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Make-A-Wish

Kyle Gutman smiles with his newly refurbished Jeep. Photo from Kellie Ryan

By Victoria Espinoza

Kyle Gutman’s wish came true — and then some.

Lloyd Harbor resident Kyle Gutman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, at age 17. While undergoing treatment during his senior year of high school, the Make-A-Wish Foundation reached out to him to see if it could grant him a wish. On Dec. 19 Kyle Gutman, now cancer free, received his wish: to have his 1989 Grand Jeep Wagoneer restored.

Kyle Gutman and his father Jim purchased the Jeep together back in 2009 and worked on repairing it for years.

“We bought it together and played and worked on it for numerous years,” Jim Gutman said in a phone interview. “It was fun, he learned a lot with it. But there were many things we couldn’t fix ourselves, and he always wanted to get it fixed up to be proud of it.”

Tim Browner, president of AutoMat Customizing and Restoration, and Make-A-Wish helped bring the Gutmans’ Jeep to the next level.

Kyle Gutman smiles with his newly refurbished Jeep. Photo from Kellie Ryan

“He has such enthusiasm about the Jeep, as did the whole family,” Browner said in a phone interview. “You could tell it was more than just a method of transportation, it meant a lot to them. There’s always a reason why someone wants to restore a car.”

Browner restored the interior of the Jeep, with new seating, wood panels and more.

The transformed Jeep was presented to Kyle Gutman at the end of December in Browner’s location in Hicksville.

“It was really nice, seeing the look on his face,” Browner said. “I’m sure he’s going wild with it now.”

Kyle Gutman said he loved the reveal.

“It was awesome, I have never seen it look as good as it did and was very excited that I can finally take it home and use it again,” he said.

Kyle Gutman’s mother Tracy agreed that seeing the expression on his face the first time he saw the Jeep was priceless.

“His eyes lit up,” she said in a phone interview. “It was like watching a little kid at Christmas. He immediately went and sat in the car and it just suited him so. He and his father just kept looking at it like ‘wow.’”

Jim Gutman agreed the revel was exciting.

“We usually see the car outside the house, and it started out as a 17-year-old boy’s car, which typically ends up looking like their bedrooms after a while,” he said with a laugh. “So seeing it super clean and in the showroom was great. It just came out fantastic — I want to drive it everyday.”

Rather than ask for a trip to the Superbowl, or a vacation to a tropical island, Tracy Gutman said this wish is something her son will have forever.

“It’s something to look at to symbolize he beat this [cancer],” she said.

Kyle Gutman said he wanted his wish to be something he could have forever.

“I wanted my wish to be something meaningful that would last for a long time,” he said.

Jim Gutman said he never expected the car to become such an important part of the family.

“We originally just purchased it to be a little bit of a project for us,” he said. “Now it’s more like a collector’s car. I think this car will be around forever; it’ll be a family heirloom.”

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A scene from the annual Make-A-Wish Junior Sailors Regatta, hosted by the Northport Yacht Club. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

It was a windy summer morning at the Northport Yacht Club on Monday where more than 100 sailors from age 8 to 17 rigged their own boats and hit the water to race at the 20th Annual Make-A-Wish Junior Sailors Regatta.

Sailors hailed from the Northport Yacht Club, Centerport Yacht Club, Huntington Yacht Club, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club and Huntington YMCA, and all gathered to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants children with life-threatening illnesses wishes within their lifetimes.

For the Doherty family, which has headed the regatta for nine years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has a very personal significance: a family friend who died from a heart condition at age 16 was a Make-a-Wish recipient, and was able to take a trip to Walt Disney World Resort thanks to the organization.

Keara Doherty, 17, who has been the top fundraiser all nine years since being involved with the event, said that once she ages out of sailing in the regatta this year, she plans to become more directly involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and help her dad, Bob, who is involved with the club’s Special Event Committee, organize the regatta and recruit fundraisers. This year alone, Keara Doherty has raised $10,000 by writing personal letters to family and friends asking for donations.

