Oct 15 2020

Lacrosse Offers Hope, Sense Of Family In Film

“The Grizzlies” is a recent film that tells the inspiring true story about a town that suffered the highest suicide rate in North America. The residents found hope through the introduction of a lacrosse program for their teens.

Back during 1998, a recent college graduate (the film character Russ Sheppard) takes a job as a history teacher at Kugluktuk High School in the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut. Russ, a Caucasian, found that many of the Native students didn’t attend classes. They drank or took drugs, and the suicide rate was high. Crosses in the cemetery multiplied at an alarming rate.

Russ played lacrosse in college. He wondered if the game would give the kids a focus in life. He started a hard sell to spark interest, first speaking with the school’s principal and then promoting the program among the students with a flyer.

Russ was naïve about the culture. One girl helped him. She said that if he convinced two specific students to try lacrosse, the others would follow their lead. She told Russ to approach the students personally to show respect, rather than just hand them a flyer.

Russ learned that the problems faced by the teens extended into the home. Poverty, hunger, domestic violence and homelessness were part of the equation. One parent was drunk on the couch, forcing a student to forage for food for himself and a little brother. The girl helping Russ was abused at home. Another boy witnessed his father’s abuse of his mother.

These troubled teens, each suffering with his or her own problems, eventually found lacrosse as a new kind a family. Russ learned as much from his students as they from him. It’s the teens who build the team and keep it together.

“The Grizzlies” tells an interesting tale that brings a teacher and teens together through the sport of lacrosse. I would be interested in learning more about the actual teacher and his students who are the subject of this film, and where they are today.

Sep 01 2020

A Season To Bond For Hempstead PAL Lacrosse

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse, as with all sports at all levels, was required to cancel its spring practices and games this year due to the COVID-19 virus. This came as a huge disappointment for the team’s fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The 22 kids on the roster were excited and ready to learn the game and, for some,play it competitively for the first time.

The Tigers are part of the Nassau-Suffolk County Police Athletic Lacrosse League. The nine-year Hempstead program, led by Coach Alan Hodish, has introduced the game to more than 100 African-American and Hispanic youngsters, several of whom are from single-parent homes.

Alan is a longtime friend of mine. He is a Garden City attorneyand a revered former lacrosse and football coach at Hempstead High School. He has cherished every opportunity to coach and teach lacrosse on Long Island. Recently, with his induction into the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Alan has been recognized for his decades of dedication to our student-athletes.

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse also has the commitment of Coach Bernard Williams and former high school players and other Long Island lacrosse standouts who serve as assistant coaches, role models, communicators and friends for the kids in the program. The team enjoyed several practices during the early spring before the crises paused the program. Only last month, once approved by the village, was the team allowed to gather for a handful of practices and learning sessions.

I have been involved with the program since its inception, providing the support required for these great kids to learn and enjoy a fantastic game. While the on-field activities stopped for a while, I did not pause my commitment to support Alan and the others as they continue to strengthen the program to welcomemore young players.

In honor of Alan’s ongoing devotion to the game and this specific program, an additional $10,000 has been donated to Hempstead PAL Lacrosse. My gift guarantees continued support of team operations, equipment, uniforms, expenses for officials and league registration, and an awards presentation at the end of each season. Even if these youngsters do not pursue lacrosse in high school, college, or professionally, the lessons, teamwork and camaraderie surelywill be a positive experience that the players will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

It has been a tough handful of months for these kids, and for all of us. I want the 2020 Hempstead PAL team to know that Alanand the other coaches will ensure that this season’s disappointment will be converted into a valuable lifetime lessonfor each of them.

2020 Hempstead PAL Roster

The 2020 Hempstead PAL Lacrosse Tigers roster consists of 22 players from fourth to sixth grades.

