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Fundraiser

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Every 10 years, the people at the head of the annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade honor all the past community members who were lucky enough to be named grand marshal.

As the annual parade looks down the barrel of its 70th anniversary, the people who run the second oldest parade in Suffolk County have the task of respecting the past while looking to continue its run into the future.

The Friends of St. Patrick, a group of volunteers who have helped put on the parade for the last seven decades, hosted its third annual Luck of the Irish Casino Night March 6. During the group’s biggest yearly fundraiser, members said they were not only acknowledging the past, but trying to look toward the future.  

“It costs about $40,000 to put this parade on, so fundraisers like this really help.”

— Hugh McCarrick

Unlike previous years when members would nominate a queen and her court, along with a grand marshal, this year members announced instead they would be supporting a local student with a $1,000 scholarship. 

“The applications for [the queen and her court] were going way down, and we were seeing it as sort of a bygone era,” said James McElhone, the recently installed treasurer of the Friends of St. Patrick. “We decided to make it a scholarship that would be rotating between several local high schools to encourage people to write an essay on their Irish heritage.”

This year, Alexa Zichinelli, a senior at Miller Place High School, won with her essay about her Irish heritage, particularly of her great grandmother on her father’s side who came from Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine. 

Her grandmother often talks about that history, of when her own mother was in County Clare in Ireland. Zichinelli wrote about the Irish folklore her grandmother loves to talk about, along with the family she left behind.

“Going to where my great-grandmother was from in Ireland, she lived by these rocks that she described looked over a cliff, so it was just kind of magic, where she was from,” she said.

Zichinelli said she will put the scholarship to use, as she intends to go to college for premed, particularly on the path toward being a pediatric heart surgeon. 

Those who have been grand marshal in the past see the parade differently than most. It’s a tradition, yes, but it’s also been a way to celebrate and even define the North Shore communities along the Route 25A corridor. With 70 years of history, grand marshals have included noted community members like state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who was named grand marshal in 1989.

One family sticks out among those in the Rocky Point area. The McCarrick family owns property in the Rocky Point shopping district that once included the famed McCarrick’s Dairy before it closed in 2017 and later became a 7/11. Hugh McCarrick, one of the officers of the Friends of St. Patrick, said nine separate members of the McCarrick clan have been named grand marshal over the years. He and his brother Kevin, along with a slew of other past marshals, were both honored at the casino night March 6.

“Seventy means a tremendous amount.”

— Walter Colleran

Hugh McCarrick, who was named grand marshal in 1997, said going forward the objective is to make the parade more interesting every year, but with around 85 units in the parade this year, he added they are going strong. He thanked East Wind for hosting the fundraiser, which is easily its biggest of the year.

“It costs about $40,000 to put this parade on, so fundraisers like this really help,” he said.

Mike Tatilian, a grand marshal in 2015 and past president of the Friends of St. Patrick, said times have changed and they are always trying to bring in flesh blood to help out. Nothing else says that times have changed in seven decades than the number of St. Patrick’s Day parades around Suffolk County. While the Huntington parade is in its 86th year, hamlets like Kings Park and Jamesport are celebrating only their 10th and seventh years, respectively, of the annual parade. Tatilian said they’re always trying to compete for spectators, of which the MP-RP parade usually gets 25,000-30,000 along its 3-mile run. 

“There’s competition — you’re competing for fans,” he said. “When there used to be a few parades, now there’s many.”

Walter Colleran was named grand marshal in 2013 and said 70 years means a lot to a parade, also helping to display how its changed.

“Seventy means a tremendous amount — [the parade] started out years ago as an opportunity for everybody to hang out on the street and drink beer, but over the years it’s turned into a very family-oriented affair.”

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Enrico Scarda, owner of Danfords, with Jami Cohen at the fundraiser for her sister. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

The Brookhaven Ballroom at Danfords was filled with hundreds of people to celebrate and support one of their own this week through the family’s bout with cancer.

