county clerk, a sheriff and a DA. It’s a state constitutional office.

I screened for the position, amongst many others. On March 10 of 2006, then-Governor George Pataki [R] appointed me after months of investigation. Luckily, as I like to say, I led a very dull life and got appointed and became the acting county clerk. Subsequently, I ran for the open seat. I got elected and was elected again in 2010, 2014 and 2018. 

March is Women’s History Month, and you are just the second woman in the history of Suffolk County to hold the office of county clerk. What does that distinction mean to you?

I think that it’s important that women are judged by their capability, and I think there are certain industries and certain professions that women have broken the glass ceiling, broken the marble ceiling. I think that’s important, and I think that’s a mantle that I’m very proud to carry.

As far as other women are concerned, I think it’s very important for people to know that no matter what you are, you have the capability. I’m very proud to be the second woman. There are a lot of county clerks that are females, there are a lot that are males, but I’m only the second woman to hold it in Suffolk County. 

How has the landscape changed since when you first started out? Do you notice any more women holding leadership roles in government now?

I think it has become more acceptable, more accepted that women have a great contribution to make. I don’t think it should matter whether you’re a man or a woman. If you have the capability and you have the drive and you have the ethical standards, then I think certainly the door is open for women.

Transitioning into this year’s race for Suffolk County clerk, we spoke with Republican nominee, Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo, last week and he was under the impression that you were going to retire after this term. We’d like to give you an opportunity to clear that up. Do you intend to retire after this term, or do you plan to run for reelection?

Any elected official that tells you that they’re never running again — first of all, if they say that, it may be in the heat of a moment. 

They are saying that I made a commitment that I would not run again. I believe that commitment was that I wanted another term. They’ll say that I absolutely said that I would not run again, and that is not something that I said. I said at the time that I wanted another term.

Listen, do I expect to stay here forever? No. I’ve given 30-plus years of my life to the county clerk’s office. I’m very, very proud of everything that we’ve done there. We moved this office light-years ahead and that’s because I have a great staff.

The issue that I have is the way it was handled. I asked at the end of the year if I could do a kickoff fundraiser. I was told I could. I planned one in the beginning of February and the Friday before my fundraiser, I was told that I had no support. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done. We’re an award-winning office throughout the state. The fact that the party that I supported — I mean, I broke bread with these people — then all of a sudden I was being thrown out like last week’s trash. 

Primaries are very difficult and running a primary is a herculean task. They have an army. Anybody that has wanted to help me has, I’m going to say, been intimidated. Basically, I’m on my own and I don’t know if I’ll be successful. If I can get enough signatures to get on the ballot for a primary, I will. 

They want me out and, to me, that’s pretty devastating. I’ve served with integrity and dignity, and they should have told me six months ago. At least let me leave with some dignity. And I will tell you this: Women have come up to me and have thanked me for doing this. I’m the only countywide elected official that’s female. It’s not easy, it’s exhausting, and no one can help me. The fact that I’ve served this party and served this committee for all these years, and now I’ve become a pariah. That’s upsetting. 

As a follow-up, you have won reelection multiple times. You do have name recognition and an electoral track record. If you do get the signatures, are you interested in running in a primary race against Vincent Puleo?

I hate it. Nobody wants to go into a primary. The purpose of getting enough signatures is that if you get enough signatures, you do a primary. Primaries get ugly and, like I said, he’s got an army and I don’t. It would be very ugly and it’s not something that I look forward to, but sometimes you do things that you have to do. 

With all of that being said, if you were to win reelection in November, what kind of vision do you foresee for your office over the next four years?

When COVID hit, it was like the perfect storm. COVID hit and everybody moved to Suffolk County, so that meant that all of those land and real estate documents had to be processed and they were initiated. We not only had a shutdown order, but also this influx of this crazy real estate market in Suffolk County. We were able to do a remote system, so there was no interruption in the real estate economy, none. No financial disturbance was caused and, as a matter of fact, it was actually enhanced.

We would like to add more things to the system: more documents, more document types. I would just like to continue along that trend, add a few more documents to the electronic recording system. 

