People of the Year

Kevin Mann Photo courtesy Mann

By Nasrin Zahed

Kevin Mann, president of the Rocky Point Rotary Club, stands at the forefront of a noble mission — to promote peace and unity within communities both at the local and global scale.

Notably, he is involved in the installation of Peace Poles, tangible symbols echoing the universal desire for a harmonious world.

A dedicated community leader, Mann has been actively engaged in various initiatives that aim to make a positive impact on both community and society. As the president of the Rocky Point Rotary, he has demonstrated a commitment to the principles of service, community betterment and international cooperation; or as they say in Rotary, putting “service above self.”

At the heart of Mann’s involvement is the Peace Pole Project — an endeavor that brings communities together through art and a shared vision for global peace. Peace Poles, adorned with the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in multiple languages, symbolize the diversity of humanity and the collective aspiration for a more peaceful world.

Mann’s pivotal role in spearheading the installation of Peace Poles becomes evident in instances such as at the dedication ceremony of a pole erected by the Sound Beach Property Owners Association at the East Beach entrance on Shore Drive, overlooking the Long Island Sound. This dedication exemplifies the Rocky Point Rotary Club’s unwavering dedication to fostering peace and understanding within the community.

Under Mann’s guidance, the Peace Poles serve as visual reminders of a shared commitment to peace, contributing significantly to the broader mission of building peaceful communities worldwide.

The Peace Pole Project seamlessly aligns with the visionary goals of the International Cities of Peace movement, reflecting Mann’s global perspective. This movement, established in 2009, encourages cities to engage in peace building at the grassroots level actively. 

The Peace Poles, with their multilingual inscriptions, become ambassadors of Long Island’s mission for peace. By aspiring to have Long Island recognized as an International City of Peace, Mann envisions an Island actively contributing to the Rotary’s global efforts.

Mann not only leads the Peace Pole Project locally but is also a co-founder and current president of the Hope Children’s Fund. This showcases Mann’s commitment to global impact and plays a vital role in supporting the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home in Meru, Kenya — an orphanage that Mann helped establish with the late Larry Hohler.

Under Mann’s guidance, the Hope Children’s Fund provides education for orphans at the Kenyan children’s home. From its start in 2005 with 18 children, the home now supports 92, with some graduates becoming lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs — a testament to Mann’s and Hohler’s transformative vision.

What sets Mann apart is not only his impactful initiatives but also his humility. Mann, in his tireless efforts, remains incredibly humble, never failing to acknowledge and include everyone who helps make these dreams possible.

He recognizes that positive change is a collective effort, and his inclusive approach fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility with no personal gain behind his actions. Mann states that he is “paid in smiles and thank yous, something people give you from their hearts and souls.”

In addition to his current endeavors, Mann envisions establishing what is known as the Corridor of Peace on Long Island, running along Route 25A and covering four local school districts in Rocky Point, Shoreham-Wading River, Miller Place and Longwood. This ambitious project aims to create a geographic and cultural corridor dedicated to promoting peace, understanding and cooperation within these communities.

The Corridor of Peace becomes a testament to Mann’s commitment to fostering harmony not only globally but also within the fabric of Long Island.

Mann’s involvement in the Peace Pole Project exemplifies his unwavering commitment to fostering peace and unity within communities. Through his leadership in the Rocky Point Rotary Club and participation in initiatives like the Hope Children’s Fund, Mann continues to be a beacon of positive change.

As Mann dedicates his time and energy to these noble causes, he not only inspires local communities but beckons others to join the journey toward a brighter, more peaceful future on a global scale. In the interconnected world he envisions, Long Island becomes not just a local community but a shining example of peace at work, with the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home standing as an emblem of the transformative power of compassion and education across continents.

For his continued efforts with the Peace Pole Project, establishing a Corridor of Peace and supporting a more peaceful Long Island, TBR News Media recognizes Kevin Mann as a 2023 Person of the Year. Because as Mann simply and resoundingly states, “Peace starts at home.”

Michael J. Winfield Sr. File photo

On college campuses across the nation, where dreams unfurl and ambitions take flight, lurks a hidden shadow — hazing.

A cruel dance of humiliation and abuse, it scars not just bodies but spirits, etching its trauma onto the very fabric of campus life. In the face of this darkness, one local leader stands as a beacon of light, wielding swords of knowledge and compassion: Michael J. Winfield Sr.

An educator, sociologist and former school administrator at Shoreham-Wading River school district, he understands the insidious nature of hazing on an intimate level. 

His book, “Before You Pledge: Essential Information You Should Know About Black Greek Letter Organizations,” delves into the complex web of motivations and pressures that fuel this practice, offering a courageous diagnosis and a potent cure.

“Back in 2019, I wanted to come up with some type of book or booklet that would really help people to think before they pledged,” Winfield said. “Giving people some practical advice on hazing and what typically happens.”

The book peels back the layers of tradition and misplaced camaraderie, exposing the emotional wreckage left in its wake — shattered self-esteem, fractured trust and even the tragic loss of life.

“They don’t know what to expect,” he said. “And they get in there and realize they’re in too deep because sometimes it’s violent or sometimes it’s alcohol-based. Sometimes there’s a lot of paddling that’s really, really intense. I just wanted to create something that would be an aid.”