Dara Cohen. photo from Dara’s GoFundMe health fund

Dara Cohen, originally of Dix Hills, has been living under the weight of cancer for years, battling Stage 4 breast, brain and lung cancer, and now friends said it has metastasized in her lower spinal cord. The actress and professional dancer works as a ballet teacher when she feels up to it, but the disease has had a lasting effect.

It was just a few months ago when Dara Cohen’s sister, Jami, who bartends at the hotel in PJ, came to work and asked her managers if they could help her create a fundraiser. 

The goal was to raise $100,000 for the 46-year-old dancer, singer and actress. 

“They immediately said yes,” Jami Cohen, of Port Jefferson, said. “I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”

On Monday, Nov. 11, Danfords donated its space upstairs and an extensive menu at its buffet to the Cohen family. 

“Obviously it’s an unbelievable cause,” Enrico Scarda, owner of Danfords, said, “And we do whatever we can to support our employees.”

Lamar Peters with Gail King and Shelly Cohen. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A DJ blasted music while people mingled. Lamar Peters, a tribute artist known for his Elvis, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly impersonations, came out to play, and over 100 gifts were donated to the raffle table. 

“All of us are here to unite and break course for Dara,” Dara’s father Shelly Cohen said. “We’re looking to make a difference and these people are coming out to help our daughter.”

Tickets were $40 for the three-hour event and the outcome was a huge success. Although Dara couldn’t be in attendance, she video-called in and was grateful for the response given in her honor. 

Known for her popular social media posts chronicling her journey, Dara’s goal has been to help other people struggling as well. 

“She’s an amazing person,” Dara’s mother Karen Deangelis, said. “Dara has made an impact on other people and has a tremendous amount of support … Hopefully we can help other people, too.”

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It was fun for all ages when The Harlem Wizards came to Smithtown West High School squaring off against the Smithtown faculty All Stars in a fundraising basketball game to benefit DECA Feb. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Back by popular demand, the Harlem Wizards basketball team returned to Smithtown West High School Feb. 28 where they took on the Smithtown faculty all star team in a basketball fundraiser to benefit the Distributive Education Clubs of America club.

The student Club members who organized the event took care of the gate, the Wizard memorabilia sales, the raffles and the 50/50 sales infront of a packed crowd. Fun was had by all.

 

Make-A-Wish of Suffolk County granted Amelia Calderone's, right, wish to meet actress Sofia Carson. Photo from Alexandra Calderone

A Three Village family is helping to raise awareness about a rare disorder.

Hope for Histiocytosis is hosting a fundraiser April 7 in Port Jefferson. The foundation was inspired by the frustrations felt by Setauket residents Alexandra and Christopher Calderone after the couple struggled to find a diagnosis for their daughter Amelia a few years ago. Doctors eventually diagnosed Amelia with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a disorder where the body produces too many of a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight off infection.

Amelia Calderone during her last chemo treatment in 2018. Photo from Alexandra Calderone

Now 8 years old and in third grade in Setauket Elementary School, Amelia was only 5 years old and in kindergarten, her mother said, when she started to complain that her back was sore in the morning. At first the Calderone family thought it was due to a new mattress being too firm for her or from wearing a backpack to school. Periodic fevers soon followed, and she would come home from school feeling nauseous. She would also complain of seeing black spots in her vision and said she had a wood taste in her mouth. As the school year progressed, her teacher told her mother that Amelia was having trouble reciting what she learned that day.

While the parents brought her to a group practice of pediatricians continuously, doctors couldn’t come up with a diagnosis, and while Lyme disease was first suspected, it was initially ruled out. It wasn’t until the parents asked to see the head doctor of the practice who reviewed her tests that Lyme disease was considered as a possibility.

The diagnosis led to Amelia, who at the time was 6, to visit a rheumatologist where doctors found a mass on her spine.

