Tags Posts tagged with "Rachel Siford"

Rachel Siford

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Vicki Rybak, far right, poses with the Rev. Patrick Riegger and Rotarians Sharon Brennan and Jackie Brown as Infant Jesus R.C. Church accepts a Rotary donation to its food pantry. File photo

By Rachel Siford

Vicki Rybak has been serving the Long Island community for more than a decade, known by her friends and coworkers as one of the busiest and most resourceful people they know.

As the director of social ministry and outreach for Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson, Rybak has gone above and beyond her job description. For that reason, she has been named a Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

“She is a last resort for a lot of people,” said Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue Public Library and a Port Jefferson Rotary Club member.

The Rotary Club works closely with Rybak and the church. One of their biggest collaborations is on The Open Cupboard at the church, a food pantry for needy Long Islanders that the Rotary donates to. According to Engelhardt, one in eight on Long Island currently need help from food banks.

“Year-round she is involved in projects like this,” Engelhardt said about Rybak. “She tries to be everything that anyone needs, which can be exhausting. She is helping families from falling through the cracks and they are really fortunate to have someone who has the time and energy to be that person.”

Jim Fenton is one of the oldest volunteers at Infant Jesus and has worked with Rybak closely.

“Vicki is extremely resourceful when someone comes to her with a problem,” Fenton said. “She has all these phone numbers at her fingertips, and is very compassionate too.”

Fenton added that Rybak devotes time to applying for grants to keep the food pantries stocked and keep the equipment working — “all of her own initiative.”

“She goes above and beyond what is in her job description,” Fenton added. “There is nothing she won’t do.”

Sharon Brennan, another Rotary Club member, shared an anecdote of working with Rybak. Once, a couple went to her office crying because a fire had destroyed everything they owned.

Rotarian Jackie Brown, Vicki Rybak, St. Charles Hospital’s Marilyn Fabbricante, Rotarian Debbie Englehardt and backpack program sponsor Katharine Coen carry backpacks for donation. File photo
Rotarian Jackie Brown, Vicki Rybak, St. Charles Hospital’s Marilyn Fabbricante, Rotarian Debbie Englehardt and backpack program sponsor Katharine Coen carry backpacks for donation. File photo

“Vicki started making calls immediately, getting them stuff over the phone, getting Christmas presents for their children,” Brennan said. “She just goes into high gear and makes stuff happen.”

Rybak is involved in many different programs throughout the year, including the Adopt-A-Family program for the holiday season, through which volunteers purchase Christmas presents such as toys and clothes for families who do not have enough money to spend on those items themselves. That project gets a lot of residents and community groups involved, including the Interact Club at Port Jefferson’s Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, right down the road from the church.

The Person of the Year also works on a back-to-school project, filling up 150 backpacks with school supplies — such as composition notebooks and pencils — for children at the start of the each new school year, with the help of community donations.

“Vicki somewhere, somehow finds a way to help them, no matter what they need,” Laszlo Girhiny, a church member, said about Rybak’s dedication to local people in need. “Hundreds of people have walked through her doors.”

If Rybak cannot help people herself, she connects them with other social service agencies so the job can get done.

“She has the right attitude and always treats the people she helps with dignity,” Brennan said. “She says everyone has been there one time in their life.”

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Chris Pinkenburg, far right, poses with some members of his Rocky Point robotics GearHeadz team. Photo from Pinkenburg

By Rachel Siford

Chris Pinkenburg has been trying to get Rocky Point students more interested in math and science. So he created his own robotics club called GearHeadz to do so. Because of this, he has been named a 2015 Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.

Pinkenburg, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, was inspired to create his own robotics club in the Rocky Point school district after attending an educational symposium at BNL. He thought this was the perfect way to get more students involved in engineering. GearHeadz is a privately run FIRST LEGO League team from Rocky Point.

“For years, he was the one who was very vocal about how having robotics in the school is important,” said Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association. “Encouraging science and technology is very important for kids.”

Pinkenburg has three children in the Rocky Point school district, all of whom have participated in his robotics club at one point.

