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Wading River

Photo from Hope Children’s Fund

The board of directors of Hope Children’s Fund, in conjunction with the Rocky Point Rotary Club, recently announced the ordering of an Isuzu 25 passenger bus for the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Fund Orphanage in Meru, Kenya. 

The bus will provide safe transport for the 86 children of the home and is to be used for transportation to schools, medical appointments and food shopping. 

Photo from Hope Children’s Fund

The Isuzu bus is the culmination of the efforts of hundreds of donors. A GoFundMe initiated by Hope Children’s Fund board member Kyle Spillane raised thousands of dollars for the cause. 

In addition to the Rocky Point Rotary Club, several other clubs including Port Jefferson, Westhampton, Stony Brook, Riverhead, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma contributed to fund for the bus. All clubs are members of Rotary District 7255 led by District Governor Mary Ellen Ellwood.

On Sept. 21, at the People’s United Bank Wading River branch, a wiring ceremony took place where members of the board sent the money to the orphanage in Kenya. People’s United Bank is the official bank of Hope Children’s Fund, and has waived all wire fees on all transactions to the orphanage. 

The 9/11 memorial in Hauppauge. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“One of the worst days in American history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” — Former President George W. Bush

These were the patriotic thoughts of this president who reflected on the heroic services that were demonstrated by Americans during and after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

While it has been 20 years since our nation was attacked by the sting of terrorism, Americans have not forgotten this tragic moment. On the North Shore — about 80 miles from Manhattan at its easterly point — there are many memorials that honor the local residents who were killed, the dedication of the rescue workers and the War on Terror veterans who defended this nation at home and abroad for the last two decades.

There has been a tremendous amount of support from the local municipalities, state and local governments, along with school districts to never forget 9/11. People do not have to look far to notice the different types of memorials, landmarks and resting places that represent those harrowing moments and the sacrifices that were made to help others and defend this country. 

Calverton National Cemetery

Driving northwest on Route 25A, it is possible to quickly see the reminders of sacrifice within the Calverton National Cemetery. This sacred ground is one of the largest military burial grounds in America and driving through its roads, there are flags that have been placed for veterans of all conflicts — especially the most recent during the War on Terror. 

One of the most visited sites there is that of Patchogue resident Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan, where under intense enemy fire he tried to call in support to rescue his outnumbered four-man SEAL team. 

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, local residents can also see his name gracing the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, the post office in Patchogue, the Navy SEAL Museum that is near completion in West Sayville, and a memorial created for him on the east side of Lake Ronkonkoma, where he was a lifeguard.

Shoreham-Wading River—Rocky Point—Sound Beach—Mount Sinai

West of Calverton, at the main entrance of Shoreham-Wading River High School, you will notice a baseball field located between the road and the Kerry P. Hein Army Reserve Center. 

One of this field’s former players, Kevin Williams, was killed on 9/11, where he was a bond salesman for Sandler O’Neill, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This 24-year-old young man was a talented athlete who was recognized with MVP honors on the baseball, golf and basketball teams for the high school. 

A foundation has been created in the name of Williams, an avid New York Yankees fan, that has helped provide financial support to baseball and softball players unable to afford attending sports camps. 

Not far from Shoreham, driving westward, motorists will notice the strength, size and beauty of the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 memorial. This structure is located on Route 25A, on the west side of the firehouse.

Immediately, people will notice the impressive steel piece that is standing tall in the middle of a fountain, surrounded by a walkway with bricks that have special written messages. In the background, there are names of the people killed during these attacks and plaques that have been created to recognize the services of the rescue workers and all of those people lost.  

Heading west into Rocky Point’s downtown business district, VFW Post 6249 has a 9/11 tribute with steel from lower Manhattan. Less than a half mile away, on Broadway and Route 25A, the Joseph P. Dwyer statue proudly stands high overlooking the activity of the busy corner.  

This veteran’s square remembers the service of PFC Dwyer, who enlisted into the Army directly after this nation was attacked and fought in Iraq. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and this statue supports all veterans who have dealt with these hard psychological and physical conditions. 

A short distance away, the Sound Beach Fire Department also created a special structure on its grounds through a neighborhood feeling of remembrance toward all of those people lost.

Heading west toward Mount Sinai, it is easy to observe a wonderful sense of pride through the Heritage Park by its display of American flags. On the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, residents see these national and state colors, and this always presents a great deal of patriotism for the people utilizing this park.