“The red flag was up, ‘OK, there’s something wrong here,’” Alexandra Calderone said.

The parents then brought her to Cohen’s Children Medical Center where Dr. Carolyn Fein Levy treated Amelia and the LCH diagnosis was finally given. While the journey to an answer was a difficult one, Calderone said her daughter was a trooper during everything, and her last chemo treatment was in September 2018.

“She’s really so mature, and handled the doctors, the scans, the blood work, the pain,” she said.

Last year friend and neighbor Jennifer Scarlatos, co-owner of Toast Coffeehouse in Port Jefferson, decided she wanted to do something to help Amelia who is friends with her son Everett. She said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do but wanted to do something.

“She’s spirited,” Scarlatos said. “She’s just so sweet, and I don’t know, you just love her from the beginning.”

Scarlatos organized a fundraiser at Theatre Three where attendees enjoyed a children’s musical and afterward gathered in the downstairs area for a party that included raffles and balloon animal making for the children.

The Setauket Elementary School student relaxes in between treatments. Photo from Alexandra Calderone

She told Calderone to use the money for what she thought was best. These funds helped the mother establish Hope for Histiocytosis. Scarlatos said she is happy she was able to help kick start the foundation after last year’s fundraiser.

“I would love to help with anything else they’re going to do in the future too because they’re a wonderful family,” she said.

Calderone hopes her foundation and the fundraiser will bring awareness to the disease, which she said many pediatricians are unaware of. She said when trying to find what’s wrong with a child, parents need to have faith in their gut feelings.

“You know your kid, and you know when things are wrong,” she said. “You can’t cower down to someone saying, ‘You’re exaggerating.’”

She said when it comes to starting a foundation or raising awareness, it has to feel right.

“I feel like this is the right next step,” Calderone said. “Now it can be sort of a healing for us to talk about it and to have the awareness.”

The mother said proceeds from the event will go toward the Pediatric Oncology Rare Tumor and Sarcoma program at Cohen’s Children Medical Center, which is led by Fein Levy.

The April 7 fundraiser will be a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Waterview at Port Jefferson Country Club located at 44 Fairway Drive. Admission is $65 for adults and $40 for children 5 through 12 years old. The event includes a Sunday brunch with Bloody Marys and mimosas. There will also be raffle prizes, face painting and entertainment by the Sugaree Band.

For more information about the foundation, visit www.hopeforhistiocytosis.org.

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Photo from VFW Post 3054

Three Village veterans are hoping the community will stop by the pub Country Corner Saturday, March 2, for a fundraiser to benefit their Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054 are hosting a fundraiser March 2 to renovate parts of their Jones Street building. Photo from VFW Post 3054

Michael Salemi, vice commander of VFW East Setauket Post 3054, said money raised that day will go toward much needed renovations of the post’s building located on Jones Street. Admission to the fundraiser will include food and one beer, and there will be raffles with prizes donated by local businesses.

Salemi said, in the past, the post has raised money for fellow veterans, especially at local homes, but recently they needed to concentrate on gathering funds for work on their post building. The group raised $2,800 during a Feb. 5 fundraiser at Madiran The Wine Bar.

“This past fundraiser at the wine bar and this one coming up at Country Corner, it kind of helps get ourselves squared away,” he said, adding once they complete renovations they can return to raising money for local veterans.

Quartermaster Jay Veronko said the post is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with the Jones Street building being approximately 90 years old. Historian Carlton “Hub” Edwards said he remembers attending Setauket High School, which housed first to 12th grade, on Jones Street in the 1940s when the current VFW building was used by the school for gym, carpentry classes and school fundraisers. He said for years it was referred to as the scout house because a Boy Scout troop used it as a meeting place.

Veronko said even though the building has been renovated over the years, the post members are hoping to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and general renovations are needed, especially in the kitchen and women’s bathroom. The post has no income, Veronko said, as they are conservative about renting out the house for parties to the general public due to it being located in a residential area.

