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American Cancer Society

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Volunteers needed to drive cancer patients to treatment

After pausing the Road To Recovery program due to public health concerns during the pandemic, the American Cancer Society is relaunching the volunteer driver program.  To ensure Long Islanders get to their cancer care, volunteers are needed to help provide free rides to treatment.

Volunteer drivers donate their time and can provide as few or as many rides as they want each month. After the application and DMV screening, drivers are required to certify that they are fully vaccinated and will continue to maintain that status during their service to the program. All volunteer drivers must participate in a short training, have a good driving record, a current and valid driver’s license, proof of adequate automobile insurance, access to a safe and reliable vehicle, can schedule their availability online,  and internet access.  For more information or to volunteer visit cancer.org/drive or call 1.800.227.2345.

“For some cancer patients getting to and from treatment can be their biggest roadblock,” said Patti Lestrange Mack, Communications Director with the American Cancer Society. “In some instances, patients cannot drive themselves for medical reasons, others may lack the resources or a network of family and friends who can give them a lift. Volunteering as a Road To Recovery driver is a flexible way to support  a critical need for cancer patients in our community.”

The American Cancer Society takes safety seriously and has implemented new guidelines to minimize COVID-19 risks to patients and volunteer drivers plus enhanced technology that will provide a better patient and volunteer experience. A new mobile-friendly website will make it easier for volunteer drivers to view and accept ride requests. Patients can access the program either through the mobile-friendly website or an app that will allow them to submit ride requests and see real time notifications. Patients who lack access to technology or who prefer to connect via phone can still call 1-800-227-2345 to schedule rides to treatment.

Miguel Melendez, an American Cancer Society volunteer, has provided rides to patients from his hometown of Baldwin, as well as further distances in Queens and throughout Suffolk County.  “As an active retiree, I find it so rewarding to help cancer patients by giving them a lift,” stated Melendez. “I can choose to give one ride once a month, or more if my schedule allows and I always feel great about helping someone.”

According to Lestrange Mack, the American Cancer Society estimates 118,830 New Yorkers will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

To learn more about volunteering for the American Cancer Society Road To Recovery program, visit cancer.org/drive. If you are a cancer patient needing transportation assistance, contact the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.

File photo/TBR News Media

Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson has been awarded a $25,000 Innovation Grant Award from the Katz Institute for Women’s Health (KIWH) to pilot an Integrative Oncology Program that will focus on both the physical and mental pain of cancer patients.

“Pain management is cited by the American Cancer Society as a top priority for oncology patients, as the physical attributes of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer are amplified by emotional and spiritual suffering,” KIWH stated in awarding the grant. 

The Community Integrative Care Oncology program aims to expand community access to evidence-based integrative care modalities for women with an oncology/hematology diagnosis.

“We will be providing acupuncture, meditation, reiki, nurse coaching, aromatherapy, etc. to women with an active cancer diagnosis or women who are survivors of cancer,” said Marie O’Brien, NP, Coordinator and Nurse Practitioner for Mather Hospital’s Integrative Pain Management Program. Nurses in the program include Patricia Dodd, NP, Maria Rubino, NP, and Margaret Scharback, RN. 

Patients will register through Patient Access for the services, which will be offered at the hospital. The services will be offered free of charge to participants.

O’Brien said the staff has received additional training and plans to launch the clinic in April.

Photo (left to right): Kacie Mulligan and Brittany Ferrante. The American Cancer Society offered two awards at the start of the season for Most Holes Played and Most Funds Raised. Brittany Ferrante of the Village Club of Sands Point played 280 holes on September 7th, 2021, securing the title of Most Holes Played. Kacie Mulligan of Southward Ho Country Club raised over $70,000 in her highly successful endeavor, securing title of Most Funds Raised.
$347,000 raised through golf marathons held in 2021

The American Cancer Society celebrates 16 golf professionals from 11 country clubs who participated in golf marathons this year, while raising $347,000 to support the mission of the American Cancer Society.