Winfield’s impact isn’t just theoretical, it’s tangible. Through tireless hours of writing, teaching, and many community collaborative efforts, he’s helped foster safer campuses nationwide. His work has empowered countless students to speak up, administrators to take action and communities to rally against this evil.

“I’ve seen so many people come back and thank me — because it emboldened them,” Winfield explained. “It gave them the courage to speak up and understand that no one can make you do it. It just gave them courage.”

But his fight isn’t confined to campuses. Recognizing the roots of hazing in precollege environments, Winfield actively engages with all, planting the seeds of empathy and inclusivity early on.

“Hazing has been around for a very long time,” he noted. “We find evidence of it even before the word became associated with hazing as we know hazing — we can find examples dating back to the Greeks and to the Romans.”

“Let’s say 1906, we still had a lot of anti-Black racism and violence happening, you still had people walking around who wore the scars of slaves at this time,” Winfield added. “So for a college person of color to physically beat another was just unheard of. That brings us to this particular point — the founders of all these organizations were totally against this behavior.” 

He understands that dismantling hazing requires a long-term, multipronged approach, starting with education and cultivating a culture of respect and compassion from the very foundations of life.

“I’m adding a chapter on understanding the dynamics of hazing and a chapter for developmental psychology,” Winfield said. “I get into it at length. I looked at a few studies and just really chewed down into that.”

Winfield stands as a shining testament to the transformative power of compassion, awareness and activism in a world often riddled with cynicism and apathy. He doesn’t just write about hazing — he fights it one community at a time.

For his passionate education and advocacy, TBR News Media is pleased to name Michael J. Winfield Sr. a 2023 Person of the Year.

How John and Deborah Urbinati spread comfort through food

Deborah and John Urbinati accept an appreciation certificate from the Ronald McDonald House Charities in 2017. Photo courtesy Deborah and John Urbinati

By Sofia Levorchick

Since they were teenagers, John and Deborah Urbinati have been immersed in the culinary world, sharing a passion for the restaurant business. However, it was when they met in a restaurant in Colorado that they decided to pursue their culinary journeys together.

After they married, the Urbinatis traveled across the United States, gaining knowledge about food, cocktails and wines. Once they moved back to New York, their love and passion for the industry propelled them to want to work in a restaurant together.

They partnered with the original owners of The Fifth Season in Greenport, then relocated and reopened the restaurant in Port Jeff.

As owners of The Fifth Season for almost 16 years, the couple found that they wanted to pair their shared passion for food with their desire to give back to the community.

“We’ve always known that food is a great connection with the community because it allows us to provide sustenance and comfort to people,” Deborah Urbinati said.

“Plus, we’ve always had a very strong sense of service to our community,” John Urbinati added.

Giving back

Almost a decade ago, the Urbinatis came across the Ronald McDonald House Charities nonprofit organization, established at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The Ronald McDonald Family Room offers a welcoming and comforting environment within the hospital, providing patients and their families with nourishing food.

John and Deborah were initially asked to deliver a meal here and there, but their activity eventually evolved into a more extensive commitment between their restaurant and the foundation.

“The last thing these families think about is food in such a stressful setting,” John noted.

Deborah added, “Hearing the struggles that people are going through with their children, it makes it easy to want to do more.”

“And because we felt so good about being able to provide a service for people that are really in need, we realized we could do this every week,” John said.

Every Wednesday, the Urbinatis and their staff pack meals to be delivered to the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Beforehand, they take the time to brainstorm what meals to cook and send out, sometimes making the dishes personable.

Deborah recounted the time they had a patient from the hospital come into the restaurant because she had eaten their food at the Ronald McDonald Family Room. “She loved the chicken fingers, and when she unfortunately went back to the hospital, we ensured that chicken fingers would be specially delivered to her every week,” she explained. 

Striking a balance between managing a restaurant and volunteering could seem to be a challenging feat, but the Urbinatis have made it a routine, motivated by the rewarding aspect of giving back while doing what they love.

“A lot of it is just a mindset,” John said. “You make it part of your daily routine. Once you make the commitment and decision to do it, you figure out a way to make it work,” adding, “It’s not just us doing the work, too. We have a tremendous team here.”

Collaboration among the Urbinatis and their Fifth Season staff has contributed much to the success of the overall philanthropic effort. Whether cooking chicken, packing up boxes or writing what’s on the box, the restaurant staff plays a crucial role in helping the Urbinatis in the Ronald McDonald House organization.

“All of the support staff we have here all step in and take a piece of the puzzle, and we’ll all put it together in the end,” John stated.

Sometimes, they even see volunteers from the Ronald McDonald Family Room come in for dinner. “It’s almost a full circle moment — we support them, so they support us,” Deborah said.

They have received an overwhelmingly positive response from families who are reaching out with emails, phone calls, letters and personal visits to showcase their gratitude for what the Urbinatis have done for the Ronald McDonald House organization.

“We go in doing it not looking for anything in return,” Deborah indicated. “But in return, we do end up feeling grateful that we’re able to help, and it makes us beyond happy to see that our efforts are fostering positive change.”