I’d like to amend the mental hygiene law for those people that have been determined to be mentally incompetent. My concern is that these people may have considerable assets, and we want to change the law to say that only the appointed person from the court can view that file. We don’t want “Cousin Mary” to be able to say, “Oh yeah, she’s got $300,000 in the bank.” These are vulnerable people that need to be protected.

Also, one of our primary concerns is cybersecurity, which is a concern everywhere. We’re working on that now and have a couple of capital projects that we’re working on to ensure our records are maintained and secure. There are a few more things that I would like to finish up, and if that happens it would be beneficial to Suffolk County residents.

Could you summarize your legacy in the county clerk’s office over the last three decades? What do you hope to be remembered for?

I would like my legacy to be that I have brought this office into this century and beyond, that I have made this office more user-friendly while simultaneously protecting the privacy of those people whose privacy needs to be protected. My legacy should be that we have won the ‘Best of New York’ award, and we’ve gotten an award for bringing government closer to the people. 

Government is a maze for most people. People have a difficult time navigating the government. My goal was to make it more accessible, more user-friendly, and we’ve won awards for this. I’m very proud that we put together a great IT team. I’d like my legacy to be that I improved the county clerk’s office, picked up where the last county clerk left off and brought it into the next phase. 

I think you have a responsibility as an elected official to leave the office somewhat better than the way you found it. Despite some of the wonderful county clerks that we’ve had, I am pretty confident that I will leave the office better than I found it, all while serving the 1.5 million Suffolk County residents.

Click here to view our interview with Puleo, “One-on-one with Vincent Puleo, GOP and Conservative candidate for Suffolk County clerk.”

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, recently spoke with The Times of Huntington & Northport about being named grand marshal of the 2022 Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will take place Sunday, March 13.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Q: Before we get into the details of this year’s parade, could you discuss your own background? How did you get to where you are today?

I was born in Ireland, and I left when I was young. Then I went to England to work in the steel factories. My dream was always to go to college, but we didn’t have the means to pay for it, so I had to figure out how to get the resources. When I came to the United States, I was 18 years old. 

I came by myself, and I worked on the West Side of Manhattan on the docks for a number of years. The first three years I would spend half the year working in New York and in the second half of the year, I would go back to Ireland and go to college — I was fortunate enough to get into college in Ireland. Of course, I had no money, so that’s the reason I had to continue working. 

After I graduated from college in Ireland, I came back to New York and continued working on the boats for a period longer. Then I worked in construction and in plumbing and other manual labor jobs that I did not mind doing at all. Then I went to Fordham University to get my masters. 

I went, obviously, part-time because I was working all the time. I graduated from Fordham University and after I graduated, I was fortunate enough for them to ask me to come back and teach a course. I taught a number of courses at Fordham. Eventually they asked me to come on full-time as a faculty member at Fordham University, at the Graduate School of Social Service at Lincoln Center. I eventually became the assistant dean of the graduate school, having an administrative role and a faculty role.

I was at Fordham when Gov. Mario Cuomo got elected. His administration reached out to me to ask if I was interested in taking a job in government. I had not been involved in politics, I did not know the governor, but I am a risk-taker and I like new challenges, so I said yes.

I ended up taking on a job in Albany and relatively quickly moved up the ranks. I eventually became the Director of Health, [Education] and Human Services of the State of New York. I was also the deputy secretary to the governor and his chief adviser on health and human services. I did that for 12 years.

 I left Albany and then I was fortunate again. North Shore University Hospital reached out to me and asked if I was willing to join. North Shore, back at that point, was at the beginning stages of building a health care system. Subsequent to my arriving, we expanded through mergers with other hospitals. A couple of years later we merged with LIJ. Five years after I arrived at North Shore I became president and CEO. I’ve been president and CEO for 20 years.

I’ve done manual labor; I’ve been in academia; I’ve been in government; I’ve been in the insurance industry; and I’ve been on the provider side. That’s a very quick snapshot of my career.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians? When were you selected as grand marshal of this year’s parade in Huntington?

I’ve been involved off and on over the years with the Hibernians in New York City. Three years ago, the Huntington Hibernians reached out to me asking if I wanted to participate in the St. Patty’s Day Parade. I agreed.