Coram—Port Jefferson—St. James 

More south on County Road 83 and North Ocean Avenue, visitors of all ages enjoy the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. There, people have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial Learning Site. This site honors all of the citizens lost from the townships of Brookhaven and Riverhead, the rescue workers and War on Terror veterans.  

For 10 years, the site has helped reflect on this assault on America through the major bronze plaques with historical information, black granite pictures, benches, and statues of a bronze eagle and a rescue dog that helped search for survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center.

Leaving this park and going north into the village of Port Jefferson, people enjoy the beauty of its harbor, its stores, and they see traffic enter via ferry from Connecticut. Through the activity of this bustling area, there is a large bronze eagle that is placed on a high granite platform.  

Perched high, citizens from two different states brought together by the ferry are able to walk by this memorial that helps recognize the lost people of Long Island and the New England state. Driving near the water through Setauket, Stony Brook and into St. James, there is a major 7-ton memorial that highlights a “bowtie section” of steel from the World Trade Center.  

Due to the type of steel on display, there are few memorials that capture the spirit of the St. James Fire Department 9/11 site.

Nesconset—Hauppauge—Smithtown

Traveling south down Lake Avenue toward Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Ronkonkoma, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park in Nesconset is located at 316 Smithtown Blvd. This is a vastly different place of remembrance, as it is continually updated with the names of fallen rescue workers who have died since the attacks 20 years ago. 

Taking Townline Road west into Hauppauge toward Veterans Highway and Route 347, you will end up at the Suffolk County government buildings. 

Directly across from Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown, is a major 9/11 memorial created by the county. This memorial has 179 pieces of glass etched with the 178 names of the Suffolk County residents killed on September 11, with one extra panel to honor the volunteers who built the memorial.

As commuters head west to reach the Northern State Parkway, they drive by a major structure that was created to recognize all of those citizens from Huntington to Montauk killed on 9/11 by terrorism. It is just one of many such monuments created by our local townships, fire departments, parks and schools.  

Even after 20 years, our society has not forgotten about the beautiful day that turned out to be one of the most tragic moments in our history.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

For years, Dee Earle Browning of Wading River had trouble sleeping. She tried changing mattresses, medications and used over-the-counter products to get a good night’s rest. 

But she hated doing that and knew that taking NyQuil wasn’t the best option for her body. That’s when she delved deep into the world of CBD. 

Dee Earle Browning inside her store. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It wasn’t her first time using cannabidiol — an oil that derives from the hemp plant. Browning said for years, she used CBD on her skin — which kept her face glowing and clear. After having back surgery and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she began researching the oil for medicinal and pain-relieving purposes. She and her husband, Lee Browning Jr., wanted to try more holistic approaches to physical, mental and emotional health. She fell in love. 

She said that our bodies accept the cannabinoids in CBD products, and in her sleeping situation, the oil has a natural sleep aid that makes her relax at night. 

“I learned that CBD is best anywhere on you because we have an endocannabinoid system, we have receptors in our body specifically built for cannabinoids,” she said. “So, I found that once I started doing tinctures, and the topical along with that, there was a lot of relief.”

Browning, who worked in the hospitality industry for two decades with chains like Hilton, Marriott and Holiday Inn, said that during the pandemic, she decided to make a career change that she knew could help other people. 

“I always looked at hospitality as an industry of people taking care of people,” she said, “And then COVID happened and our industry got rocked.”

Browning and her husband began researching Your CBD Store, an international franchise that sells products made by SunMed. The company prides itself on using a CO2 extraction process, which eliminates the need for chemical solvents and produces a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD. For their zero-THC broad-spectrum products, the CBD is processed again to remove all traces of THC. Your CBD Store is the retailer that distributes these products. 

“I found that those products were made in the USA — from seed soil, soil to oil — it’s all done here,” Browning said. 

She added that the Your CBD Store franchise has third-party testing for its products. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“There were so many positives about this company, and I was like, ‘this is what I want to do,’” she said. “I already have a background of being in the industry of taking care of people, but this also feeds my passion for health and wellness.”

Based in Florida, the chain has over 600 affiliates in the U.S. and U.K. There was not one Your CBD Store in Suffolk County. The closest location is currently in Long Beach, along with 22 across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. 

“They’re beautiful stores, and they’re all about educating people about CBD, which was so important to dispel the myths out there,” she added. “I was using it myself and finding results, and the more I read about it, I knew I wanted to be part of the community that dispels some myths and shows that there are some alternative options for health and wellness.”