Above, the Rocky Point robotics GearHeadz team demonstrates one of their projects. Photo from Chris Pinkenburg
Above, the Rocky Point robotics GearHeadz team demonstrates one of their projects. Photo from Chris Pinkenburg

“He is very passionate about education,” Wlodek Guryn, Pinkenburg’s colleague at BNL, said. “He wants children to learn as much as possible in school and give them as many opportunities as possible, which is also why he got involved in the robotics club.”

Pinkenburg started to prod his school district to implement a robotics club into the schools. He eventually formed his own private team that won first place in programming in the qualifiers the first time they competed. After this, a club was introduced to Rocky Point Middle School with Pinkenburg leading it as a mentor. They competed in a worldwide competition in St. Louis, Missouri.

According to Rocky Point Middle School Principal Scott O’Brien, the school was involved with a program associated with BNL that focused on math and science. There were multiple sections of the program, one of which was robotics.

“I had put out a survey looking for feedback about the program and the kids noted that the robotics section was their favorite part, and said they benefited the most from it,” O’Brien said. “We knew we needed to expand it, and, at the same time, Pinkenburg was there and created this club. A lot of kids are very highly interested in robotics. Over 100 students came to the first meeting.”

Each year, teams are presented with a new challenge and must try to develop a solution using robotics. This year’s theme is Trash Trek, which prompts them to explore the world of trash and invent a solution to help minimize trash issues. They must also build and program a LEGO robot to accomplish trash-themed missions on a playing field and show how well they work together as a team.

“The team has been very successful,” Ruberto said. “They won last year’s Long Island Championship and went on to compete in the North American Open Championships against 75 other national and international champions in California.”

As a physicist at BNL, Pinkenburg has been passionate about programming and simulations. One part of robotics is to build the robot itself, which is more engineering-based, but the other big part, which is Pinkenburg’s specialty, requires computing, which helps in programming the robot so it does exactly what it is meant  to do.

“He is very pleasant and passionate, and works very hard on computing aspects and simulations of his work,” Guryn said. “He is very dedicated. Physics requires a lot of passion and dedication and he has a lot of both.”

Pinkenburg’s efforts are being spread to the high school, as he starts his FIRST Tech Challenge team, a higher-level team, to continue to spread his love for computing and physics.

Passion for music thrives thanks to eSight glasses

Justin Crilly uses the eSight electronic glasses to perform simple tasks like using a computer. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Justin Crilly of Smithtown has had an eye-opening experience.

Legally blind 16-year-old Crilly had started using eSights on his eyes and is now able to pursue his passion for music. eSights are electronic glasses that utilize a high-definition camera in the headset to capture a real-time video feed. The headset connects to the processing unit that adjusts every pixel to allow Crilly to see and also houses the battery.

The tech company is fairly new since it launched in 2013.

“When I was first considered legally blind at 3 months old, the doctors said I would never see again,” he said.

Crilly’s mother, Stacy, said she saw an ad for eSight on Facebook and was intrigued. They went to a demo in the city and tried a pair out, and immediately fell in love with them.

“I don’t have to squint walking down the hallway anymore,” he said. “Now I can see when I go to a concert or a movie.”

Justin Crilly sports the eSight glasses, which help him overcome blindness. Photo by Rachel Siford
Justin Crilly sports the eSight glasses, which help him overcome blindness. Photo by Rachel Siford

Crilly’s mother has noticed considerable differences in her son’s behavior since he started wearing the glasses this past March.

“The eSights have increased his independence tremendously,” his mother said. “It makes me less afraid for him to go out into the world.”

She went on to say that it gives him the freedom to do anything he wants, like go away to college when he graduates if he so chooses.

“There was always this worry about how far was he going to make it independently, but now I am elated to know that he can be as independent as anybody else,” Stacy Crilly said. “In a way these glasses freed him from his disability.”

According to his mother, since Justin Crilly was a baby, he always gravitated toward music. He has been looking into music schools for the past several years, excited about where to go to college to pursue a career in music production.

He has been taking music theory and recording at Hauppauge High School for the past year. He is able to plug his eSights directly into the computer, making using the software to make music, at home and at school, much easier. Justin Crilly has taken voice, piano and drum lessons throughout his life and has recently started learning how to DJ at Spin DJ Academy in Hauppauge.