Meaning Behind Each Swing

The objective of  golf marathon participants is to play as many holes as possible from sunup to sundown while raising funds for the American Cancer Society. The pros chose dates from June through November.  The long stretch of hours and commitment are symbolic reminders of the challenges and difficulties faced by cancer patients and their families.  Several of this year’s golfers hosted marathons to honor loved ones affected by cancer, according to Megan Stewart of the American Cancer Society.

Cody Homer from Fresh Meadows Country Club dedicated the day to the memory of his mother, whom he lost to breast cancer.  Homer’s dedication and the generosity of the club membership led to a $30,000 donation to the American Cancer Society.  With sentiment for her dad who is bravely fighting cancer, Kacie Mulligan hit the Southward Ho course just weeks before her wedding in mid-November.  With her fiancé as caddy and parents in the gallery, she braved incredible fall winds and an early sunset to triumphantly finish her marathon.

Players and Awards

Brittany Ferrante

The American Cancer Society offered two awards at the start of the season for Most Holes Played and Most Funds Raised. Brittany Ferrante of the Village Club of Sands Point played 280 holes on September 7th, 2021, securing the title of Most Holes Played. Kacie Mulligan of Southward Ho Country Club raised over $70,000 in her highly successful endeavor, securing title of Most Funds Raised.

Participants this year include Wayne Leal and Sean Sanders of Muttontown Country Club;  Pat Gunning and John Stoklosa of Noyac Golf Club; Cody Homer of Fresh Meadows Country Club; Jimmy Farrell of Hamlet Golf and Country Club;  Alex Willey of Meadowbrook Club; Melissa Rath and Rich Burns of Brookville Country Club; Matt Livolsi and Zack Yashnyk of Cherry Valley Club; Brittany Ferrante of Village Club at Sands Point; Kacie Mulligan of Southward Ho Country Club; Tim Shifflett & Scott Ford of Glen Oaks Club.  Additionally, Jarett Leonard joined the Babes Against Cancer marathon up north in New England at Norton Country Club in MA.

Golf Marathons

Kacie Mulligan

The first golf marathon to support the Society’s cancer fighting mission on Long Island originated in 2019.  Matt Demeo, an assistant golf professional from the Indian Hills Country Club honored his mother’s battle with breast cancer and tested his ability to play as many holes and raise as many funds as he could. His efforts resulted in a $14,000 donation to the American Cancer Society.  In 2020, three individuals held golf marathons which helped to raise funds at a time when traditional fundraisers were on pause due to the restrictions in public gatherings due to COVID 19.  These golf marathons provided a safe, socially distant, and fun way to support the American Cancer Society. In 2021, the program greatly expanded, and 16 golf professionals joined the ranks.

To learn more or to participate in an upcoming American Cancer Society golf marathon, contact [email protected] or visit acsmove.org/GolfMarathon.

About The American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is on a mission to free the world from cancer. For more than 100 years, we have helped lead an evolution in the way the world prevents, detects, treats, and thinks about cancer. As the nation’s preeminent cancer-fighting organization, we fund and conduct research, share expert information, support people with cancer, spread the word about prevention, and through our advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), advocate for public policy change. We are committed to ensuring that ALL people have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer – regardless of income, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, or where they live. Thanks in large part to our decades of work, a cancer diagnosis does not come without hope, and the cancer journey is not one that is traveled alone.

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After successfully partnering with the American Cancer Society for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Panera Bread locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises on Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island donated $16,276.09 to the organization. 

In October, Panera Bread raised awareness and funds for the organization by donating a portion of the proceeds from its Pink Ribbon Bagel to the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives and leading the fight for a world without cancer. 

“Because of the passion and commitment of incredibly generous and caring supporters such as Panera, its employees and customers, the American Cancer Society can attack breast cancer from every angle through research, education, advocacy and services,” said Marie Cimaglia, director of community development, Long Island. “Together, we can ensure that no one in any of our communities fights breast cancer alone.”

The Pink Ribbon Bagel was offered at participating Panera Bread locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises on Long Island including East Northport, Farmingdale, Hauppauge, Huntington Station, Huntington Village, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson Station and Riverhead.