The quartermaster said the members were appreciative of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) who recently coordinated a visit with local trade union representatives to the post. Hahn said it was during a visit to a VFW post in Medford that she learned that sometimes trade unions donate their time to renovate VFW posts, and many local skilled laborers want to volunteer and use their skills to help veterans, which helps defray the cost of labor.

Hahn said she recognizes the appreciation residents feel for veterans, and believes they feel it’s important local posts have what they need to continue serving vets.

“I’m just trying to help however I can as a reflection of what I know is strong support from our community as a whole,” she said. “It’s everyone’s duty to help a little bit these folks who gave so much.”

Veronko said the hope is that one day the post, which hosts the East Setauket Memorial Day Parade and Veterans Day memorial service, as well as a fall chicken barbecue fundraiser, will be able to organize more community events like flea or farmers markets.

“We’ve been part of the community for a long time,” he said. “We try to be a good neighbor, and we’re trying to reach out a little bit more.”

Country Corner is located at 270 Main St., Setauket. The fundraiser begins at 4 p.m. March 2, and admission is $30 per person. For those unable to attend the event and would like to contribute, donations can be sent to the post at 8 Jones St., East Setauket, NY 11733.

Julia Witzke. Photo from Witzke family

Kings Park students are asking their community to come dine together to help raise funds to help a classmate in the fight of her life.

Kings Park High School will be hosting a pasta fundraiser Jan. 31 for junior Julia Witzke, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. The event will feature karaoke, games and raffles in addition to food with all proceeds going to the Witzke family.

“When someone in Kings Park is in need of help people come out in droves,” Judy Bishop-Hart, a retired executive assistant of the district said. “We want them to know we are with them.”

“This means everything, words can’t describe how happy we are with the love Julia is receiving.”

— Denise Witzke

Bishop-Hart said fellow classmates of Witzke came up with the idea of hosting a fundraiser. They approached Bishop-Harts’s son, Jack Bishop, who currently works as a 12th-grade history teacher and others for help.

“The students went to him to see if they could plan something for Julia,” Bishop-Hart said. “They’ve put it upon themselves to make this happen.”

Witzke’s mother, Denise, said what the students and the community are doing warms her heart.

“This means everything, words can’t describe how happy we are with the love Julia is receiving,” she said.

Her mother said Witzke is currently unable to attend classes at the high school while receiving treatment. The Kings Park junior has also been disappointed about being unable to take part in typical coming-of-age events with her classmates.

“It has been hard for Julia since the diagnosis,” Denise Witzke said. “She misses being in school. — It is her junior year and she felt bad missing out on her junior prom. She was looking forward to getting her learners permit and taking drivers education classes with her friends.

Bishop-Hart wants the Witzke family to know that they have the support of the community.

“We are with them every step of the way,” she said.

In addition to the event, students and school staff members are signing a poster with personal messages for Witzke to let her know that she is in their thoughts.

The fundraiser will be held Jan. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria of Kings Park High School, which is located at 200 Route 25A in Kings Park. The cost is $10 per person with children under age 5 free.

Volunteers are still being sought to help ensure the event runs smoothly. Anyone with questions or who is willing to offer time or services can contact Bishop-Hart at 631-896-9597.

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High school student Jillian Lawler's rendering of the armed forces tribute to be constructed in front of the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. Picture courtesy of Port Jefferson School District.

The Port Jefferson School District has announced the creation of an armed forces Tribute to be dedicated on May 30.

The tribute will recognize former Port Jefferson School District students and staff who served in the armed forces.

A brick campaign is currently underway at $100 for each individual brick to be set at the selected tribute site in front of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. They will be placed on the planned “court of courage” and “path of honor” that will surround the planned tribute. Each purchased brick will be engraved with a message to honor past and current service members, family members, community members or friends, selected by the person donating.