Before he started using eSights, it took Justin Crilly about three hours or more to do homework every night, but now he can knock it out in an hour.

He said he wants to show people that anyone with disabilities can do anything they want.

“I want people to hear my music and think ‘despite that he has a disability, he still made music sound that good,’” Justin Crilly said. “No matter if you have a disability or not, you can do anything with your life.”

By Rachel Siford & Heidi Sutton

Thirteen-year-old Jessica Finger has loved dolphins all her life. Now, in celebration of International Dolphin Day, which is held every year in September, she is giving back by organizing a unique fundraising event on Sunday, Aug. 30, to help them. Titled Dogs for Dolphins, the event is part of her Bat Mitzvah community service project.

Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger
Jessica Finger. Photo from Beth Finger

It is customary for a community service project to go hand in hand with a Bat Mitzvah, along with Hebrew school and learning about the Jewish faith. Her Bat Mitzvah is scheduled for October.

Jessica has a very strong stance on anti-captivity of these beautiful sea creatures. “I’ve been passionate about helping dolphins and whales since I was really little,” said Jessica. “I started to like them because of SeaWorld, but then I realized the truth and now I am an activist against [SeaWorld].”

“[Dolphins] are just more intelligent than other mammals … they live with their families for their entire lives and they are very interesting,” said Jessica, adding that killer whales (orcas) have a special place in her heart. Her favorite book is “Behind the Dolphin Smile” by former dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry.

Her mother Beth said that Jessica became even more passionate about saving dolphins after watching “The Cove.” The 2009 documentary shows O’Barry exposing Japan’s massive dolphin slaughter that takes place in the town of Taiji by local fisherman annually from September through April. The group Whale and Dolphin Conservation has stated that, since 2000, more than 18,000 dolphins from seven different species have been either killed or taken into captivity during the Taiji hunt.

According to the teenager, “it changed my life ever since. I now use Instagram to be an activist for dolphins in captivity and for giving updates about the infamous ‘Cove’ in Japan,” she said.

Barry went on to found The Dolphin Project, which aims to stop the murder and exploitation of dolphins around the world. Jessica found out about this organization about a year ago through social media and decided to raise money to support this noble cause. With a goal of $750, she has already raised $336.

Jessica and her mother completed a six-hour training course at the Long Island Aquarium this summer and now volunteer at the Riverhead tourist attraction where they interact with guests and provide them with interesting facts about the animals there. Jessica’s favorite job is working at the touch tank where visitors can have a hands-on encounter with sea stars, clams, whelks, hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs.

“I agreed to volunteer with Jessica since it’s something that she desperately wanted. I have to admit that I am enjoying it very much and look forward to it as much as she does. I am constantly amazed at how knowledgeable she is about marine life. We are excited to volunteer at a seal release on Monday, Aug. 31, at Cedar Beach in Mt. Sinai,” said her mother, adding “It’s also a great way for us to have some meaningful mother-daughter time.” Members of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation will be at the event to speak about how they rehabilitate marine life.

A true animal lover, Jessica lives in Nesconset with her parents, two younger brothers, a dog named Summer, two rabbits, three tortoises, a frog and tropical fish. Jessica said her goal in life is to “be either a marine biologist or a member of The Dolphin Project.”

“I am very proud of Jessica for her compassion for all animals. She has deep integrity at such a young age. Her love for animals led her to become a vegetarian when she was only eight years old — she will not wear leather or even enjoy marshmallows and S’mores with her friends because there is gelatin [an animal product] in them,” said Jessica’s mom. Her stance has “inspired several of her friends to become vegetarians too,” she added.

“It is appropriate that the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah, when she takes on the role of being a responsible young adult, was the impetus for Jessica to bring the community together to help make the world a better place. In Judaism, we call that Tikkun Olam, and I can’t think of a better way for Jessica to launch this next chapter of her life as a Bat Mitzvah,” said her mother proudly.