TBR News Media recognizes John and Deborah Urbinati as 2023 People of the Year for using their talents to improve our community.

By Steven Zaitz

The silver Honda Accord of personal trainer Stephan Reyes can be seen in the same spot each and every weekday.

No, there isn’t a fancy “Reserved for Mr. Stephan Reyes” sign in the parking lot of the Transfitnation Training Studio in Smithtown. The 24-year-old Westchester native is at work before most of us are even out of bed every morning and is fully prepared to improve the mind, body and soul of everyone on his client list for the day. His first appointment is usually at 5:00 a.m.

Reyes, along with his fitness-conscious colleagues at the boutique gym off of Terry Road, emphasizes a holistic approach to personal betterment that includes guidance on not just strength and weightlifting, but lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep, science-based stretching and balance improvement.

The team, led by founder Steve Dell’Amore, evaluates each client and formulates a custom program based on his or her age, goals, body type and health history. They like to think of themselves as a one-stop wellness shop.

“I came into this field to give people the tools that they need to change their lives for the better,” said Reyes. “I love the challenge of working with such a wide-ranging group of people who have different challenges, goals and backstories, and helping them to improve their lives.”

Reyes, who was a superstar basketball and baseball player at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, later studied Sports Management at SUNY Oneonta, also completing a sports medicine internship while there.

Upon graduation, he became a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Human Movement Specialist and will complete a course in January, 2024 to become a Certified Nutrition Coach.

Essentially, he is an ever-evolving wellness scientist with the certificates to prove it..

“There are so many aspects of this job that I love, and I’m always trying to learn so I can serve my clients the best way possible,” said Reyes, who has relocated to Port Jefferson Station from his beloved Westchester. “In building individual plans for people, we need to do a lot of analysis before and after, but when I’m one-on-one with my clients, I try to get to know them, so I’m part trainer, part life coach, part motivational speaker, part teacher and part friend.”

Among his clientele, Reyes is legendary for his positive energy and fun-loving approach to the job. He can often be heard shouting his favorite catch phrases like “great work”, “finish strong”, and “excellent adjustment” as he pushes  his trainees to their limits.

“When I first met Stephan, I knew right away that he was a ‘people-person,’” said Dell’Amore, who opened the business in October of 2018. “He has grown his client base from the ground up, and he brings a lot of energy to every single session. People love to train with him, and he’ll take on any challenge that is thrown his way.”

Having worked at Transfitnation for a little over two years, Reyes has accrued a plethora of success stories. Too modest to boast about them himself, many of the people he trains were eager to share their fitness journey.

Jerry Varrichio, 22, works at Home Depot in South Setauket and lives in Stony Brook. He is also one of several of Reyes’ clients who are on the autism spectrum.

“I always feel better coming in to train with Stephan, and I’ve lost a lot of weight,” said Varrichio who enjoys taekwondo and has recently taken up golf. “The moment I come in here and start my stretching before the workout, I feel better about myself.”

Jerry has lost over 10% of his body fat in 18 months since becoming a member of Transfitnation.

Tatianna Morisseau is a 32-year-old nurse from Brentwood who has been training with Reyes for six months. She suffers from lipedema, which is a long-term condition of fat and connective tissue building up in various parts of the body. It is a stubborn impediment to weight loss and fitness.

“Lipedema really messed with me because before I knew that I had it, I would try to lead a healthy lifestyle but would never see the results,” she said. “But working with Stephan, I’ve made so much progress in my body composition, and I’m very happy about that. Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

A fellow Terry Road business owner is also a “Transfit Transformer.”

“No two workouts are ever the same, and I always feel like I accomplish something when I’m done,” said Tom Bernard, 60, of Smithtown, who is the proprietor of Rockwell’s Bar and Grill. “I was 225 pounds when I started, and now I’m 190 and my body is totally transformed.”

He added, “Not only does Stephan train me when I’m there, but he’s taught me how to do it on my own with the correct form, and it’s great because my metabolism is like a jet engine now. I can go to my restaurant and eat almost anything I want.”

Jean Francois, who is a native of Haiti and was clinically obese when he showed up at Transfitnation, has been under Reyes’ watchful eye for about a year.

“People tell me now how good I look, and I feel great,” said Francois, who works as a counselor for seniors and the disabled. “When I first came to the country, I went to the doctor, and he told me I had to make some serious changes. A year later, I went back to that doctor, and he told me I was no longer obese. I was crying with tears of joy because that was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Francois was close to 300 pounds at his heaviest. He lost 60 pounds and 20% of his body fat over the course of 12 months. Reyes shares in the joy in Francois’ achievements.

“Jean is a great story and a good example of someone who worked really hard to get results,” Reyes said. “He had some personal issues to deal with and was not in a good mental space when he came to us, but he really bought into not only the exercises but the diet and sleep programs that we set up. We’re all very proud of what he has achieved.”

Reyes is eager to create more stories like these.

“I’m definitely happy that I chose a career where I’m helping people,” he said. “Impacting people in a positive way and leading them down a path to success by helping to change habits and lifestyles is what I’m all about. Whether it be to help with an eating disorder, fight obesity or just help someone fit into a wedding dress or tuxedo, I’m happy to do it.”

