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Sound Beach resident Todd Leighley’s mustache is freckled with gray and his face shows lines of age, but he doesn’t mind. Though his left leg was amputated below the knee after a motorcycle crash in 2009, and now he wears a thick carbon fiber prosthetic, all that matters to him is that he continue the sports he played as a kid, namely skating. He has embarked on a mission to try to get a skate park built in his community.

“I’m fat, middle aged and one legged, and I’m having the time of my life,” Leighley said.

For the past four years Leighley, the 47-year-old emergency services specialist for public electric company Public Service Enterprise Group, has been advocating for the construction of a skate park in the Sound Beach area, which he hopes to call Hawks Nest All Wheel Park. What he has in mind is something to help those kids in the area who aren’t keen to participate in the usual team sports.

“Skateboarding is looked down upon — it’s not embraced and supported like football and lacrosse,” the skateboarder said. “The parks are coming, and they can’t keep fighting it forever.”

When he was 6 years old Leighley said he learned to love skating. He became mired in a culture that conveys freedom: freedom of expression, freedom from problems, freedom to go where you want. His appreciation for the culture deepened when he moved to Hawaii in his 20s and became involved in the surfing scene. It was a continuous part of his life until 2009 when he was involved in a motorcycle crash, suffering compound fractures in his femur, tibia and fibula. The leg had to be removed, and he did not know if he could continue with all his favorite sports from his childhood.

It was around the time shortly after the accident he said he learned, in the Brooklyn Bike Park, which was a different type of skate park, of something called a “pump track,” where riders build momentum through the up and down motion of wheels on a track with several ups and downs, either with a bike or skateboard.

“It’s like a roller coaster, but instead of a roller coaster that would use machinery to pull carts up hill, here you’re using your muscles,” Leighley said. “You’re pumping and using it to get speed. It tricks you into using your muscles.”

He said that type of skate park revitalized his lifelong passion for skating. The transcendent experience of boarding around the block is something he said he wants his community to feel.

While the skater exudes passion from every pore, Leighley has had trouble generating the right type of interest for the project from the community. While there are multiple mountain bike trails in the area and the Shoreham BMX track right behind the Robert S. Reid Community Center, there are very few options for a skateboarder other than sidewalks and roadways, not unless they want to travel many miles to either Riverhead, Amityville or Huntington.

Joseph Mannix, a Copiague social studies teacher, is also a community leader when it comes to the Huntington skateboarding community and has walked the steps Leighley is trying to follow. As a veteran skater who has been boarding since “the clay wheel days” of the 1970s, he is the one chiefly responsible for the East Northport Veterans Park Skate Park. It was built after years of working with his community, starting with skating lessons that eventually built up into clubs and a driving interest of local children, adults and eventually support from the town.

“At [the Greenlawn Skate Park] I started a lessons program and summer camp which became so successful that the town got interested, and they saw how much revenue they were making and how healthy it was,” Mannix said. “I was pushing for those kids who are not so into organized sports, or kids into organized sports who want the personal experience of skateboarding.”

While those parks remain popular, Leighley said he believes a park filled with transitions, pools and quarter pipes can only apply to 20 percent of adrenaline sports enthusiasts because of how daunting they seem to a newcomer. He said a pump track can apply to people of any skill level since riders can take any path at their own pace.

Port Jefferson resident Rachel Whalen, 30, a friend of Leighley’s, said she just got back into skating about seven months ago, and as a single mother raising two children, she wants to have a place near her home where she can exercise along with her kids.

“I would use it, I would want my kids to use it too,” Whalen said.

Despite the setbacks in trying to get the project off the ground, the Sound Beach resident said he has become closer to his community through his skate park campaign. Leighley became involved with the North Shore Youth Council, where executive director of the organization Janene Gentile said he teaches local kids basics in martial arts. While Gentile sees him as a caring man, she said others in the community have been unnerved by his classic skater-rebellion style personality.

“[Leighley] has the personality of a very radical dude, and while he’s trying to temper it, some people get taken aback,” Gentile said. “He’s a radical dude, but he’s caring, compassionate and passionate about his vision.”