Pictured from left, Marie Cimaglia, American Cancer Society; Cara Ziff, general manager of Panera Bread Plainview; Greg George, vice president of operations, Panera Bread; Christine Haskell, American Cancer Society.

Photo from Panera Bread

By Karen Forman

More than 1,000 Northport residents and the community joined together to show their support for the fight against cancer this Saturday, marking a decade of unwavering commitment to the cause.

Northport High School held its 10th annual Relay for Life event June 2, which raised about $180,000. This brought the  community’s cumulative total to $2 million in donations over 10 years to the American Cancer Society, a national nonprofit health organization which uses the funds for cancer research, patient care services, prevention and early detection programs.

Teams walked around the high school’s track for 12 hours starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. Each team had at least one member walking throughout the night, which is why the event is called a relay. People walked overnight to symbolize that cancer never sleeps.

Relay for Life is held in 30 countries and 3,000 towns across the United States, making it the the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, according to the organization’s website.


Lloyd Harbor resident Frank D’Amelio, Jr. , CEO of Nature’s Answer in Hauppauge, cuts a pink ribbon to celebrate the formation of the company’s Nature’s Answer Foundation. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Hauppauge company’s employees are heading out on a cross-country tour to raise funds for cancer research and awareness inspired by the memory of a Kings Park woman.

Nature’s Answer, a family-owned manufacturer of nutritional supplements, will celebrate the formation of its charitable arm, Nature’s Answer Foundation, with six employees embarking on a more than 4,000-mile motorcycle ride beginning Oct. 1.

“We are a health-oriented company and this ties closely in with the company’s mission of promoting well-being,” said vice president of operations Tom Connelly, of Stony Brook.

The Road 2 Wellness Tour motorcycle ride came together as part coincidence and part in loving memory, said Nature’s Answer CEO Frank D’Amelio, Jr.

The Road 2 Wellness Tour motorcycle ride came together as part coincidence and part in loving memory, said Nature’s Answer CEO Frank D’Amelio Jr. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

D’Amelio, of Lloyd Harbor, said an employee asked for the company to participate in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an American Cancer Society fundraising event Oct. 15 at Jones Beach. Nature’s Answer general counsel Scott Seedall, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, then asked D’Amelio if he would join him for a motorcycle ride after the company’s annual trade show in California.

“When it was suggested we ride, I connected the events together,” said Nature’s Answer CEO. “I said let’s do it for [the] cause and that Monday is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

D’Amelio said his sister-in-law, Maria Bellock, 46, of Kings Park, died of breast cancer in July 2016. He witnessed firsthand how devastating cancer can be.

“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through,” he said.

Bellock’s brother Larry Chiarenza, of Commack, is Nature’s Answer vice president of sales and will be riding cross country.

“Cancer is very taxing on the caregivers as well as on the patient,” he said. “It’s a very difficult process to go through.”

A former motorcyclist, Chiarenza said the two-week ride will be a challenge as he’s never ridden further than 100 miles before.

“[Maria] would probably think I’m nuts because I haven’t ridden in 30 years,” he said. “I never had any intention of riding again but it’s for such a good cause. How could I not?”

Other riders include Kasra Hosmand, of Bay Shore; Tom Mandelo, of Lake Ronkonkoma; and John Hank, of Huntington.

“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through.”

— Frank D’Amelio , Jr.

Father Anthony Asir of St. Thomas More Parish in Hauppauge blessed the bikes Sept. 18 at a kickoff event held at the company’s Hauppauge location.

“I hope this can help bring people out of the darkness into the light, from ignorance into awareness,” Father Asir said. “May they go as your ministers bringing cancer awareness where they ride.”

The two-week tour will include stops in numerous cities to raise awareness with highlights including several American Cancer Society Hope Lodges, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before ending at the Jones Beach walkathon Oct. 15.

Money will be raised through donations from sponsors and the sale of promotional items. In addition, the company will donate 10 percent of its total sale proceeds for the month of October. Overall funds raised will go to charities including the American Cancer Society, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and St. Jude hospital.