His clients seem to be happy, too, knowing that they have made a most “excellent adjustment” to their lives. 

For helping community members become the best versions of themselves, TBR News Media names Stephan Reyes as a 2023 Person of the Year.

Susan Walsh Lauria, Eileen Anders and Penny Ferraro at the Northport Library. Photo from Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library

By Julianne Mosher

Penny Ferraro spent her entire adulthood in Port Washington. When her children moved east, the newly widowed Ferraro decided to start a new life in Northport and get involved within her community. 

Eileen Anders, center, gets ready to dig at the East Northport Library with Friends of the Library members Penny Ferraro, left, and Doreen Earl, right. Photo from Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library

Five years ago, she joined the Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library group where she met Eileen Anders. 

The first thing Ferraro noticed about Anders was that she was “a quiet, constant presence,” who could lead a group, but also was one to follow suit. 

“If you come up with an idea, she’s right there,” Ferraro said. “She’s a team player.”

Anders, a retired public-school teacher from East Northport, is known locally for her involvement with several different causes. A past secretary of the Friends of the Library, she is also heavily involved with the Huntington Historical Society, the Long Island Horticultural Society, the Heckscher Museum and more. 

For her active devotion to local horticulture and history, TBR News Media names Anders as a 2022 Person of the Year. 

“I have known Eileen for several years as we meet at a Friends of the Northport-East Northport Public Library meeting,” said Susan Eckert, of Northport, and a 2021 TBR News Media Person of the Year. “At her suggestion, I also joined the Long Island Horticultural Society. We have since gone together to garden and house tours and other cultural and artistic events.”

Eckert said that Anders’ love for teaching followed her into retirement where she continues to educate people in her role as a volunteer.

“She’s so active in her community in different organizations throughout Nassau and Suffolk,” she said. “It’s wonderful she shares her knowledge about gardening with us.”

Ferraro agreed. In the few years she’s known Anders through the different nonprofits and organizations they volunteer with together, she said that she is always ready to tackle a mission and does it with a smile. 

For example, last year the Friends of the Library decided to start what would be a two-year task of planting daffodil bulbs in the courtyards of the Northport and East Northport libraries. A small handful got together last year to plant 100 bulbs – 50 in each location. When 2022 came a year later, several factors came in the way of having the same number of volunteers – rainstorms, scheduling and illnesses. Ferraro said that Anders didn’t mind and the two took it upon themselves to plant another 100.

Eckert said that her colleague’s love for horticulture goes beyond the courtyards of the local libraries. Anders is a master gardener who has conducted workshops on gardening through programs sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension, and is on the board of directors at the Long Island Horticultural Society where she at one time coordinated the monthly program.

Anders is also a history buff who conducts tours at Planting Fields Arboretum’s Coe Hall mansion in Oyster Bay, volunteers as a docent in training at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, is a former tour guide at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay and is a current member of Preservation Long Island. 

Just recently, Ferraro mentioned that Anders, who again will drop what she’s doing to help out the cause, joined at the last minute to volunteer at the Holiday Historic House Tour with the Huntington Historical Society. 

This volunteerism impresses Ferraro. “Volunteering is important because we can’t get things done by ourselves,” she said. “You need to have a group of people who are passionate about certain issues and ideas.”

And she believes Anders does just that. 

“She epitomizes contributions to the community without grandstanding which is absolutely amazing,” Ferraro said. “Eileen has energy, stamina, intelligence, curiosity and everything going for her that makes her a very valuable person to our community.”

Earlier this year, Hope Kinney, left, shown with Herb Mones, Three Village Community Trust president, was able to secure a $4,000 grant from her employer, Investors Bank, to help restore the immigrant factory houses in Setauket. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Hope Kinney is a familiar face in the Three Village area.

Hope Kinney collecting donations for The Salvation Army. File photo

Whether at an event organized by the Rotary Club of Stony Brook, Three Village Community Trust, local chamber of commerce or working with students and businesses with the Three Village Industry Advisory Board, residents will see Kinney there with a smile on her face, scurrying around to help out.

For her dedication to her community, Kinney is one of TBR News Media’s People of the Year.

The admiration is mutual. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) nominated Kinney for Suffolk County Woman of Distinction in the 5th Legislative District in 2020.

“Hope Kinney’s impact is ingrained within many of the layers that comprise our community,” the legislator wrote in an email. “From her highly visible leadership role with, and on behalf of, local business to her continual support of organizations committed to societal improvement, Hope is dedicated to serving neighbors and community with purpose. There is so much to honor Hope Kinney for, and I believe, this recognition translates our thankful community’s gratitude into celebration of her uplifting and selfless spirit.”

For years, Kinney has been involved with the now-defunct Three Village Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club of Stony Brook. She became the president of the latter in the summer of 2020 and took on the challenge of organizing club events while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. She scheduled Zoom meetings, and as more businesses were able to open up planned socially distanced lunches. She also put together a virtual online fundraiser for the Port Jefferson-based nonprofit Give Kids Hope, which provides food and clothing for local residents in need.

For the last three years, the rotary club has organized the Three Village Holiday Electric Parade. During the pandemic, due to COVID-19 restrictions, a drive-thru version of the event was held at Ward Melville High School. 