On Aug. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jessica invites the community to bring their dogs along with friends and family to the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, 2114 Sound Ave., Calverton, for a walk through the trails of the vineyard to support a great cause.

The walk will be followed by lunch, a pie tasting, activities for kids and dogs, crafts and wine. Patrons will be able to decorate bandanas for their dogs and play games. Massage gift certificates, gift cards to restaurants and cooking classes at Sur la Table will be raffled off during the afternoon.

The event is sponsored by Animal Health and Wellness Veterinary Care in Setauket, Pet Supplies Plus and Long Island Iced Tea, and patrons can expect an endless supply of free ice tea and pet treats.

There is a $10 per person suggested donation at the door (includes lunch) with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support The Dolphin Project (www.dolphinproject.net). There is no rain date. Advance registration is available by  visiting www.crowdrise.com/dogsfordolphins. For more information, please call 917-414-4526.

Eugene the hedgehog is enjoying a new diet to help him lose weight. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Even hedgehogs need to watch their calories.

Nesconset native Brianna Stiklickas went from being an extreme soccer player with recruitment offers from 40 different colleges to starting her own business to benefit her beloved exotic pet. The 22-year-old college sophomore and The Stony Brook School graduate recently celebrated a successful Kickstarter campaign in which she raised more than $12,000 to boost her new business, Meet Eugene, named after her hedgehog.

A severe leg injury forced her to the sidelines, but it was a blessing in disguise as Stiklickas found a new passion: to save Eugene from what his veterinarian diagnosed as severe obesity in the 3-year-old African pygmy hedgehog.

“Once I stopped being so heavy-duty with the sports, I really started to get into my academics,” Stiklickas said. “That’s when I first came up with the idea of Meet Eugene, an exotic pet food company.”

Her breeder originally said to feed Eugene high-quality cat food, as most hedgehog owners do, but through a lot of research, Stiklickas said she realized that it causes issues like obesity — one of the top health problems in hedgehogs. Hedgehogs typically live about four to six years, but if fed properly and taken care of, can live to up to nine. And with hopes of pushing that number, Stiklickas started an Instagram account called Meet Eugene months before she even decided to start her own company. All of a sudden, she found herself with 700 followers and counting; thus the name of her company was born. Today she has more than 1,200 followers.

She formulated HealthHog, a grain-free hedgehog food fortified with vitamins and minerals to support the hedgehog’s digestive and immune system, rather than a cat or dog’s.

“Just because something is a premium price, doesn’t mean it is a premium product,” Stiklickas said. “And I found that out the hard way.”

Stiklickas went to Babson College, one of the top schools in the country for entrepreneurship, where she learned to develop her company in class with the help of her professors and classmates.

Brianna Stiklickas and her pet, Eugene, spend quality time together. Photo by Rachel Siford
Brianna Stiklickas and her pet, Eugene, spend quality time together. Photo by Rachel Siford

“Throughout college, I worked five jobs, was on two sports teams, was a full-time student and was starting a business, so being able to use my company in class really benefitted me,” Stiklickas said.

She researched hedgehogs for two years with veterinarians, then moved on to market research when she sent out surveys to hedgehog communities online and to breeders. Stiklickas started looking on the market for hedgehog foods, and the few she found had ingredients that were not healthy, like blood meal, which is indigestible by most animals.

She made Eugene’s food from scratch and saw what he did well on, then worked with a food scientist to see if she could get it ready to manufacture. Since she put her hedgehog on this new diet, he started shedding the weight.

Stiklickas recently achieved her goal of $12,000 from her Kickstarter campaign, so she can manufacture and sell HealthHog, which she hopes to have ready in about four months.

“I want a food that’s actually made for them and not just made for profit,” Stiklickas said. “I realized how much of an issue it really was across the nation.”

With help from her classes as well as two start-up incubators, WIN Lab and Babson Summer Venture Program, she developed three parts to her company.

First, she has “For the Pet,” which includes the HealthHog food, accessories, cages and toys she is developing currently. Then, she has “For the Owner,” which will be a lifestyle brand for owners. And lastly, she has the “Education” section, which includes Meet and Greets, educational programing, and 4 children’s books she also wrote while at Babson.