Then, of course, COVID hit and that changed everything, and it delayed everything. Fortunately, now with elements of COVID decreasing big time, hopefully we’ll have a good day this Sunday.

The Hibernians do great work — long history, great legacy, great humanitarian organization and good people. They do terrific work around the Huntington area, so I’m very, very proud to be a part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and to be working with the Hibernians.

Q: Given that you were on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, what does this year’s event mean for you?

Well, we’re evolving into some normality now. You go through an issue like COVID and it’s a learning experience. Every so often, during various periods of time, you go through a difficulty like this. When you’re going through them, you just deal with it. Now it looks like it’s receding big time, but we’ve got to be vigilant. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be an uptick or some other kind of variant, but this is an opportunity for people to get back to normal. We can get together in-person and socialize and communicate together in-person, which is very important. 

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week in Huntington is their first parade since COVID began. The outbreak of COVID in the Long Island area happened right after the most recent parade held by the Hibernians in Huntington. We have had no in-person parades since 2020 and now, two years later, it’s a wonderful reawakening. 

Maybe it is a celebratory thing that we are on the exit ramps of COVID, and we can get together. It’s a positive sign. It shows that there is some optimism and positivity. I’m hoping that the weather is nice, but even if it isn’t we are still going to have a great time. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. 

Q:  Is there anything else that you would like to say to the local readers?

I would say that Huntington is a wonderful place. We should sit back and remind ourselves about how fortunate we all are. We live in the United States, we live in a beautiful place: Huntington and its surrounding areas. We are able to assemble freely and be together for some time. 

This is an opportunity to celebrate the United States, to celebrate how fortunate we all are, to celebrate the liberties and the freedoms that we hold, especially given what we see happening around the world right now. 

It’s a celebration of immigration, a celebration of immigrants, a celebration of our diversity and, of course, it’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, our history and the contributions that the Irish and so many others have made in the building of the United States. 

It’s an opportunity to be thankful. This is a celebratory, joyous occasion and I look forward to it.

Just a few of the cookies designed by Kim Carter of Rolling Pin bakery in East Setauket. Photo by Rita J. Egan

During the pandemic, small business owners have been looking for ways to get customers’ attention. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, a local bakery is providing an option that stands out from the average box of chocolates.

Kim Carter, of Rolling Pin, holds one of the cookies she decorated. Photo by Rita J. Egan

When people first walk into Rolling Pin bakery in East Setauket they’ll spy on the shelves colorful cookies wrapped in individual clear bags. The works of art are created by Kim Carter, the bakery’s decorator, who is currently busy preparing cookies for Valentine’s Day featuring cute couples, colorful lovebirds, adorable animals and more. Every holiday for about eight years, Carter said she comes up with novelty cookies for customers to purchase to give away as gifts and Feb. 14 is no different.

When Evelyn Haegele began working at the bakery a few months ago, she was floored by her new co-worker’s talents. Her cookies are “just incredible,” she said. “Each one is a work of art. I felt like, ‘Kim, you really deserve to be noticed.’”

Carter has been working for the bakery, which is owned by David Dombroff, for 13 of the nearly 27 years it has been open. The decorator said as each holiday approaches she looks for inspiration by searching on the internet. She said each cookie takes a different amount of time to create. Making the sweet treats involves a few steps, from first baking them to then cutting them into different shapes. She then creates backgrounds for each cookie by dipping it in a color she has chosen. After the background is ready, she creates the outline for the cookie and fills it in freehand.

Just a few of the cookies designed by Kim Carter of Rolling Pin bakery in East Setauket. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“It takes practice and there has to be the right consistency of the icing,” Carter said. “If not, it will be running or too soft or too hard to squeeze.”

In addition to cookies, Carter decorates cakes, too. Before she started working for Rolling Pin, she worked for various bakeries and has 20 years of experience in the field. Carter’s decorating talent is one that naturally came to her.

“Since I was a kid I just liked art,” she said. “Then, one day, I said, ‘Hey, I can decorate a cake. I see people doing it. I can do it.’”

Her favorite holiday cookies are the ones she makes for Easter, Halloween and Christmas, and the decorator said she feels bad during Father’s Day because it’s one of the holidays that’s difficult to come up with themes that would be fitting for a cookie.