Judi Wallace, treasurer of the rotary club, credits Kinney for keeping the organization going during the pandemic. She described Kinney as “a wonderful person” and “super community oriented.”

“Three Village means everything to her,” Wallace said.

Kinney is always looking for ways the rotary can assist individuals or groups who have a need in the area, Wallace said.

She added, “Hope is always thinking and always coming up with great ideas in order to do things in the community.”

Wallace said it was Kinney who brought back the 5K race organized by rotary and The Bench in Stony Brook.

“She just comes up with an idea and follows through, and that’s the most important thing in the world,” Wallace said.

The same year Kinney became president of the rotary club, she joined the Three Village Community Trust board and is currently its treasurer.

Herb Mones, president of TVCT, said it’s refreshing and a big help to a volunteer-based organization such as TVCT to have someone such as Kinney who is always ready to chip in when asked.

“She is always the first to say, ‘I can do that,’ and helps and takes on different responsibilities when the need is there,” he said. “She does it in an upbeat, happy way of feeling that she is contributing and helping the community.”

Hope Kinney standing in front of the Rotary Club truck in Hicksville about to receive 4,000 masks in 2020. Photo from Hope Kinney

She was recently able to secure a $4,000 grant through her employer, Investors Bank, which will go toward the restoration of the immigrant factory houses in Setauket. Kinney has also spearheaded the trust’s gala in November, which Mones said is the most successful fundraiser for TVCT.

“She’s always got an ear to the community and understands things that are going on and that becomes very helpful in so many different ways,” Mones said.

Kinney juggles all her volunteer roles while working full-time as the branch manager at Investors Bank, formerly Gold Coast Bank, at its Setauket location on Route 25A.

Kinney started her banking career at Capital One in 2004. When the bank had layoffs in 2018, she was recruited by John Tsunis, Gold Coast’s founder, as branch manager.

In a 2020 interview with The Village Times Herald, Kinney talked about balancing her career and volunteerism with spending time with her husband, Joseph, and three children Justin, Michael and Rachel. To handle all her responsibilities, she said she tries to stay organized and not get overwhelmed.

“I take it day by day,” Kinney said. “I put it on the calendar, and I’m able to look at the calendar and then I go day by day … I guess that’s the secret — work with each day.”

Jennifer McNaughton, center, in a recent photo with her sons Ryan, left, and James. Photo from McNaughton family

A late November day in Western New York saw temperatures drop into the 20s with the wind chill making it feel close to zero.

Jennifer McNaughton with her boys when they were younger. Photo from the McNaughton family

Leftover snow from one of the biggest blizzards in modern history whistled around the football stadium at St. Francis High School in Hamburg in suburban Buffalo and there were no amounts of hot cocoa, blankets or layers of clothing that could make the conditions close to bearable. 

Adding to the misery, the St. Anthony’s Friars football team that sat on a cold, dark bus for seven hours in search of a New York State Catholic championship, was getting destroyed — losing by 20 at halftime.

Despite this frozen hellscape of a situation Nov. 30, there was no other place Jennifer McNaughton, a St. Anthony’s Friars mom, would rather have been.

McNaughton, of East Northport, has two sons, Ryan and James. Ryan is a sophomore and plays on the offensive line for the Friars and senior James is currently one of the most successful long-distance runners on Long Island as a member of all three Northport Tigers track and field teams. Jennifer has always been extremely active in their academic and athletic careers from the time that they were small. 

There’s a Mrs. McNaughton, or a Jen, in every town in America. You know — the mom who knows the correct link to order the gear, has practice and game schedules committed to memory, and always carts around a well-stocked cooler of Gatorade in the back of her truck. 

From Cub Scouts den mother to Northport Tigers cross country booster club president to football mom, she is especially busy during the fall sports season, traipsing around the tristate area every weekend to support both of her boys. She is involved with several charitable endeavors and is one of the most well-liked and respected citizens of Northport. 

Around the village, McNaughton cannot walk a short distance without someone stopping her to say hello, ask her a question or just shoot the breeze. But in late August, with the 2022-23 school year just days away, she started to have trouble walking a few feet for any reason at all and would lose her breath doing the simplest of tasks. After a few days of this, she and her husband, James, decided it was time for her to see the doctor. 

The news was not good.

She was diagnosed with massive bilateral pulmonary embolism, in which hundreds of tiny clots impede blood flow in her lungs. Left unchecked, this disease is often fatal and even when checked, it can have extremely negative outcomes. Her first thought was about her family.

“It was James’ senior season and Ryan had made it on to one of the best football teams on Long Island and there was so much good coming to our family this year,” McNaughton recalled thinking in the doctor’s office. “Instead, everyone would remember it as ‘the year that mom died.’ That was very difficult for me to come to grips with.”

Her sons were not thinking about their athletic careers when they learned of her diagnosis.

“My mother has gotten me to the place where I am today,” said Ryan, who is one of a handful of underclassman to get starting reps for the Friars in 2022. “She has supported my brother and I for as long as we can remember in every conceivable way. When they told us what she had, it really knocked us off our feet. We weren’t expecting it to be something so serious. We were stunned.”