She said she plans to host educational programs at libraries and schools to teach children and their parents how exotic animals, like hedgehogs, sugar gliders, chinchillas and prairie dogs, are as pets.

“A huge part of my company is not just trying to improve the lives of these animals, but is also trying to educate people so they know how to treat the animals,” Stiklickas said.

Stiklickas reminisced back to when she was little and used to make up companies. At first, she said, she wanted to do marketing, then finance. She later realized that entrepreneurship combined all the things she loved to do.

Working for five different startups throughout college also encouraged her that she had what it took.

“As much as I thought about starting my own company, I never thought I’d do it,” Stiklickas said.

Stiklickas’ dream, she said, is to do this full time and open the next exotic pet brand, but unfortunately she might have to take a job eventually because of college loans.

“Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle; it definitely takes a special type of person to work everyday on a company that may or may not be successful,” Stiklickas said.

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BOCES center builds labyrinth to promote mindfulness

The new labyrinth opened at the end of May. Photo from Charlie Tedesco

By Rachel Siford

Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Centereach Academic Center has taken a creative approach to promoting mindfulness.

The center, which caters to students who require special education or who have severe behavioral issues and learning disabilities, recently opened a labyrinth on its grounds. A labyrinth is a type of maze, or purposeful path, that promotes reflection and meditation within a structured environment.

Principal Susan Goltz said students can get easily frustrated and will sometimes leave the classroom because they are so overwhelmed with their feelings. She and her staff wanted to find a more acceptable way for the students to cope.

“We felt that having a labyrinth on school grounds would give them the opportunity to deal with feelings and teach them mindful strategies,” Goltz said.

Goltz added that students’ emotional issues could lead to interruptions in their education, causing them to fall behind in some subjects.

The school’s faculty and staff want to teach students to use the labyrinth while in crisis.

Mindfulness, which promotes a meditative practice with Buddhist roots, has been a growing trend in the mental health field. It is the state of being aware of the present moment and being able to acknowledge one’s feelings and thoughts.

The labyrinth’s official ribbon cutting was May 29. Goltz said feedback from students to date has been very positive. She plans on giving out a survey to students before and after their use of the labyrinth when school is back in session.

Charlie Tedesco, guidance counselor, had a pivotal role in the research and planning of the labyrinth.

“Sometimes it’s only a matter of having a small challenge to set off a student’s emotional frustration,” Tedesco said in a press release. “The labyrinth project was initiated so students could do something by themselves or they could be accompanied by a counselor. The walking area helps relieve stress and has a calming effect.”

Research from Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, which researches, treats and prevents stress-related illnesses, has shown mindful walking can help reduce anxiety and stress.

“There are several statistics that point to individuals becoming grounded, more centered and focused when they do mindful walking,” Tedesco said.

The labyrinth was designed by the staff and was based on other examples they had seen. Middle Island-based William Moloney Masonry won the bid to construct the labyrinth, and the center secured $25,000 in state funding with help from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“It is a tool that our students will benefit from,” Goltz said. “Learning how to use mindful thinking in a controlled environment is something they can take into life.”

One of 20 Long Island business professionals gearing up for annual Long Island Fight for Charity in November

Rhonda Klch gloves up for last year’s Long Island Fight for Charity. This year, Klch will head back into the ring for the charity match, which raises money for the Long Island Community Chest. Photo from Corbett PR

By Rachel Siford

Mount Sinai’s Rhonda “Master of Financial Disaster” Klch is heading back into the ring on Nov. 23, 2015, for her second Long Island Fight for Charity match.

Klch is the founder and CEO of Equity First, LLC, a financial advising firm based in Coram. She started the company in 2004.

The charity boxing match raises money for the Long Island Community Chest, a nonprofit organization that provides short-term financial support to needy families and individuals who have suffered a crisis. Last year, Klch left her match victorious.

Klch was inspired to participate in the fight when she heard the money was going to the Community Chest. More than $850,000 has been donated to Long Island charities since its inception 12 years ago.

“Due to the fact that my firm works heavily in budget planning and helping clients that are in financial distress, I felt it was very close to what we do,” Klch said.