“The Port Jefferson School District community has really embraced this project,” said Superintendent Paul Casciano, who helped spearhead the initiative.

Some of that initial support comes from a New Year’s Day fundraiser held at Tara Inn that raised $7,650. A boulder which will serve as the centerpiece of the tribute that was transported to the site by Sheep Pasture Tree and Nursery Supply.

“We are grateful to Sheep Pasture and to Tara Inn and their contributors — their generosity has gotten this endeavor off to a successful start,” Casciano said.

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School senior Jillian Lawler also took part in the initial planning by creating a rendering of the proposed site.

The brick fundraising campaign will run until March 1 and a dedication ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 30.Those interested in purchasing a brick must fill out a fundraising flyer available at the district’s website. All money raised will help fund the building of the tribute. Those interested can also contact Kathy Hanley in the superintendent’s office at 631-791-4221 with any questions.

Choppy conditions in Port Jefferson Harbor forced the cancellation of the race portion of the 2018 Village Cup Regatta Sept. 8,  but the annual fundraiser was a success anyway.

For the ninth year, the Port Jefferson Yacht Club and the Port Jefferson Village Center were the home for the event, which features a parade past the village-owned pier at Harborfront Park, a race out in the open water between sailboats representing the village and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, and a banquet to conclude the festivities. This year, conditions weren’t conducive to holding the race, but the event still raised about $70,000 for two worthy causes, according to Mather’s Facebook page.

Funds raised by the regatta will be split between Mather Hospital’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

For the sixth year,  actor/director and local resident Ralph Macchio served as community ambassador for the event. Macchio helps to publicize the important work of the two programs funded by the regatta. His wife, Phyllis, is a nurse practitioner in Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program.

Ayla Lerner with her brother, Miles. Photo from Fundrazr

The sister of a Northport High School student-athlete who was hit by a car Tuesday morning has launched an online fundraiser to help her brother on his road to recovery. In less than four days, it has already raised nearly $85,000.

“The response has been tremendous,” said Ayla Lerner, a junior at Northport High School. “Our local community has been absolutely amazing in showing their support.”

Lerner’s 14-year-old brother, Miles, was on his way to cross-country practice Sept. 4 when he was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan traveling eastbound on Laurel Hill Road at 8:06 a.m., according to police. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries.

“Our local community has been absolutely amazing in showing their support.”

— Ayla Lerner

Lerner launched a FundRazr site titled “Please Help Miles Lerner’s Road to Recovery” to reach out and ask for the Northport-East Northport community’s support for her brother and her family in the aftermath of the accident.

“The media has reported that the driver who hit him is uninsured, which adds an element of financial strain,” she wrote on the website.

Miles was preparing to start his freshman year of high school Sept. 6. He was excited to be a member of Northport’s cross-country running team and Freshman Choir, according to Lerner.

“To give you a sense of his energy level, Miles participated in a three-week bike tour this past summer and biked 55 to 75 miles a day while carrying his belongings on the back of a bike,” she wrote.

After launching the website, she reached out to members of her brother’s cross-country team hoping given their connection to him, they would spread awareness of the cause and help her family. Word of her brother’s accident and her fundraising efforts has spread quickly and further than Lerner said she ever expected.

“I know all parents mock social media, but in this age, the Internet has allowed us to receive support from so many communities — we’ve received support from as far as Indonesia — they are treating us like family,” she said.

In addition to the donations, Lerner said her parents have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and well wishes they have been receiving. She said community members have brought her family food, offered to pack her lunch, and even reached out to offer her transportation to events like an upcoming ACT exam.

“I know that he doesn’t know it right now, isolated in his hospital room, but he is really being backed up by all the people he knows and loves.”

— Ayla Lerner

“We are incredibly gratified by the response,” she said.