After a five-night hospital stay, where she was administered a course of blood thinners, McNaughton’s condition started to abate, and she was able to ease into normal activities around mid-September. Many of these activities entail getting her boys to where they need to be. But make no mistake about this — James and Ryan do not just compete at places like Hauppauge, Connetquot or Longwood like most Suffolk County high school athletes. 

Jennifer McNaughton with her sons when they were younger. Photo from the McNaughton family

Ryan, who comes in the form of a sandy-haired, blue-eyed wrestler, had a stretch of four straight road football games that spanned September and October. Jen and husband James made stops in Piscataway, New Jersey; Rockland County; and the Bronx — twice. She saw every snap.

For James, who is a wiry and reed-thin 6 feet, 2 inches tall with dark eyes and wavy, jet-black hair, the mother routinely traveled to the Armory in Upper Manhattan; the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island; and even as far as Cicero, which is near Syracuse and is a six-hour drive. 

“Whether I run well or don’t run well, it’s always good to know she’s there supporting me,” said Northport senior James, who was the fastest Long Island runner at the New York State cross country championships last month. His mother’s illness “was a huge shock and not something any of us contemplated dealing with. It felt like everything was going upside down.”

Upside down or not, Jennifer McNaughton was determined not to let this setback interfere with her boys and their sports or her other business and philanthropic pursuits. She was moving forward.

“I started to feel better, and I love watching my boys compete,” she said. “I also love being with the other parents who are supporting the teams because it’s like being in a family. These are the moments that I live for.”

Currently on a maintenance program with the blood thinners and her condition improved, she’s intent on organizing cross country team dinners and acting as emcee for raffles at Napper Tandy’s Northport, raising money for charities like the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for pediatric cancer whose Northport chapter has raised over $6 million since its inception in 2002. 

She’s also a volunteer for Splashes of Hope, which supports county homeless shelters, veterans centers and children’s hospitals through the appreciation of art; and the Barbara Frost Community Fund, which raises money for underprivileged kids in Northport and is named for the beloved teacher at Bellerose Elementary who was killed by a drunk driver in 1993. 

On top of these acts of philanthropy, McNaughton has since rebooted her successful party planning and private bookkeeping businesses that had been on pause.

Her friend and fellow Northport mom, Patricia Campoli, is happy to see McNaughton undertaking the things she loves to do.

“Between running a household, her jobs, volunteer work and her two boys, I really don’t know how she does it, said Campoli, whose two sons, Michael and Christian, are on the Northport Tigers football team. “She is so full of knowledge on everything that happens in the community, and she is a wonderful person and a great friend who does everything with a smile on her face. I’m so happy she’s back because I know she loves doing as much as she can, and we love having her here.” 

McNaughton has reasons to smile. “I feel so lucky to still be alive,” she said. “I get up every morning and I cry tears of joy and thank God that I’m still here to do the things I took for granted before my illness.”

For her family, and all the people whose lives she touches around the village, they too feel lucky. As a little bit of added fortune, the St. Anthony’s football team overcame that three-touchdown deficit from St. Francis to win the state Catholic championship, 27-20, on that snowy day near Buffalo — some delicious icy frosting on the 2022 McNaughton family cake.

There are many aspects to Jennifer McNaughton’s benevolent work for the Northport community and her devotion to family, especially in the face of her recent illness, which is why TBR News Media names her a Person of the Year for 2022.

Stony Brook University Hospital

Previously invisible to most of the public, the infectious disease team at Stony Brook Medicine took center stage from the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 through today as area residents have battled COVID-19 and other diseases.

With a peak of over 500 people hospitalized at Stony Brook University Hospital with COVID-19 in 2020, the combination of Drs. Bettina Fries, Susan Donelan and Sharon Nachman provided best practices to protect hospital staff and patients, gathered information about the developing virus and communicated through the media with a public desperate for information.

Working with teams of other dedicated health care professionals, these infectious disease doctors helped treat and save numerous patients.

TBR News Media is pleased to name Fries, Donelan and Nachman as People of the Year for 2022.

“Stony Brook Hospital got all kinds of kudos during the height of the pandemic,” said Dr. Jonathan Buscaglia, chief medical officer at Stony Brook University Hospital. “When you’re going through a hurricane crisis, you need somebody who has a clue about hurricanes to lead you. Those people were our leaders.”

At the time, the team of infectious disease doctors impressed their colleagues not only with their effectiveness, but also with their tireless work.

“When COVID happened, it was a calling” for these infectious disease experts, Buscaglia said.

In the beginning of the disease, little was known about the most effective treatment, which meant doctors from several departments came together to create a standard protocol.

The infectious disease faculty “contributed significantly” to develop these practices, said Dr. Vincent Yang, chair of Medicine at the Renaissance School of Medicine at SBU.

Dr. Bettina Fries. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Bettina Fries, the chief who served on the front lines

Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Medicine, Fries is a “nationally if not world-renowned physician scientist,” Buscaglia said.

As with her colleagues, Fries works directly with sick residents.

Fries “100% served on the front lines to care for all the hospitalized patients with COVID,” said Buscaglia, which included working seven days a week for weeks on end. She guided her staff and helped other physicians.