Rhonda Klch left the ring with a victory last year. Photo from Corbett PR
Rhonda Klch left the ring with a victory last year. Photo from Corbett PR

Preparing for the match takes time. Fight for Charity requires all participants get a physical exam. Fighters also have to check in at certified gyms to track how much they are training. Boxers typically need to complete three to four days of cardio a week, with two or more days of sparring.

Klch will have to wait until September to find out who she will be fighting on the night of the event.

“Right now, I have to train like I’m going to get my butt kicked,” Klch said smiling. “I have no idea who it is going to be yet.”

Klch and her company try to get involved with many organizations.

Equity First is also involved with The Starkey Hearing Foundation, which supplies hearing aides to those who can’t afford them, and Pink Tie, a cancer research fundraiser. Last year, the company sponsored 160 children from the Longwood community who were either homeless or in transient housing and provided them with their holiday gifts. Klch is also on the Friends of Karen, which supports critically ill children and their families, Long Island advisory board.

“We have a pretty good corporate culture here,” Klch said. “Everyone wants to chip in and help out; it’s almost a prerequisite for their employment.”

Prior to founding Equity First, Klch was a branch manager for First West Mortgage Bankers. She actually started Equity First as a side business while still working at the bank.

“I’m just very entrepreneurial by nature,” Klch said. “I feel like I am a good leader and I like having my own concepts and being able to see them through from start to finish.”

Klch said staying involved with charities helps people learn about their communities and issues they may not have realized existed.

“You just never know enough about yourself until you put yourself into an uncomfortable position,” Klch said. “You’ll never grow if you never go out of your comfort zone.”

For more information on the event go to www.lifightforcharity.org.

The Cole Bros. clowns have some fun with the audience. Photo from Cole Bros.

By Rachel Siford

The circus is coming to town or to Suffolk County that is. The Cole Bros. Circus TO THE MAX show will be making several stops in our area in the next few weeks. First stop will be next to the Center Moriches High School, 313 Frowein Road, on July 30 and 31 with shows at 5 and 8 p.m. The troupe will then move on to Farmingville’s Pennysaver Ampitheater at Bald Hill on Aug. 1 and 2 with performances at 2, 5 and 8 p.m. The final stop will be in Middle Island at 1251 Middle Country Road, on Aug. 8 and 9 with shows again at 2, 5 and 8 p.m. The Middle Island and Farmingville shows are hosted by Fire Marshal’s Benevolent Association of Brookhaven Inc. while the Center Moriches show is hosted by the South Bay Home Association.

German Fassio balances high above the ground. Photo from Cole Bros.
German Fassio balances high above the ground. Photo from Cole Bros.

The shows will feature a variety of acts including the Aguilar family on the high wire, the magic of Lana & Co. complete with grand-scale illusions, feats of equilibrium, aerial ballet with Cloud Swing and, of course, clowns. Led by Max the Clown, Cole’s Clown Alley will play a hilarious Game of Throwns.

Along with elephants, Nerger’s Tigers will be showcasing Bengal and Siberian tigers, and Clever Canines will also be performing. ThunderDrome will entertain the crowd with motorcycle tricks, and the circus will finish off each show with a bang, literally, with the Human Cannonball shooting out of the World’s Largest Cannon at 5g velocity.

Before every show, there is a tent raising where Cole Bros. Circus sets up 40 tons of equipment and 2,000 seats for each location. Forklifts are needed to set up colorful vinyl that rise to the top of the five-story-high king poles to create the canopy. Patrons are welcome to come to the tent raising and also to view the exotic animals before the show and to see the performers practice.

Tickets are available at www.gotothecircus.com or by calling 1-888-332-5200. General admission is $21 for adults ($16 in advance), children (ages 2-12) tickets are also $16. Free tickets for children are available on the website. General admission may be upgraded to reserved seats.

Kids buddy up at kidOYO camp to learn more about the coding world at a special summer camp workshop hosted at Stony Brook University on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Stony Brook University is hosting a different type of camp this summer.

kidOYO teaches kids between ages 8 and 15 how to code their own websites and games, using Java, Scratch, Python and HTML.