Browning’s job, not only as the owner of the shop, is to educate each and every customer that walks through her doors. She said people have come in with all different types of ailments — pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Some parents use the products to help their children with ADHD or autism. SunMed even has a pet line to help out stressed cats and dogs.

She takes the time to talk to each person and figure out what the best regimen would be. 

“You have receptors in your body specifically for cannabinoids, it’s just figuring out you know how to best produce those cannabinoids,” she said. “It’s also trying out and figuring out what your body actually needs … And making sure you’re taking it in a way that your body is going to absorb it, and it’s going to stay in your system longer.”

Founded by owner Rachel Quinn, Browning was intrigued by the company because it was owned by a woman who sought out pain relief herself.

“I wanted to bring this to the masses, and I really want people to see how much it has helped me,” she said. “It was great because it was founded by a woman in pain and then her desire to share it with everyone. That for me, was so empowering being a woman and a woman of color to have the opportunity to follow in her footsteps and help other people.”

The Port Jefferson Station location opened up on July 12, with an official ribbon cutting hosted by the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce on July 23. The store is located at 590 Patchogue Road (Route 112) across from Moloney Funeral Home in what was once the former location of a Jack in the Box restaurant. 

Browning said that her husband bought the property a few years ago, and nothing had moved into the first-floor storefront. A developer, he helped give the space a facelift, painting and redoing it to give it a beachy spa vibe.

“We want a space that really is welcoming, inviting and makes people feel comfortable to share the challenges that they’re working through,” she said. 

Compared to other CBD retailers, Your CBD Store says it all — it’s there for you.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Your CBD Store is a company that is all about community. It is all about education. It is all about high-quality products. It is all about health and wellness,” she said. “We focus on getting to know our consumers as they come in, so that we can help them make the right choice for them … That’s important.”

Browning said their goal is to educate people and see if CBD can help change their lives the way it did for Browning and her family.

“If you’ve never had any CBD products, here’s an opportunity to come in and try something,” she said. “Whether it’s a topical for pain, water soluble, a tincture or gummy, all of these are set up every day, so that people can at least try it and see if it gives you some of the relief that you’re looking for.”

You can check out the Port Jefferson Station store by following their Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

Stock photo

Suffolk County police officers and Wading River Fire Department members rescued a woman who was in distress while swimming in the Long Island Sound in Shoreham on Sunday, July 18.

A woman called 911 to report that her friend, Johanna Scheiber, was swimming in the Long Island Sound and the caller, who was on Shoreham Beach, lost sight of Scheiber at approximately 6:50 a.m.

Marine Bureau Officer Gregory Stroh, 7th Precinct police officers and members of the Aviation Section responded. Seventh Precinct officers interviewed the caller and directed the police helicopter to the search area. 

Aviation Section Sergeant John Vahey, Officer David Rosante and Stony Brook University Hospital Flight Paramedic Chris Barnes, who were in the police helicopter, located Scheiber in the water approximately one-mile offshore and Barnes and Rosante dropped floatation devices from the helicopter to the swimmer.

 Members of the Wading River Fire Department responded on a boat and transported the victim to shore. Scheiber, 21, of Sayville, was transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

Photo from Little Flower

Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York (Little Flower) hosted their first-ever FOSTERING HOPE virtual fundraiser on Thursday, April 29 via Zoom.

Together with their guests, Little Flower raised over $70,000 to support their programs and services for children in foster care and people with developmental disabilities.

Little Flower recognized inaugural Youth Ambassadors of Hope, Kailey Perkins and Laura Lee, of the Young Entrepreneurs Scholars. Kailey and Laura were recognized for their work with the youth in the residential treatment center on Little Flower’s Wading River campus. Kailey and Laura conducted virtual entrepreneur workshops with the children, teaching them the basics of launching and running a business using a bakeshop theme.

The event, sponsored in part by DIME Bank and Fluent, Inc., and in collaboration with Together We Rise, included a design activity in which guests used design kits that were delivered to them before the event, to create images of hope and inspiration on panels that will be attached to duffle bags. The bags, filled with comfort items and necessities, will be distributed to Little Flower’s foster children and residents.

Guests also heard from Little Flower alumni, staff, and youth currently in care. A Little Flower youth in foster care shared that focusing on her future gives her hope, “hope for channeling my inner strength and achieving success.”