Skateboarders agree that tenacity is the foundation of the sport. As long as one keeps at learning a trick, despite its difficulty, eventually any technique can be learned. It’s why Leighley said he will not be giving up on his vision any time soon.

“Kids need hope,” he said. “They need these things, they need these lifelines to pull them up.”

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The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson celebrated its 57th Port Jefferson Greek Festival from Aug. 23 to 26. This year’s event featured carnival rides, traditional dance performances, live music, games and culinary delights.

SkyZone photo from Kevin Ryan O’Connor

By Carolann Ryan

As the temperatures drop and days shorten, many of us find ourselves stuck inside at home, glued to our couches and televisions, during the long, cold winter months.  This year, tell yourself it’s time for a change of pace. Long Island offers a wide array of fun children and family-friendly programs, events and activities all winter long. Whether your little ones enjoy sports, arts and crafts, reading or just playing with others, there is a place for it. This list of Long Island winter activities will get you and your kids out of the house exploring in no time.

Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead
If you and your children are animal lovers, check out the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. Daily events such as shows and “talk and feeds” with various animals like piranhas, sea lions, stingrays, African penguins and sharks provide educational and interactive fun. On holidays and weekends, you can even take a “selfie” with one of the lovable sea lions or be a shark keeper for the day. There are also various indoor exhibits, a touch tank, an exciting shark dive and a submarine simulator. The aquarium will also be holding a special Santa brunch on Sunday, Dec. 13, where you can explore the aquarium for the day and meet Santa. For more information on the Long Island Aquarium and its events, you can call 631-208-9200, or visit www.longislandaquarium.com

The Rinx — Skating on the Harbor, Port Jefferson
Visit the Port Jefferson Village Center for the ultimate winter activity — ice skating!  The Rinx has an ice skating school that offers programs for children as young as 3½ years.  Classes are offered in two series, each of which is six weeks long for $125.  Each of the series includes one 30-minute lesson per week on your preferred day and time, admission weekly to a public skating session and a membership in USFS Basic Skills Program, as well as a USFS Basic Skills record book and stickers and USFS badges upon mastering of each level.  With an experienced and qualified staff of professionals, your kids will learn the fundamentals of ice skating with a major emphasis on fun.  Series 1 will begin on Nov. 29 and registration is open now!  For more information on The Rinx and its ice skating school, call 631-403-4357 or visit www.therinx.com/pjrinx.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Mount Sinai
When your kids are stuck inside during the cold winter months, they need a way to get out that pent up energy, and Sky Zone Trampoline Park is the perfect place to jump it out. The park has numerous activities inside to choose from, including free jump sessions, a foam pit for freestyle jumping, ultimate dodge ball, basketball hoops and more. All ages are welcome, and with jump times starting every 15 to 30 minutes, there is no shortage of fun, so jump in. For reservations, pricing and information call 631-938-1420 or visit www.skyzone.com/mountsinai.

YMCA Huntington
For everyday activities that promote healthy, fun lifestyles, spend your winter at the YMCA in Huntington. With exclusive winter memberships available, the Y features two heated indoor pools for recreational swimming as well as lessons and a separate building complete with gymnasium and studio classes. The Huntington YMCA also includes a new children’s center that features 13 modern classrooms for early childhood programs and before and after school care.  To get more information and membership pricing on the YMCA of Huntington, visit www.ymcali.org/huntington or call 631-421-4242.

Port Jefferson Free Library
The Port Jefferson Free Library offers many free programs for children all winter long. Activities offered include toddler and preschool story times and playtimes, robotics camp, a Mad Hatter Tea Party, movie screenings, game nights, Habitat for Humanity programs and classes for activities such as dance, chess, science and winter-themed arts and crafts. The library will also be hosting a family holiday bus trip to New York City on Saturday, Dec. 12.  You must be a Port Jefferson Free Library cardholder to register for programs. For more on this event and other programs, please call the Port Jefferson Free Library at 631-473-0022, or visit www.portjefflibrary.org.

Take the kids out to play this winter at various spots across Long Island. Above left, scenes of fun at the Port Jefferson Free Library. Center and right, kids have a blast at a Sky Zone Trampoline Park.