Continued donations are most appreciated as the family anticipates medical bills for their son’s continued hospital care, according to Lerner. For those anxiously awaiting updates on Miles’ medical condition, the family will be hosting a table at the Northport Cow Harbor Day race Sept. 15 to share information with the community and sell navy bracelets bearing the slogan “Miles4Miles.”

“I know that he doesn’t know it right now, isolated in his hospital room, but he is really being backed up by all the people he knows and loves,” Lerner said.

Northport’s cross-country team will be participating in the Great Cow Harbor 10K race this year to show its support for Miles, according to Lerner, running the miles that he cannot.

His sister said the traumatic accident has changed her view on being an older sibling.

“Everyone has siblings, and sure, sometimes we annoy each other, but when you see your brother lying on a hospital bed in front of you, your perspective changes,” Lerner said. “I want to do everything I can to help him. I miss him.”

Residents paddle along in the 2017 Regatta on the River at Nissequogue River State Park. Photo from Nissequogue River State Park Foundation

By Anthony Petriello 

Residents are gearing up to take to the Nissequogue River in kayaks, canoes and, for the first time ever, on paddleboards to witness and preserve its beauty.

Kings Park students have come together to plan the third annual Regatta on the River Aug. 11 to raise funds for the upkeep and improvement of Nissequogue River State Park. The event is sponsored by the Reichert family, owners of the Larkfield and Fort Salonga IGA supermarkets, and features a competitive 10-mile race starting at 11 a.m., followed by a leisurely 5-mile race at 11:30 a.m.

“Each year the regatta has grown and we look forward to another successful event this year,” said John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the park and its assets for future generations. 

Each year the regatta has grown and we look forward to another successful event this year.”

– John McQuaid

The foundation was created to work together with students to plan events and fundraisers to keep the park clean and up-to-date for local residents to enjoy.

Emily Dinan, Caleigh Lynch and Juliana Quigley are three co-presidents of the foundation’s student board who have worked together to organize this year’s event.

“The student board allows high school students like myself to get hands on experience in giving back to our community,” Lynch said, a student of Saint Anthony’s High School in Melville. “This experience is different than most others that are available for students our age, as we are given a great deal of responsibility in obtaining sponsors, filing permits, handing out fliers, etc.”

Under the guidance of McQuaid, the student board held meetings to organize the event by creating flyers to hang around town, filing the necessary permits and obtaining sponsors. The board also looked at what was and was not successful in previous regattas, and took those elements into account in planning this year’s event.

Dinan, who will be a senior at Kings Park High School this fall, said she is humbled by the opportunity that she and her other co-presidents have to generate positive attention for the park built on the former grounds of Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

In our own backyard, we have a recreational gem comparable to any of the parks in upstate New York and my wish is that our community takes full advantage of it.”

– Juliana Quigley

“This beautiful park doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” she said. “Of course we, the student board, want the regatta to be an even bigger hit than it’s been in the past, but the real goal is for people to see the beauty of the park and see what else it has to offer.”

Paddleboarders are welcome to take part in the regatta this year for the first time, after the committee received numerous inquiries from prior participants. The students hope the addition of paddleboards will attract even more residents and help further bolster the park’s rising popularity among Long Islanders. Quigley, who will be a senior at Kings Park High School this fall and third-generation resident, said she believes that Nissequogue River State Park rivals any other New York state park.

“Whether it was kayaking on the river or walking along the trails, my family has been able to fully utilize the various recreational purposes that this park serves.” she said. “In our own backyard, we have a recreational gem comparable to any of the parks in upstate New York and my wish is that our community takes full advantage of it.”

Registration for the 10-mile race costs from $45 to $60 per person, depending on watercraft type and whether a rental is needed. Cost of the 5-mile course starts at $25 increasing to $55. Adult spectators are asked for $10, while children age 10 and under are free. All proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation for use in the park. Rain date is Aug. 12.

For more information on the regatta or to register to participate, visit www.ourstatepark.com/3rd-annual-regatta-on-the-river.