“It is because of this caring and inspiring community that we can continue to offer innovative programs and services to our children, families, and residents and instill hope for a brighter tomorrow. I am touched by the support they’ve shown us tonight. I look forward to seeing the joy on the faces of our kids and residents when they receive the inspirational bags,” said Corinne Hammons, Little Flower’s President & CEO.

The team behind Icon Cares Inc. at their Hope Hops Around LI fundraiser in Stony Brook on March 25. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A local business wanted to give back, and through fundraising was able to make children at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York, based in Wading River, smile for Easter. 

Raquel Fernandez, owner of Icon Properties in Port Jefferson and member of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said that she always wanted to create a charity after opening her agency in 2004. 

But like everything in early 2020, COVID-19 halted their plans. 

In what was supposed to be their first fundraising event to create and donate Easter baskets to three nonprofits across Long Island, they had to postpone it. 

That didn’t stop Fernandez, she said. Right before the shutdown in March, she with her own children, brought over 300 baskets to Little Flower’s Wading River campus for kids ages 2 to 14.

“It was such a great feeling,” she said. “This was the last thing we were approved to do before nothing was allowed in. It gave a sense of normalcy.”

Fernandez said she wasn’t going to let the continuing pandemic stop her from helping again this year. 

Icon Cares Inc. — the charitable part of Icon Properties, and a 501c3 nonprofit — was able to fundraise a bit with its second annual Hope Hops Around LI Campaign, that included hosting an event at Stony Brook’s The Bench on March 25. 

The four-hour event sold out, Fernandez said, which had a guest list of 70 people. All the funds gathered were donated to Little Flower.

“We’re just trying to do something good,” she said. “It feels good to help out.”

Icon Cares joined by the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Julianne Mosher

During the event, there was a 50/50 draw, a silent basket auction and The Bench donated a portion of the proceeds when supporters bought The Blue Bunny — a specialty drink created for the event made of Stoli blueberry vodka, soda, lemonade and blue Curaçao liqueur.

“We’re really excited and hope this event becomes a staple,” Fernandez said.Her fundraising efforts raised more than $1,600.

Right before the event, 100 baskets were created and dropped off at Little Flower, which Taressa Harry, Little Flower’s director of communications, said would be gifted to the kids on Easter morning.

“Last year they reached out to us and we were really happy,” she said. “We love getting support especially when it’s from our local community.”

Little Flower is a 90-year-old nonprofit organization founded originally in Brooklyn, with its main campus in Wading River. 

According to its website, the group has been committed to improving the lives and well-being of children by providing foster boarding home care, residential treatment care and, where appropriate, adoption. Their work focuses on strengthening the family so that they can provide a safe nurturing environment for raising children and to overcome a myriad of obstacles that threaten a child’s safety.

Harry said that donations like Icon Cares baskets goes a long way. 

Kids at Little Flower in Wading River receiving their Easter baskets last year. Photo from Little Flower

“The kids love any special treat they can get,” she said. “It shows them that there really are people who are pushing for them and cheering them on. It makes their day a little brighter, especially during the holidays where they can’t be home.”

Fernandez said the fundraising this year was a success and she looks forward to her next donation. 

“We’re grateful to God that we can do something that helps out others,” she said.

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Marianne, left, and Justin Bakewicz, second from left, along with Anna Montauredes, right, are finally owners of the Bakewicz Farms in Wading River after years of work. Photo from Justin Bakewicz

A local family farm is staying pastoral and in the family.

The Bakewicz family announced the purchase of their small 11-acre farm on Route 25A in Wading River Dec. 15. For more than three years, Justin Bakewicz and his mother Marianne have cultivated vegetables as well as a big following among North Shore locals. Justin said they closed on the property Monday, Dec. 14.

“Everybody’s superexcited,” he added. “I’m just stoked.”

The 26-year-old farmer has been working the land for the last few years. The property, that borders the thin two-lane stretch of Route 25A in Wading River is surrounded by residential homes. Over the last few years, the Bakewicz family has gained renown for their kid-focused activities, from corn mazes full of cutout pop culture characters to barrel train and farm animals. Many of those animals, including two calves, Woody and Buzz, were rescued and brought to Long Island by Strong Island Rescue’s Frankie Floridia after they were slated to be killed at a farm upstate. 

Rescuing animals is also how he met his then-girlfriend and now-fiancée Anna Montauredes, a fellow agriculturally minded person from Smithtown. She helps Justin with the hard work of keeping the farm running.