Early on, Fries was also “instrumental in getting a manufacturer of face masks to donate a significant number to the hospital,” Yang said. This was a key part of the personal protective equipment that had been scarce during the unsettled early part of the pandemic.

Yang described her as “highly motivated, energetic and forward thinking” and believes she is a “wonderful leader” who is detail oriented. Fries provides clear expectations for people who work for her and is an avid educator, Yang added.

As an expert in using monoclonal antibodies to treat various bacterial infections, Fries helped direct an effective therapy using these antibodies for COVID patients, according to Yang.

Fries and her team were also involved in consulting on patients, not just for COVID but also for secondary infections, Yang said.

Connie Kraft, emergency manager in the Emergency Management Office at SBUH, described Fries as “very personable” and appreciates how she studies scientific data to crunch the numbers.

Dr. Susan Donelan. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Susan Donelan, a ‘hero’ who lost sleep to help patients

Donelan, who earned her bachelor of science degree from SBU, is medical director of Healthcare Epidemiology at Stony
Brook Medicine.

In addition to caring for patients, Donelan also worked to avoid the spread of COVID at the hospital, reducing the risk to staff and to Long Islanders who came to the hospital for other medical needs.

“We don’t want patients coming in without COVID getting it while they’re here,” Buscaglia said. “It takes a special person to guide the rest of us.”

The hospital established a forward triage effort, which provided an initial assessment of COVID patients outside the hospital.

Kraft appreciated Donelan’s commitment to safety throughout the halls of the hospital.

“If you’re somebody who is walking down the corridor and your mask is hanging off your face, [Donelan] didn’t care who you are. She’s going to stop you and say, ‘Hey, pull your mask up,’” Kraft said.

As a subject-matter expert, Donelan was “our hero,” Kraft added.

Specializing in the latest treatments and symptoms, Donelan also helps faculty and staff with medical questions.

When Kraft’s grandson was sick, she asked Donelan for advice.

“She was right there, giving me support,” Kraft said, which gave “everybody a sense of calm.”

A tireless worker, Donelan often appeared on Zoom calls even during her time off.

She “doesn’t stop thinking about ways to help patients,” Buscaglia said. She “literally loses sleep about it.”

Dr. Sharon Nachman. Photo by Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Sharon Nachman, active in front of the camera and behind the scenes

Nachman, who earned her medical degree at SBU, is chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s.

Often visible during her appearances on local broadcast news channels and in numerous local publications, including TBR News Media, Nachman is committed to ensuring the public receives accurate information.

“Giving people information about why it’s important to wear masks, wash their hands and get vaccinated, those are the things that affect the community,” said Dr. Carolyn Milana, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Stony Brook Children’s.

Even though Nachman is a pediatrician and works at the children’s hospital, she, like so many other doctors, helps wherever it is needed, which in the early days included caring for adults.

Nachman was “instrumental from the adult and pediatric perspective making sure we had the latest and updated information about how to treat those patients,” Milana said. “She and her team were out there [checking] on all the patients to make sure they were all cared for the same.”

In addition to helping to get COVID vaccine trials up and running at Stony Brook, she has been active in trials to treat monkeypox.

Milana appreciates Nachman’s approach to children and their parents.

“She’s super friendly with kids,” Milana said. “She’ll tell you the facts as they are. She’s straightforward with parents. She wants them to have all the information they need to make the right decisions.”

Stu Vincent, director of public affairs and public relations at Mather Hospital, has also made a name for himself within the Port Jeff business community.

As 1st vice president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Vincent has emerged as an important local figure and leader. He has been active in chamber events, including overseeing its annual Health & Wellness Fest. 

Barbara Ransome, GPJCC director of operations, characterized his role as chair of this festival. “That is a very important event that we are involved in because it is a strong revenue-producing event,” she said. 

Ransome maintains that Vincent, as 1st VP, acts as a close adviser, referring to his public relations expertise as a helpful springboard for different ideas. To her, Vincent is a warm presence within the chamber and a reliable attendee of chamber events. 

“That particular skill set is very important, certainly for a chamber of commerce, and I look for his expertise on certain matters that pertain to that,” Ransome said.

With Mather, Vincent has had considerable influence in the hospital’s Paint Port Pink campaign. Through the Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather Hospital, this initiative raises awareness about breast cancer, shares information and brings the community together. The bright pink lights streaming through the village in October are a staple of the campaign.

Mayor Margot Garant considered Vincent a dedicated community servant and a positive force for the Port Jeff community.

“He’s at every single event, a strong member and volunteer of the chamber, so he’s definitely a dedicated servant and a very good employee,” she said. “I think he makes an excellent face of the hospital, and he’s just a swell guy — kind of a quiet soldier.”

That quiet soldier continues to leave his mark on the Port Jeff community. For his sterling work on behalf of the chamber and Mather Hospital, TBR News Media recognizes Vincent as a 2022 Person of
the Year.

Members of the EJ’s PJs pajama drive, a Centereach-based nonprofit, during a Saturday, Dec. 10, event. Photo courtesy Kevin LaValle

The EJ’s PJs pajama drive is an enduring holiday tradition for the Middle Country community. On Saturday, Dec. 10, the program marked its 12th iteration at the New Village Recreation Center in Centereach.