“With that funding, we can start new research projects which are risky, too risky for the government to support,” said Diane Fagiola, senior director of philanthropy for CSH Lab. “This fundraising is huge for us.”

Camila dos Santos, a junior faculty at the lab, said these funds allow researchers, like her, to get an initial data set to help support “out-of-the-box” research ideas and be more competitive for federal grants.

Those interested can visit www.road2wellnesstour.com to learn more, follow the riders on their trip and donate money.

Also, the Road 2 Wellness Tour can be followed on Twitter through #Road2Wellness.

Susan and Bob Dow, along with professional golfer Patrick Reed, at center, hold up the PGA TOUR tournament trophy. Photo from Wellspring Communications

By Kevin Redding

As cancer continues to touch his family’s life, a Miller Place golf lover is raising thousands of dollars on and off the course to combat the disease. Bob Dow, the winner of last year’s PGA volunteer tournament, which raises a total $15,000 to local charities, is back at it this year to raise more money and awareness.

Dow remembers it as clear as day. Following his wife Susan’s routine breast health exam at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip in September 2011, the 58-year-old business owner recalls his fear when the phone rang and the doctor on the other end asked Susan to come back in. They found something.

“I was sick to my stomach when I heard this,” Dow said. “I just didn’t know what that meant, whereas my wife is the type of strong person who just said, ‘OK, what do we have to do here?’”

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best.”

Bob Dow

For Susan, 55, who was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before she got this call, as the disease had been so prevalent in her family. Her grandmother died from ovarian cancer and her mother is a 30-year breast cancer survivor.

The Dows attacked the diagnosis head-on, spending the next few years in and out of the hospital through six surgeries. Bob Dow said his wife never missed out on the big family moments, such as their daughter’s sporting events, senior prom or graduation.

But Dow has been no slouch either. Aside from taking part in cancer awareness walks and events over the last five years, he was determined to do something more for the cancer cause than merely serve as a caregiver. He got his opportunity last year when he volunteered as a PGA marshal at the Barclays golf tournament, which took place on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale.

A longtime lover of the sport, Dow was drawn in, excited to be around professional golfers like Stewart Cink and Patrick Reed, but it was when he discovered a PGA Tour Volunteer Challenge offered by Barclays that he was able to against cancer his way to help his wife and others fighting cancer.

The nationwide challenge, which began in 2015, is a friendly fundraising competition among the thousands of volunteers that participate to try to drum up as many votes as possible for “favorite volunteer,” mostly through a ready-made website and individualized campaigning.

The person with the most votes presents a $10,000 check in their name to a charity of the tournament’s choosing, and an additional $5,000 to one of the winner’s choice.

Bob Dow, at left, holds up his $10,000 check for The First Tee of Metro NY after last year’s win. Photo from Wellspring Communications

When he wasn’t helping to keep the flow of the tournament going by controlling the crowds or making sure the players are able to move from one hole to the next without a problem, Dow as volunteer went above and beyond to collect a total 1,460 votes through Twitter, Facebook and email blasts.

He won the challenge, and presented a $10,000 check to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York and $5,000 to his chosen charity, American Cancer Society, Hauppauge chapter.

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best, will work the hardest and, in this case, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was going to win,” Dow said, adding that his wife was his biggest inspiration. “She is the love of my life.”

His wife, who is currently in remission, said in a series of texts that although she’s the one who inspired him, he’s truly her hero.

“I am so blessed to have married my best friend,” she wrote. “I am incredibly proud … a little overwhelmed, but that is just par for the course (no pun intended). I wish I can say I was surprised, but that is just who he is — always willing to be there, lend a hand and fight for a cause. When he has a passion for something, he will move heaven and earth to see it through.”

That passion continues to burn as Dow sets his sights on winning this year’s challenge, now sponsored by Chicago-based company, Northern Trust.