In early 2019, the owners of the property, Rocky Point-based Manzi Homes East construction company, announced there were proposals from TradeWind Energy to build solar batteries on the property. Previously the owners had put in proposals to the Town of Brookhaven to build a new residential section on that land.

The Wading River Civic Association pulled their support for that energy project, and Justin Bakewicz said the proposal did not get far with the town.

Rocky Point-based attorney Steven Losquadro, who represents the Manzi family, said that his client is “very pleased with the result and specifically made great concessions to allow this to happen,” adding that the developers had other offers with much bigger dollar signs.

“They decided to forego many other more significant offers and also decided to forego the money they would earn from building homes on the parcel in order to keep this as a farm for the community,” Losquadro said. The Manzis are “from the area, and they have lived here forever. They wanted it to stay a farm, so it’s a great result for everyone, and most importantly the community’s happy.”

Bakewicz said they are selling the development rights off the property so it can be served as a farm from now onward, though they are keeping 1 acre in the back available for some future development. That solar battery project was originally pitched as just two solar batteries along the north side of the property, leaving the rest as a farm. He said newer proposals showed such a project would effectively have left only the farming family with their parking lot and playground.

Bakewicz is now fully committed to being in that community, even potentially buying a home next door to the farm. He said he is looking forward to the next few years, where he has big plans. He is working on acquiring a liquor license to put a bar inside a corn silo. He also plans to expand the playground area and potentially build a horse barn, adding that he’s talking with some in the community who have kids with autism to allow them to ride horses. 

“We’re just telling people to support the local farms,” he said. “Like, it’s not just for me, but it’s down the road. People are going to the grocery store [and you watch] them load up with all this garbage produce picked weeks ago.” From a local farm, he said, “for just a few cents more, you know where it came from.”

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Riverhead Town Police Department detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the person people who caused a fire at a home in Wading River Monday.

An unknown person allegedly threw an incendiary device was thrown at a residence on Sound Road in Wading River Nov. 16 at around 8 p.m. A resident immediately extinguished the fire and no one was injured. Detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department Arson Section responded to assist in the investigation.

The Riverhead News Review reported owners said it may have involved the resident’s lawn signs, which preached inclusivity and fair treatment of women and minorities.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

The Strovink family, including, from left to right, youngest son Kyle, dad Eric and oldest son Brennan. Photo by Christine Strovink

By Rich Acritelli

“As a major league scout for over 38 years and the last 18 for the New York Mets, the Strovink family is without a doubt the finest players and people that I ever scouted.”

Eric Strovink playing baseball with his two children at a young age. Photo by Christine Strovink

So said longtime baseball scout Larry Izzo, who watched some of the best talent to emerge from Long Island to play in the major leagues. Izzo wrote the earliest scouting reports on Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio from Kings Park, career hitter and Smithtown native Frank Catalanotto and over the last couple of years Ward Melville talent and pitcher Stephen Matz of the New York Mets. Izzo repeated several times how wonderful his relationship was with the Strovink family from Rocky Point over the last several decades. Armed with the ability to hit the ball over many different fences and a trademark smile, Eric Strovink and his two boys, Brennan and Kyle, always present a natural passion and respect for this game.

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, it was likely that when you read the local papers and Newsday about the prominent players in Suffolk County, Eric’s name was a constant presense. During his first season playing the game, he only made contact once and it seemed as if baseball might not be the sport for Eric, but through the guidance of his father who coached his earlier teams and a strong determination, Eric began hitting the ball consistently and became a feared player on the local fields and teams of Wading River. His talent was noted when Eric as a fifth grader hit a homerun 325 feet in a game.

His father was not originally tied to the game, but he went to work at an early age, was an ROTC army officer after he graduated from college and was a noted photographer and film maker that worked on projects for Brookhaven National Laboratory and Grumman. But his father loved the game and believed in the importance of analyzing baseball statistics. It was this aspect of the game which allowed Eric to identify his own strengths and weaknesses and for him to closely watch the opposing pitchers. He also learned about the unique way of harnessing “visualization” from his dad, who taught his son how to properly concentrate about future playing situations.  Eric always credited the devotion of his father for helping prepare him for the most stressful games.