According to Peggy Doherty, the teen’s mom, the fundraiser has become increasingly successful over the years. Nine years ago, the event raised $25,000. Last year, the group hit $50,000. She said that this year the fundraiser brought in $46,000.

Northport Yacht Club Rear Commodore Rich Boziwick spoke highly of Bob Doherty’s influence in making the fundraiser a success.

“He’s been an incredible asset to this whole event,” he said. “He coordinates, brings the staff together, and gets the kids together.”

This year’s winners, in order of increasing difficulty levels, were: Joey Zarcone (Opti Green), Connor Burns (Opti White), Aidan Quigley (Opti Blue), Sterling Thompson (Opti Red), Courtney Garrison and Zoe Buscareno (Pixel); Connor, Brandon and Tyler Besendorfer, and Sebastion Blot (Blue Jay); Hallie Simkins and Cormack Murphy (Club 420), and Gavin Anderson (Laser Radial).

It is clear that there is a high level of community involvement with the fundraiser, with bagged lunches donated by a local Stop & Shop and prizes (including baseball tickets and a kayak) for the top fundraisers donated by local shops and members of the yacht club.

The Northport Yacht Club also hosts an annual swim-a-thon that contributes to the total funds raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  This year, there were 120 participants who swam 3,800 laps (53 miles) in total.  Of the group, 16-year-old Bryce Winters came in first place, swimming 304 miles in under 3 hours. Fundraising worked on a kid-by-kid basis, with individuals and sponsors setting rules for how sponsors would donate, sometimes based on number of laps swam or number of hours spent swimming.

Peggy Doherty said that the yacht club plans to continue hosting the fundraiser for years to come and that she and her family plan to stay involved.

“The kids are doing so much better with fundraising [as the years go on],” she said.

Marissa Pastore and her mom, flanked by Disney characters. Photo from Katrina Kurczak

A 14-year-old Huntington Station girl who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness got the wish of her life on Sunday when her favorite Disney characters came out to celebrate with her.

Marissa Pastore, who has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on April 20, was treated at the Cohen Children’s Center, but her fragile body was unable to handle the chemotherapy, according to a GoFundMe online fundraising account set up for the family. A few days later, Marissa returned home with her mom Risa, dad Domenick and two brothers Domenick and Ryan, to enjoy their final days together.

Marissa’s mom is an emergency department nurse at Huntington Hospital and her dad is a former Huntington Manor Fire Department chief and a fireman with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), according to the account. Both are volunteers at the Huntington Manor Fire Department, and the account was set up so the family could “concentrate solely on loving Marissa.”

Marissa Pastore, 14, gets the surprise of a lifetime when Disney characters visit her. Photo from Katrina Kurczak
Marissa Pastore, 14, gets the surprise of a lifetime when Disney characters visit her. Photo from Katrina Kurczak

“Please help us support the Pastore family with any donation you can make which will go toward covering their living expenses while they take time off from work to celebrate Marissa’s life together.”

Not only did the account amass more than $55,000 by Wednesday, Marissa got a special surprise when Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Olaf and other characters from popular Disney movies greeted the 14-year-old Disney lover, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

According to Katrina Kurczak, one of Marissa’s wish granters and assistant director of program services for Make-A-Wish, the nonprofit group and the family put together Marissa’s wish quickly. Family and community members contacted them Tuesday, April 28, and the group met with the family Wednesday. On Sunday, her wish came true.

“She was surprised and so happy, she couldn’t believe it,” Kurczak said. The characters rode in on fire trucks and greeted her.

The goal was to bring Disney to her, as Marissa is unable to travel due to her condition. Disney princesses Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” also made a special appearance and sang to the young girl.

“Her dad wanted to do something to make her smile,” Kurczak said.

Many volunteers came together to help make the day as special as possible. The Huntington Manor Fire Department, Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department and the FDNY also helped make Marissa’s wish come true.

To donate to the Pastore family, visit https://www.gofundme.com/sus6z8.