In a competition of 1,200 volunteers, he’s campaigning to raise more money for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and the tournament’s charity of choice, Tackle Kids Cancer, with a new inspiration: his sister-in-law who was diagnosed six months ago with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

“I’ve seen [Bob[’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments…”

Peter Mele

This year, he’s also volunteered to be the face of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, which advocates men to take on the cause of the fight against breast cancer.

“Bob is one of those people who, when he puts his mind to something, he perseveres and has no other goal but the finish line,” said Katie Goepfrich, specialist of community events at the society. “He’s going to do everything he can to make a difference in the world right now.”

Peter Mele, executive director of Northern Trust, called Dow an ideal volunteer.

“He’s very passionate about what he does and is quite passionate about the American Cancer Society,” Mele said of Dow, who spoke recently at the organization’s media conference. “As I’ve come to know Bob, I’ve seen he’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments to help people survive this terrible disease. I think his message gets out there really well.”

In true fashion, Dow is eager to be the one to present the checks again this year.

“When they calculate the votes next Saturday, I want to be on top again,” he said.

From now until 2 p.m. Aug. 26, people can vote for the Dow family in the volunteer challenge at www.tourchallenge.com.

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Jason Shlonsky pins his 170-pound opponent Lawrence Bishop. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai not only took down Riverhead, 56-18, the wrestling team is also grappling cancer.

The Mustangs’ Jan. 6 nonleague dual meet supported school spirit and its mission: “supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honoring the taken, and never, ever giving up hope.” With help from the community, the team raised over $6,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Mike Zarif lifts up Anthony Marcello, his competitor, who he tops in a major decision at 138 pounds. Photo by Bill Landon

Black and red rubber bracelets were sold, along with raffle tickets and baked goods. Wrestlers also sought sponsors to pledge to donate $1 for each victory. Local businesses also donate $100 and over, to be featured on the team’s Facebook page. One hundred percent of all proceeds went to the cause.

According to Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, the driving force behind the Take Down Cancer event is Matt Campo, a 113-pound freshman who pinned his challenger in the first 50 seconds of his match. Campo said he began putting the event together in early November.

“We recently had cancer strike our community, and it affected us a lot,” Campo said. “My uncle has cancer — so it draws a lot of attention [for me personally] —and I wanted to bring the community together.”

But prior to him, the Mustangs got to work early when Brendan Goodrich made short work of Riverhead’s Mark Matyka at 99 pounds. He pinned his opponent in the first period.

Following Campo’s pin, the Mustangs rattled off seven consecutive decisions, with sophomore Joseph O’Brien and junior Michael Zarif scoring major decisions to help their team break out to a 35-0 lead.

Armstrong said he was impressed with his younger grapplers.

“The biggest thing at this point in the season is getting our cardio up,” the coach said. “A lot of these guys have a lot of skill but they [need to build stamina] should the match go to overtime.”

Joe Goodrich controls Sean Prunty, who he pins at 152 pounds. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Jason Shlonsky, at 170 pounds, pinned his Riverhead opponent. He took down Lawrence Bishop in 55 seconds to put his team out front 41-0, and said he was happy to get on offense early.

“They’re a very tough team — there’s no denying that,” he said. “I always try to keep the same mind-set going into every match — I have to give them my all, no matter who I’m wrestling. I focus on my game and do what I’m good at, while trying to improve as the season goes on.”

At 195 pounds, senior J..J. Parente spoke next when he too pinned his Riverhead competitor, Aiden Fitzpatrick, in the first period, for a 53-0 lead.

“Riverhead is very good … and it was really cool that they helped us with Take Down Cancer night,” Parente said. “I think as a whole we did pretty well, but all things you can improve on. I’ll keep working, keep running and keep lifting.”

Riverhead won the final two matches by decision and took points in the final weight class as a result of Mount Sinai forfeiting.

Ryan Shanian slams his opponent Jared Cawley, who he beats at 126 pounds, to the ground. Photo by Bill Landon

Armstrong said he was pleased with another one of his freshmen, Ryan Shanian, who was recently brought up from junior varsity level.

“Riverhead has a lot of young kids, but so do we, and one of the kids that I was really impressed with is Ryan Shanian, who wrestled at 126,” Armstrong said. “This was his second varsity match and … he just finds a way to win.”