The bakery also takes custom orders for parties and showers. Sometimes, Carter said, the shapes are unique, and she creates a temporary cookie cutter out of tin until she can find one to buy.

Haegele said her favorite cookies since she started working at the bakery are the Halloween and Christmas cookies, including one that was shaped like a snow globe with sugar that looked like glass.

“What she did was amazing,” Haegele said.


The Rolling Pin bakery is located at 1387 Route 25A, East Setauket.

Joe Conlon and Mary HInd are the founding partners of Virtual Therapy for Kids. The service is built around video games. Photos from Joe Conlon

By Chris Mellides

Growing up with video games was commonplace for many children and teens throughout the 1980s, 90s and beyond. But what if these pixelated worlds weren’t designed to spoil your mind as so many parents would insist on, following Saturday morning cartoons and bottomless bowls of Cap’n Crunch cereal?

Joe Conlon

What if, instead, video games helped repair those young, developing minds?

Regarding the topic, 33-year-old East Northport resident and licensed clinical social worker, Joe Conlon, and founding partner Mary Hind, a clinical social worker and therapist herself, answer back with their business Virtual Therapy for Kids. 

The service they created is built around the most accessible and widely consumable media in the world — video games, where some of the more popular titles include online available juggernauts such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox, according to Conlon, who leaps out of his therapist’s chair and into a virtual world where “meeting the clients where they’re at” is paramount, and where playing alongside them holds its own blend of fun and incremental learning, according to him. 

Conlon recalls a time before COVID-19 when parents of children with developmental disabilities would be running late only to request a phone session for their child and Conlon would simply refuse to make the appointment. 

“I just cannot do it over the phone,” he said. “It’s so hard to connect with the kids, especially [when] audio and video wasn’t even a thought.”

Hind offers her own insight, which aligns with her business partner. Hind hails from Babylon, graduated from Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work in 2019 with a focus on Children and Adolescents and Child Welfare and is a fierce advocate for the mental health of the children she serves.

Mary HInd

“Working with a niche population and being virtual, allows me as a therapist, to capitalize on kids having sessions in the comfort of their own space,” said Hind. “This means allowing kids to create a therapeutic environment, with far less pressure than a traditional therapy setting.”

The focus is on engaging with children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 17 in a way where cognitive behavioral treatment transforms into online gaming therapy — a concept that the young entrepreneur credits to the children that altered his view of what remote learning could become.

It’s hard to believe that as founding members, Conlon and Hind have yet to meet in person, and though they are apart, together they forge a business partnership intended for the betterment of children and the parents that require the help of professionals.

“I’m taking the symbolism in the game and making parallels to life,” Conlon said. “Kids say you’re much more yourself when you’re in these digital worlds.”

He added, “I’m trained to see where the kid has anxiety based on what the parents tell me. Kids with ADD [attention-deficit disorder] and ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder], for example, are overly emotional.” And so they require interaction with Conlon and Hind, who log on and set goals for their kid clients to complete on a weekly basis within a particular video game title. 

In Fortnite, Conlon will instruct his clients to complete a seemingly difficult task, such as building a wall to guard against oncoming attacks from other competing online players. 

The response to the goals that the two licensed therapists set have been very positive, according to Conlon, who also said that his clients get excited completing a complex task requiring concentration, and that the parents of these children are overjoyed in sharing with a child’s achievement.  

In what seems like an endless pandemic, business partners Conlon and Hind see potential for the growth of their business and for aiding their communities both on and offline where therapy and consultation rates start at $45. Their website is

Older parents attempt to understand a generation growing into the next evolutionary cycle of the internet, and what that means for the emotional health and well-being of their children can be distressing, according to Conlon. 

“How they cope in an ever-changing world where digital avatars and virtual gaming has become the norm, fitting in and navigating tenuous relationships is harder than it has ever been before,” Conlon said. 

“Diagnosing kids is what led me to diagnose myself,” he said. “Having ADHD, we’re more likely to keep thinking outside the box.”

“When you’re stuck in the storm, you go and get some bandages, go find a safe spot and go back into battle,” Conlon said, which is perhaps a lesson in gaming and life in general.