Patricia Poggi is a lifelong resident of the area who formed EJ’s PJs with her three sons. The name was inspired by the boys, Edward, Jeremy and Patrick, who have each been instrumental in preserving and growing the drive.

In an interview with Poggi, she outlined how the pajama drive first came into existence. “We created our pajama drive because we always wore pajamas [around Christmas], and it was kind of a thing that helped us to keep warm, fun and family oriented,” she said.

Poggi described the program as a family endeavor that has taken on a life of its own. The organization’s first year saw the collection and donation of 33 sets of pajamas. Over a decade later, that figure has grown exponentially. 

Three years ago, EJ’s PJs began a partnership with the Town of Brookhaven, working closely with the area’s representative on the Town Board, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden).

“Now we’re in 85 businesses, and we’re expanding tremendously,” Poggi said. “Every year, we’ve doubled.”

A significant portion of the pajamas donated support the town’s INTERFACE program, which offers goods and services to those in need and addresses social issues throughout the township. Now, as a 501(c)(3) pending nonprofit, EJ’s PJs plans to move the operation into local shelters and hospitals.

For her impressive charitable work, TBR News Media is pleased to name Poggi as a 2022 Person of the Year.

During this year’s event, LaValle discussed how the partnership between the pajama drive and the town first came about and has strengthened over time. He and Poggi were classmates in high school, and after reconnecting some years ago they began exploring ways to grow the initiative.

“I saw her vision of what she wanted to do and said, ‘We have a toy drive, so why don’t we try to put that together with EJ’s PJs,’” LaValle said. He explained his involvement to date, “We identify at the town level, through the toy drive, the needy children that we’re going to give toys to. We match up a pair of pajamas, so the kids go to bed with a nice pair of pajamas, and then they get toys in the morning.”

‘These are all sorts of organizations from the Middle County community coming together for a great cause.’

­— Kevin LaValle

Amid the rising heat, fuel and food costs, LaValle regarded EJ’s PJs as serving a critical public service function during this time of year. While broader economic pressures may be placing a strain on local families, he commented that many — such as the Poggis — are eager to make a positive impact.

“You see, with the rising prices, a lot of people are hurting right now,” the town councilman said. “But there are so many people coming out giving toys, giving pajamas.”

He added, “That’s an amazing thing. There is a need, but there are a lot of people — even in some tough times — willing to give.”

Helping the pajama drive to run smoothly and efficiently are a dedicated team of volunteers. Jennifer Dickson is a committee member with EJ’s PJs who first got involved with the organization last year. She described the influence of the volunteers.

“We’re a big committee,” Dickson said. “We all help each other out and do certain things — the social media, creating the event, wrapping the boxes, the setup and cleanup.” She added, “It takes months because we want to get as many pajamas as possible.”

Lettice Washington is a friend of Poggi’s and a committee member. Within the organization, she is renowned for her folding technique, helping to arrange the thousands of pairs of pajamas that have crossed their door. “I came back to fold all the ones we get this year,” she said.

While the program has grown considerably over its 12-year history, Washington foresees the drive building upon its recent momentum and expanding even further.

“I tell you, it gets better every year,” she said. “We’ve had a great response, and I see it growing. The more we get the word out, the more people know about it, I think the bigger and bigger it will get.”

One of the major draws of this event is its originality. Washington said she was motivated to be a part of something unique and outside the box in deciding to join the organization.

“It is something different,” Washington said. “It being a unique kind of idea is what drew me to it. … You don’t really hear about pajama drives and donating nice, warm pajamas for kids during Christmas.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) also attended the Dec. 10 event. He reflected upon the value of giving back to the community amid these trying times, emphasizing how programs such as EJ’s PJs enrich and enliven the greater Middle Country area.

“It has just grown immensely, and the participation by our community is just heartwarming,” he said. “Around the holidays is the perfect time. It allows everyone to get the joy of giving into their lives,” adding, “I’m honored to be a part of it, to contribute to it and enjoy it here in a location where we know we’re helping others.”

Washington offered her expectations for next year’s event. Witnessing this year’s enthusiasm for the organization, she forecasts even more pajamas in 2023.

EJ’s PJs gets “bigger and better every year,” she said. “I feel that this is going to grow exponentially. Next year, when we talk about the number of pajamas, I think it will be an exponent of this year.”

LaValle sees Middle Country uniting around a common purpose through this annual tradition. He expressed similar enthusiasm for the future as the community continues to come together to donate pajamas.

“Our fire department is here, our youth civic is here, our regular civic members are here,” he said. “These are all sorts of organizations from the Middle County community coming together for a great cause.”

He added, “This is a great event. It’s bringing everybody together. You’re seeing a lot of smiles here, all around giving to those less fortunate in our community and throughout our township.”

Summarizing the purpose for holding this event every year, Poggi explained the collective anxieties felt by parents to provide their children with a happy Christmas morning. For her, donating pajamas is a gesture that can go a long way in supporting those parents and their children.

“As a parent, I know how hard it is to pull off the beautiful Santa magic, and it’s not always very easy, especially when you don’t have the funds,” she said. “Something like a pair of pajamas alongside a gift can make it even that much more elegant. To have a child feel warm and cozy and protected, that’s always our number one mission.”