Always smiling, this 50-year-old physical education teacher from Mount Sinai School District vividly recalled his earliest moments of success on the diamond as if it just happened. After his varsity game was over, it was observed by his coach, mentor and friend Sal Mignano during an at-bat junior varsity game in Easthampton the explosive potential that Eric held. He was amazed at the past ability of the then-13-year-old to hit a homerun that completely surprised the older members of the varsity team. Mignano marveled at the strength of his former player and the extensive knowledge and motivation that Eric held in his early years. 

As a junior, Eric’s batting average was .465, where he drove in 45 runs and batted in and hit another nine homeruns. During his senior year, his average climbed to .516, and while pitchers attempted to throw around him, he was continually on base. He was a three-time all league, two-time all-county, featured as a Daily News all-star and was an all-state player. Along the way, he guided his team to many winning seasons in league, county, and capped it by achieving a New York State Championship title in 1987. Eric recalled the benefits of the visualization that his father taught to him and the lessons his good friend Keith Osik taught him about where they saw themselves in pressure game time situations. Izzo recalled Eric’s father and believed that “he was one of the kindest and sincerest parents that was extremely supportive, and he could always be seen taking pictures at the games with a high-powered camera.”

Eric Strovink was a renaissance man of sorts, playing Tybolt in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo from Strovink family

Always with a genuine manner, Eric laughed that he was not even the best player within his own household. For a time, Osik lived with his family and he is considered a brother to Erik and an uncle to the Strovink kids. Osik was a phenomenal athlete and a dominant pitcher that was recognized as the best baseball player in Suffolk County through the Yastrzemski Award winner, while Eric was the runner up. These players were a dynamic hitting duo that saw Osik constantly reach base and Strovink drive him home numerous times during a game. Osik played at Louisiana State University and was later a professional ball player for several years with the Pittsburg Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, and Baltimore Orioles. Both Osik and Eric’s hitting skills tormented the best pitchers in state.

Eric also demonstrated his athletic presence as a feared Suffolk County Wrestling Champion at 215 pounds. Although he did not wrestle until the sixth grade, Eric held his own against all-state and national wrestlers like that of Adam Mariano from Comsewogue High School. And when he was not playing sports, Eric was a devoted thespian within his school’s drama program. He performed in an arousing performance as Tybolt in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” 

Eric was motivated to further his baseball career in college where he garnered interest from the powerhouses of Clemson, Georgia Southern, Nebraska and North Carolina State. When a scout from Louisiana State University watched Osik during a high school game, Erik showed his own skills by hitting three homeruns. In 1988, this powerful tandem left the to play baseball within the deep south in Louisiana.

At college, Eric was amazed about the vast amount of instruction that was given to each player through every part of this game. Always a student of this game, Eric always absorbed the intricacies of baseball information from this college and when he was an instructor for Mignano’s clinics and camps. For years as a coach, he constantly presented tidbits of wisdom to his players. 

“You can learn more baseball tips in one practice from Eric, compared to what others learn in a season,” Said Rocky Point’s athletic director Charlie Delargy.    

At LSU, he became good friends with pitchers Ben McDonald who played seven years for the Baltimore Orioles, and Russ Springer, a pitcher for 18 years who played for 13 different teams that included the New York Yankees.  

As Eric enjoyed attending LSU, he had to leave school and play closer to home. It was a hard time for him, as his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he wanted to be near his family.  While he was dealing with this sickness, he played for a junior college in New Jersey and eventually made it to C.W. Post in Brookville. This was a bittersweet moment for him, as he dealt with the sickness of his beloved mother, Eric once again excelled in front of local fans by hitting 17 homeruns and driving in 50 runs to help his team win their conference.

This was a painful time for Eric, while he played well, his mother passed away after a battle with cancer. While he dealt with this heavy loss, it was Izzo that wrote the scouting report on Eric that allowed him to be signed by the Texas Rangers to a free agent contract. Leaving CW Post and Wading River, Eric was sent to Port Charlotte, Florida. He earned $850 a month, lived with several different teammates and was a “starving” rookie within this league. Eric was on the field with ball players that were just drafted and were rehabbing from injuries. His time with this organization came to an end after the following spring training, after it was explained to Eric that while he was a solid player, he might not have the chance to reach the major leagues.  With baseball behind him, he returned home to finish his college education, to coach wrestling at Shoreham-Wading River and to work for his father. By May 29, 1994, he married his high school sweetheart Christine and they looked to start a family of their own.