Armstrong said his team is peaking at the right time, and is optimistic about the postseason.

“The kids that we’ve relied on all season have done a great job, and they just keep winning,” he said. “The greatest thing that I saw tonight was everybody’s motor — they just kept going and going and if they went down they got right back up until they won — and that’s a good thing to see this time of year.”

The Mustangs improve to 4-1 overall and still sit at second place in League VII, behind undefeated 2-0 Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, at 2-1.

Mount Sinai hosts Southampton Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in the last league matchup of the regular season, before traveling to Port Jefferson Jan. 21 for the final tournament of the season.

Coram resident raises donations in Miller Place to help sick children

Santa, played by Michael Carnes, hugs a child he delivered gifts to. Photo by KT Leung

Coram resident Ashley Leung put the drive in toy drive for the second year in a row.

Last year, Leung, 24, wanted to brighten up the holidays for kids who have cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in the community, so she collaborated with some local good Samaritans to create the Kids Need More Toy Drive to go above and beyond to make a difference in children’s lives.

Once all donated gifts were collected at the drop-off station at Corrective Chiropractic in Miller Place, they were loaded up in a fully decorated “holiday cheer bus” and brought directly to the door steps of kids and families in need by Santa — played by Leung’s uncle and local chiropractor Michael Carnes — and a group of volunteer “elves.”

A family shows off the new gifts Santa, played by Michael Carnes, delivered. Photo by KT Leung

Leung said it was important to her that the delivery was personal.

“We wanted to donate to the children in the area, but also be the ones to deliver those gifts because there’s a lot of different toy drives in New York and nationwide, but no one really knows where the toys go,” she said. “We wanted to document everything … so for every toy donated, we gave a picture to the donors showing them ‘this is where your donation went.’”

For the second annual Kids Need More toy drive, Leung, Santa and his elves headed back on the bus Dec. 18 for an even bigger and better night of giving.

Leung said this year a total of five buses were launched, as opposed to two last year —   two in Suffolk County, two in Nassau and one in New Jersey. The volunteer turnout also increased. The Suffolk buses, for instance, had a total of 40 parents, friends, family and even former cancer patients on board this year, compared to eight to 10 on each bus last year.

Hundreds of gifts were donated by members of the community —  everything from Disney Infinity games for PlayStation 3 to stuffed animals and hats. A blue and black mountain bike was donated anonymously and raffled off to a 15-year-old patient.

Young girls especially loved receiving Cancer Barbie. The hairless doll comes with different wigs they’re able to swap out and serves as an inspiration for those undergoing chemotherapy. The girls see a doll that looks like them and suddenly don’t feel different, Leung said.

Many of the kids went home from the hospital just to see Santa.

Santa spreads some holiday cheer throughout Suffolk County. Photo by KT Leung

“We made a really big difference,” she said. “I think the kids we visited this year truly appreciated us visiting them. We really kept the holiday spirit going; I think the kids we saw were honestly shocked.”

Leung’s charity venture spring boarded while she was attending St. Joseph’s College. A professor told her about Camp Adventure, a week-long sleepaway camp on Shelter Island for kids diagnosed with cancer, which remains Long Island’s only camp of its kind. She was excited to get involved and wanted to immediately.

The year she joined the summer program — which now serves the East Coast and tri-state area — as a camp counselor, the organization found itself without funding.

The American Cancer Society had been providing funds for the camp since 1990, but suddenly had to stop in 2013, so a dedicated group of Camp Adventure volunteers began Kids Need More to parent the camp and ensure its longevity.

Kids Need More Camp Adventure is completely free for all kids and siblings who want to attend and involves everything from a day camp, to peer mentoring programs and visits to children’s hospitals.

It even partners with a volunteer pilot organization called Patient AirLift Services that flies patients living in rural areas who need specialized treatment to centers and hospital appointments. For the last two years, PALS has flown kids who live outside of Long Island — like those in Ohio, New Jersey and even in Albany — to the camp for free.

