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Applebee’s

Applebees

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar on Jan. 4 announced the official launch of its 5th annual Above and “BEE”yond Teacher Essay Contest, which recognizes top teachers – as nominated by their students – by rewarding them with a sponsorship check and end-of-year class party. The contest is being offered at Applebee’s restaurants in Long Island owned and operated by local franchisee Doherty Enterprises.

Applebee’s will award two deserving teachers, one in Nassau County and one in Suffolk County, with a $500 sponsorship check to use toward their classroom for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, along with an end-of-year party for their current class*! To nominate a teacher and enter the contest, students must submit an essay in-person at their local Applebee’s explaining why their teacher deserves to be Applebee’s “Teacher of the Year.” As an additional incentive, students who enter an essay will also receive a free ice cream certificate** for later use. Essay submissions are limited to one per student and will be accepted at participating Applebee’s restaurants from Monday, January 4 through Sunday March 7, no later than 10pm. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 12 and end-of-year parties will be thrown before Sunday, June 27. If end-of-year parties are not viable, class parties will be replaced with two Dinner for Four certificates.

“We’re excited to announce the launch of our fifth annual Above and BEEyond Teacher Essay Contest at our Long Island restaurants,” said Kurt Pahlitzsch, director of operations, Applebee’s Long Island. “Our restaurants are committed to giving back to the local community now more than ever. We’re honored to support local schoolteachers who have transitioned from in-classroom teaching to online teaching, as Applebee’s wants to recognize their dedication and hard work amidst the pandemic.”

Applebee’s Above and “BEE”yond Teacher Essay Contest entries will be accepted at the following Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises on Long Island in: Nassau County: Baldwin, Bellmore, Bethpage, Elmont, New Hyde Park, Rosedale, Valley Stream and Westbury and in Suffolk County:  Bohemia, Brentwood, Commack, East Farmingdale, East Islip, Farmingville, Huntington, Lake Grove, Lindenhurst, Miller Place, Patchogue, Riverhead and Shirley.

*One winner will be selected from both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Please note, essay submissions from the 2020-2021 school year will also be included in this year’s voting. Prizes are subject to change based on COVID-19 restrictions. If end-of-year parties are not viable, class parties will be replaced with two Dinner for Four certificates.

**Offer valid only at Doherty Enterprises owned and operated Applebee’s® locations in LI. Limit one per person. May not be redeemed on day of purchase. Cannot be combined with any other offers.

Kelly and Donna and McCauley held the third annual Butterfly Breakfast for a Cure fundraiser at Applebee’s in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

A mother-daughter duo from Rocky Point raised thousands of dollars last weekend to help those with epidermolysis bullosa — a rare and painful skin disease that hits close to home.

Donna McCauley, who was born with the genetic condition that causes the skin to blister and tear at the slightest friction, and her daughter Kelly, a former Girl Scout, raised $4,000 during the 3rd Annual Butterfly Breakfast for a Cure fundraiser Nov. 4 at Applebee’s in Miller Place. More than 100 locals gathered at the restaurant to eat pancakes, take part in a Chinese auction with huge prizes for adults and kids and learn about “EB,” which is largely considered “the worst disease you’ve never heard of” and affects one in 20,000 births in the United States.

Donna McCauley auctioned off prizes to raise more funds. Photo by Kevin Redding

All proceeds are going toward Debra of America, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides assistance and support to families with children born with the disease through funding research for a cure and treatment initiatives.

As a teenager, Donna McCauley, whose parents were told she was going to die young from this “genetic anomaly,” made a conscious choice not to let EB — which turns run-of-the-mill activities like getting out of bed, taking clothes on and off and showering into daily struggles — define her life. Instead, she strived to be a role model for other “butterfly children,” a term given to young people with the disease, as their skin is said to be as fragile as a butterfly’s wings.

She became involved with Debra when she was 16, which opened her eyes to a community of others like her, and made sure to get her license, go to college and pursue jobs, vowing “not to be afraid to live” despite her condition.

“I can sit in the corner and rock and be sad, or I can get up and do what I need to do,” said McCauley, 49, who lives in constant pain and must wrap her wounds in bandages each day in order to prevent infections. She is currently in a clinical trial for a new treatment drug by Amicus Therapeutics that helps mend her wounds. “Things like this fundraiser give me hope that people become more aware, and more money is raised. Each day they are getting closer to finding a treatment and a cure.”

Although McCauley has been the face of the event since it started in 2015, the Rocky Point resident who referred to herself as a professional volunteer and remains a coordinator with local Girl Scout troops, pointed to her daughter as the real driving force behind the fundraiser.

“I can sit in the corner and rock and be sad, or I can get up and do what I need to do.”

— Donna McCauley

“One of the things that strikes me the most is that Kelly has a sense of empathy and compassion that I don’t think you can teach,” McCauley said. “I’m so proud of her initiative to make other people more aware of disabilities. She has always been the person who includes the one that isn’t included.”

Kelly McCauley, 19, a current student at Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York, started advocating for EB support as a sophomore at Rocky Point High School by selling bracelets decorated with butterflies to peers and administrators and ended up raising $500 for Debra. This prompted her to want to step things up a notch, and she soon went door to door to local businesses in search of a venue for her own bigger and better fundraiser.

McCauley’s daughter said growing up and witnessing her mom’s perseverance encouraged her to get involved in the first place.

“I saw just how strong she was and how much it took for her just to wake up every day,” she said. “She’s definitely the strongest woman I know. This disease is so much on a person. You wake up and you hurt no matter what. But she still gets up, she goes to church, she volunteers, she works as a religion teacher — she does all these things even though she’s always in some sort of pain.”

McCauley’s determination to live a normal life has served as a foundation for her younger brother, Bob Newfield, a Setauket resident who was also born with EB.

“It’s tough — what would take most people 15 minutes to get ready for work in the morning takes me an hour,” Newfield said. “But there are other things in life that are tough too, so you just have to deal with the cards you’re given. It’s such a rare disease and doesn’t get the funds it needs.”

Local residents, like Miller Place resident Joan Lowry, on right, attended the fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

His wife, Marianne, explained how it’s been to observe the disease firsthand.

“His mind wants to go, go, go, but his body holds him back at times — but those with it are the strongest people I know,” she said. “They don’t really let anything get them down. Bob puts on a happy face every day even though his feet kill him; many days are hard.”

Residents that donated to the cause by purchasing raffle tickets ranged from those living with the disease to others who had never heard of it before.

Bonnie Harris, who grew up in Port Jefferson, said she and a majority of her family have the condition.

“The disease itself doesn’t get better when you get older, but you get better as you get older,” Harris said. “You’re not as clumsy when you’re falling and you’re able to take care of it better. My mom, who had it, always said, ‘You can do anything you want to do — you just have to work harder than everybody else.’”

Miller Place resident Joan Lowry heard of the fundraiser through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, a parish where McCauley is extremely active.

“There are too many people who fall in the cracks and need the help,” Lowry said, “and that’s the reason I’m here.”

If you wish to make a contribution, visit Debra.org/butterflybreakfast2017.