Resembling his father, Brennen Strovink was also a dynamic figure within the Rocky Point High School baseball and wrestling teams. Always armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude, this 2014 graduate of Rocky Point was a three-year starter on the varsity team. Brennan immediately made his mark as a sophomore who attained a .370 average and led the county with six homeruns. As a senior, Brennen was a finalist for the Yastrzemski Award, and he was named most valuable player for his league. Many teachers and coaches enjoyed having Brennen in their classes, club’s and teams. 

These warm thoughts were echoed by his former baseball coach Andrew Aschettino, who said he was a “larger than life personality and incredible role model. My kids simply look up to him and I can’t think of someone better in that role.”

Like his father, he was an aggressive wrestler who enjoyed the competitiveness of this sport.  During his junior year, he took first place as a heavy weight in his league and was the runner-up as a sophomore.  He wrestled extremely well through the difficult Eastern States Tournament where he placed sixth in the contest. While he established himself as one of the premier heavy weights, Brennan was unable to reach his goal of possibly being a county champion because of a necessary back surgery.

Brennan Strovink rounds a base during his time on the Rocky Point Varsity baseball team. Photo from Strovink family

As an all-state baseball player, Brennan received a scholarship from Division I Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He was excited to hit against some of the best college pitchers in the nation, but after a year, Brennan suffered another back injury that led to a second surgery. Brennan had to stop playing baseball and for a brief time he came home and attended Suffolk Community College. At this moment, his grandfather believed that his lefthanded hitting grandson had the chance to change his luck by hitting righty. In an amazing accomplishment, Brennen resurrected his college career by learning how to hit from the right side of the plate.

With his best friend Joseph Zabbara who was a college baseball player who was recovering from a serious arm injury, both young men had the opportunity to suit up for Hudson Valley Community College. With a positive mindset that enabled him to become a switch hitter, that old feeling of consistently making contact returned to Brennan as he attained an over .300 batting average. In a short period of time, his confidence returned, and he again faced pitching from the left side. When this happened, Brennan in his first eleven hitting lefty, he was on base with eight hits. Once this rejuvenation occurred, both Brennan and Joseph hit the road again as they enrolled into Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina.  

During his first at-bat for this school, he hit a homerun and was a fixture in the lineup as a first baseman and a designated hitter. Although he was in a different atmosphere, Brennan was nagged by reoccurring back injuries that made him make the permanent decision to stop playing.  Always with a positive demeanor, Brennan was pleased with his time at Limestone where he was able to become a first base coach and attain a degree in physical education.  

Finally, Kyle is the youngest Strovink to continue the family tradition of playing this game hard and doing it with a smile. Like his dad and brother, Kyle was a dominant varsity player during the extent of his high school years. As a capable catcher, Izzo stated Kyle has a “major league arm” to quickly prevent base runners from stealing bases.  

With grit and determination, he handled the pitchers and challenges of this strenuous position.  Like the two elder Strovink’s, he was a fierce competitor that opposing pitchers struggled to get out. As a sophomore, Kyle hit .392 with two homeruns. As a junior, his average climbed to .429 with four homeruns and eight doubles, and while he batted .349 as a senior, he was playing with a broken hand. Kyle was Rocky Point’s first All-American and one of his proudest moments was playing in front of a thousand local fans in the semi-finals set against Shoreham-Wading River.

During the winter months, Kyle, like his brother and father, was a tough wrestler. Unlike the other males in his household, Kyle wrestled only for one full year and still he placed second in his league at 195 pounds. Though he had limited experience, Kyle pinned two all-county wrestlers during his senior year.  Longtime assistant wrestling coach and a state champion Billy Coggins was always pleased with the progress. 

Kyle Strovink during his time on the Rocky Point Varsity baseball team. Photo from Strovink family

“Kyle was a rare athlete that you could plug into any sport and he would find a way to succeed.  He was an important factor that helped our team secure a county championship,” Coggins said. 

Always with a big smile, Kyle was the President of the Rocky Point Varsity Club where he made two speeches for the 9/11 and Veterans Day programs. This genuine young man shook the hands of the rescue workers, veterans and alumni and thanked them for their service to our nation.