When Leung was working in the Corrective Chiropractic office last year, she began talking to her uncle about wanting to do something to give back to the community, and a partnership with Kids Need More to donate to children in the area seemed like a no-brainer.

According to Melissa Firnes, the founder of Kids Need More, the event has “snowballed” and served 200 kids while making lots of stops.

“These kids love it,” Firnes said. “We show up to their house for caroling and things like that. It’s simple, but very nice.”

She said what matters most is that the organization isn’t asking families to leave their homes.

Local volunteers for the Kids Need More toy drive smile in front of one of the buses as it drops off gifts to the homes of local children. Photo by KT Leung

“We’re actually coming to them, and I think that matters a lot to them,” she said. “It’s hard for [the families] to get around when there’s somebody sick in the family. Kids come out to the bus and choose a gift from the volunteer elves.”

She said Leung is willing to do anything Kids Need More needs to be successful, which makes her stand out.

“[Leung] is really great at being the cheermeister for the kids and being all enthusiastic, but is also willing to do all the legwork and logistics that’s needed in putting together the toy drive,” Firnes said. “She’s been such a big part of the organization and has now brought her whole family into it, which is really special too.”

Carnes, who brings Santa to life for the kids, said it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to touch people’s hearts and directly impact their lives.

“Children really thought I was Santa when I came up and they would give me a hug and say ‘thank you Santa,’” Carnes said. “Some of these children don’t have much and some families barely have anything, so to bring joy to people is just amazing … it’s the spirit of the holidays.”

He said he believes we can all use more happiness in the world.

Jaime Pacheco, PALS outreach coordinator and cheer bus volunteer, said the toy drive prides itself on the fact that it’s not about the gift you’re getting, but the time spent with people and the emotional support they provide.

Leung said the toy drive continues to be the best day of her life.

“Just getting off that bus — and some of these kids don’t even know we’re coming — they see Santa at their front door, and they’re just completely shocked,” she said. ”I think that’s the best thing we can give them.”

Participants from a previous Relay For Life at the high school take a lap. Photo from Alyssa Patrone

The fight to raise money and awareness for cancer research reaches far and wide, and on June 4, Northport High School’s track and football field will host nearly 900 people dedicated to doing their part to eradicate the disease.

Northport High School has held Relay for Life events since 2009, making the one this year its eighth annual. The popular American Cancer Society fundraiser starts with teams raising money from local businesses and individuals to be donated for the cause. During the event, which can last up to 24 hours, at least one participant from each team circles a track, usually at schools or parks, at all times as a reminder that cancer never sleeps. Campsites are set up for each team and laps during the relay are dedicated to various survivors and those who died of the illness.

Alyssa Patrone, the American Cancer Society representative overseeing Northport’s event, said Northport participants have raised more than $121,000 so far this year, bringing the total raised in eight years to about $1.3 million.

“There are so many incredible events that happen in our community, but Relay For Life really gives the Northport-East Northport community a place to gather and rally behind those who have been affected by cancer,” Patrone, a Northport resident herself, said in an email. “The volunteers that work to put the event together make sure that the Northport-East Northport community knows that if you’ve ever been touched by cancer in any way, we are here for you. At the event there really is a feeling of hope in the air that’s almost tangible. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s something truly special.”

Currently Deborah Kelly is listed as the top fundraiser on Northport’s page on the Relay for Life website, with more than $6,000 for her team “Steps for Christine.” Kelly’s page on the website says she is participating in the relay for “my sister and all the people who are battling this terrible disease.”

Ashleigh Basel of “Team Rainbow” has raised more than $4,000 for the cause. She also explained why she’s participating in the event on her Relay for Life page.

“I know there are a lot of worthy causes to support, but I think participating in an event that helps save lives from cancer is about as worthy as it gets,” she wrote.

The American Cancer Society has invested more than $4.3 billion in cancer research since 1964, according to its website. The organization estimates that in 2016 more than 1.6 million new cancer diagnosis will occur, and nearly 600,000 people will die.

For more information about Relay for Life or to make a donation, visit www.relayforlife.org.