“Code. Make. Learn.” is kidOYO’s motto — geared to teach kids to code and create on their own.

“The kids learn how to map controls, sense the movements and think about it in a logical way,” co-founder Devon Loffreto said.

Loffreto, a graduate of SBU, and his wife Melora Loffreto founded the camp in 2001 and came to Stony Brook University three years ago because of its position as one of the top computer science schools.

“This area has a huge interest in computer science,” Melora said. “The support of the university has been tremendous.”

Some kids stay just one week, and others participate for the full five weeks. This week, 33 students entered the program along with 10 Stony Brook University computer science student mentors to help them.

Chairman of the Computer Science Department for 17 years Arie Kaufman welcomed the crowd to the newly built computer science building. This group was the first to have a demonstration there.

“I want to move Long Island to the point where everyone from ages 4 to 104 knows how to program,” Kaufman said. “This is a happy occasion for the new computer science building.”

For the first time since the camp was started, participants will be able to continue their websites and work at home. Their profiles will keep track of what they do with badges they get for different accomplishments. There are also challenges and tutorials on the website to keep them engaged.

Students made mods for Minecraft, a popular video game, meaning they wrote code modifications for the educational version of the game Minecraft. One student even made the mod downloadable so anyone can add his mod to his or her own game.

“This generation is one of the most powerful ever because of the tools they are given,” Loffreto said.

Another student built a script in Python, a general-purpose programming language, to draw a turtle, which took 370 lines of code.

Students made videos, comic strips, games, 3D printed objects and video games. For many of them, this was their first time using code.

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Ursula Costanzo and her husband, Vince. Photo from Ursula Costanzo

By Rachel Siford

The Miller Place and Mount Sinai communities are coming together to support a fellow resident in her time of need.

Five years ago, Ursula Costanzo, of Mount Sinai, started the parent Facebook group, Mt. Sinai/Miller Pl. Moms, which has more than 2,600 members.

She started the group to unite the communities, since they don’t have a town center. Group members share information, ask questions and have friendly discussions. If someone needs a repairman or landscaper recommendation, the Facebook group is the place to go.

In May, the wife and mom suffered an aneurysm and a stroke, which has since kept her in the hospital and rehab facilities. Costanzo is currently at St. Johnland Nursing Center for rehabilitation and has had various surgeries.

Now, Costanzo’s close friends and other administrators of the Facebook group have pulled together to create a fundraiser to help the family with medical and childcare bills, as her and her husband’s insurance only covers so much.

On Aug. 16, the nine-person committee will present Rock the Range at Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai from 2 to 7 p.m. The event will have a barbecue, raffle and live music.

“Ursula has been one my best friends for 15 years,” Melissa Goodman, of Mount Sinai, said. “It was mine and my husband’s idea to start this fundraiser because Ursula always liked to help people and has always been so altruistic.”

Denise May, one of the Facebook group administrators and close friend of Costanzo’s, said the event will be a fun community day, which is what Costanzo is all about.

“Ursula is one those happy, dynamic people who runs in a bunch of different crowds,” May said. “She is a very happy, positive person.”

May is also in charge of a GoFundMe site to benefit the Costanzo family. The site has already raised more than $3,400. Their goal is $20,000.

Eight local bands will be playing at the event, and Goodman added there will be grand prizes at the fundraiser, like a television and vacation packages.

“She is a wonderful mom, a wonderful person and a wonderful friend,” Goodman said. “Everyone loves her; that’s why everyone is helping out.”

Costanzo’s other close friend, Cynthia Liendo, of Mount Sinai, is in charge of the ticket sales. She said the committee is expecting between 200 and 400 people.

“She really, truly cares about people and went out of her way to smile,” Liendo said about Costanzo.

A stroke survivor will speak at Rock the Range.

Costanzo’s friends and family said she is fighting hard to get through this.

“She volunteers at school, the kids are familiar with her and she has many friends,” Liendo said. “Her absence has really been felt.”

Tickets for Rock the Range are $25. Children 5 and under are free. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, contact rocktherange4Ursula@gmail.com.