Like his brother, Kyle had the plans to play at Lamar University, but he decided to play at a junior college in Douglas, Arizona near the Mexican border. Kyle played in excessive, dry heat of 110 degrees — vastly different from the conditions at Rocky Point. At Cochise College, Kyle was 2,500 miles from home, and he wanted to transfer to play at the east coast school of the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. Right away, he enjoyed his head coach that still calls Kyle during special moments and holidays. After playing extremely well, Kyle was offered a scholarship to play ball at Limestone, where he was reunited with his older brother Brennan.  Again, Kyle demonstrated his ability to hit with a commanding .308 average and he eventually became the clean-up hitter for this team through a shortened season due to the COVID-19 virus.

At Limestone, Kyle continued to demonstrate his catching prowess in throwing out opposing runners through his impressive arm strength. During a pro-day scouting program, it was estimated that Kyle had an extremely quick release from home plate to second base that was only 1.8 seconds. Izzo was not surprised about this catcher’s abilities and he believes that Kyle is a “special player.” While Kyle has lost part of his season, he is pleased to be spending time with his family. Looking at the Strovink’s, it is easy to see why people are always drawn to their good will. Every year Kristine Strovink organizes a team community service trip to a soup kitchen, she helps run the Live Like Susie fundraiser baseball game against Mount Sinai and serves the team an annual breakfast. While this family is led by these likable big men, Eric credits the devoted role that his wife and daughter Katie play in running their household.  

Retired social studies teacher Brooke Bonomi loved to joke with the boys and talk sports with them on a regular basis. As the teacher that created the Live Like Susie Kindness Award Night, Bonomi enjoyedStrovink’s participation to help honor the character of Rocky Point High School students through the outstanding memory of Susie Facini.  Bonomi glowingly stated that the “spirit of happiness runs deep in each Strovink. Their good cheer always inspires others to become better people.” Similar feelings towards this North Shore family has also been described the by the decades of respect that Izzo holds within these local ball players. This long-time major scout sums up the make-up of this family whom he considers to be the absolute best, saying “the way you play the game, is the way you’ll live life.”

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Stacey Wohl, center, with her daughter at her shop Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique in Wading River. Photo from Wohl

By Leah Chiappino

Local entrepreneur Stacey Wohl has moved her store, Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique, which first opened Nov. 22, from its original East Northport location to Wading River Square. Despite the change in location, it still has the same mission, to give people with disabilities a chance at employment.

In 2015, Wohl opened Cause Cafe in Northport, a restaurant that employed people on the autism spectrum, with the help of her parents, Susan and Gerald Schultz. Her interest in doing so was taken from her own two children, Brittney, 22, and Logan, 20, both of whom have autism.

Wohl says the business struggled because of the lack of a nonprofit being able to subsidize the rent. Her children were unable to work in the kitchen as the environment could get chaotic, and it grew very loud. 

“When you own a business, you have to do everything, and I am not a chef,” Wohl said. “It was a very large undertaking that we weren’t prepared for.”

Despite putting her best efforts into it, Wohl was forced to shut down the restaurant when it was not able to sustain itself and personal tragedy struck. In 2016, Cause Cafe was featured on the Rachel Ray Show, which sent Wohl on a cruise with her children and parents. Two days into the trip, her father had a heart attack while dancing with her mother on the ship and passed away. 

When the family returned home, Wohl closed the doors, as she felt the need to care for her mother, who was mourning the loss of a husband of 55 years.

Wohl’s first love is fashion, having been a showroom salesperson, fit model and boutique owner in her 20s, so she opened Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique in East Northport. However, tragedy struck again when her mother passed away three weeks later. Wohl relocated to Wading River after her daughter got accepted to a day program in Abequogue.

“I saw the need for a place like this,”
Wohl said. 

The front of the store has a coffee bar with repackaged baked goods to take home, complete with inspirational coffee mugs for sale. The back of the store is filled with apparel and gifts that mostly come from women-owned companies and charitable causes. There is local artwork for sale as well as her own coffee brand. 

“I want the store to be a place where people go to buy a gift, and not just feel like they are doing something for charity,” Wohl said. 

Recently the business has been struggling. Business boomed over Christmas, but after the holidays business slowed down. 

“I only sold one $3 dollar cup of coffee today,” Wohl said. However, she affirms the community has been very supportive. Wohl hopes that people will make the store their go-to place to grab a cup of coffee and is even looking to expand to have art classes and job training. She is also hoping to make a clothing line from her former fashion background. 

“I lost that part of myself in [dedicating myself to my children] for the past 20 years.”

The boutique is located at 6278 Building A, #2 along Route 25A in Wading River and is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5.p.m. Online ordering is also available through the boutique’s website at www.becauseboutiquecafe.com.