KayJay Benjamin – sixth grade

Jaden Bolling – fifth grade

Bentley Cannon – fourth grade

Amare Collins – sixth grade

Jonathan Davis – sixth grade

Keon Grier – sixth grade

Josh Hagler – sixth grade

Blake Harris – fourth grade

Jeremy Henderson – fifth grade

Tristan Herron – fourth grade

Jordan Hines – sixth grade

Steph Love – fifth grade

Julius McCloud – fifth grade

Zayden Mendez – fifth grade

Seth Montgomery – fourth grade

Aaden Sarduy – sixth grade

Riley Sarduy – fifth grade

Zyaire Thompson – sixth grade

Michael Toney – fourth grade

Morrell Toney – fifth grade

Ramon Washington – sixth grade

Jalil Watts – sixth grade

Jul 01 2020

Gymnast Becomes A Model And Breaks Stereotypes

Chelsea Werner is a gymnast from Danville, California. She also has entered the modeling world to showcase her unique perfection.

Chelsea was just a four-year-old when gymnastics came into her life as a way to strengthen her muscles. As a gymnast, Chelsea has earned national and international accolades for her routines. She became a champion and, according to Chelsea, gymnastics has taught her new skills and infused her with confidence.

Chelsea needed that confidence and family support in the modeling arena. She faced rejections, because a market did not exist for someone as unique as Chelsea. But, she persisted, and her family never gave up on her.

Patience and perseverance paid dividends. Chelsea was discovered through social media by We Speak, an agency that operates with the motive of promoting body positivity and inclusion in the modeling world. We Speak’s founder saw Chelsea’s bubbly optimistic energy in a viral video, and she immediately decided that Chelsea had the potential to succeed in the fashion world.

Since her first photoshoot, Chelsea has emerged as a global sensation. She can accept all kinds of feedback and she learns quickly about the steps required to succeed. According to many in the business, Chelsea has a bright future as a model.

Now, a little more about Chelsea. Her success in gymnastics came in the Special Olympics United States National Championships (four-time champion) and the World Championships (two-time champion). Chelsea has Down Syndrome.

Chelsea’s path to success in gymnastics and modeling has provided hope to parents with children diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She has shown that nothing can or should stop any person from pursuing interests, fulfilling dreams and achieving success.

Chelsea has proven that each of us is beautiful in our own way.

May 15 2020

From Feeding Umpires To A Multi-Million Dollar Cookie Business

You just never know when an opportunity will appear and where it will lead you.

Debra Sivyer was raised in Oakland, California, the youngest of eight daughters. Her father was a welder for the U.S. Navy. Her mother was a housewife.

During the 1968 baseball season, innovative Charles O. Finley, the owner of MLB’s Oakland Athletics, introduced ball girls to the game. The young ladies were placed in foul territory during games to retrieve grounded foul balls. When Debbi was just 13, she became a ball girl with the help of an older sister, who was a secretary in the A’s corporate office. Debbi received five dollars an hour when she was on the field.

Debbi was an entrepreneur at that tender age, using her earnings to purchase ingredients to bake chocolate chip cookies. She created a “milk-and-cookies” break for umpires at the park, perfecting her cookie recipe that she found on the back of a package of Toll House chocolate morsels. Fast forwarding a few years to 1977, Debbi married her first husband, Randall Keith Fields. She began marketing these homemade cookies that same year, grossing $75 the first day. Eventually, the cookies would make her a millionaire.

With little investment enthusiasm from outside sources, Debbi secured a loan and supervised operations, brand management, public relations, customer service and product development to grow the business. At its peak under her leadership, the company featured more than 900 owned and franchised stores in the U.S. and in 11 other countries. Debbi eventually sold the business to an investment group, but she has remained the company’s spokesperson while concentrating on her philanthropic interests.

So, who is this cookie girl whose idea was such a success on a major league baseball field when she was just 13? You know her as the founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies.

Jan 15 2020

Christopher Daleo: Suffolk County’s Top High School Football Player

The best way to describe the first few days of 2020 is to use a football term – the new year began with a fantastic “super bowl” event.

I was invited to become involved with the Suffolk County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The chapter has been celebrating local high school and college players for many years. Now named in my honor, the chapter invited me to speak with the students, their families and their coaches, and to present its prestigious Top Scholar Athlete Award for 2019.

Though I am more known for my career as a lacrosse player and as a supporter of Long Island youth and college lacrosse programs, I did play football and set a few records at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills during the 1970s. For the last several years for the National Football Foundation, I have sponsored the Mr. Football New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the New York City Chapter.

At the Suffolk chapter awards program on January 5, more than 50 high school and several college scholar athletes were celebrated for their outstanding achievements in the classroom, on the gridiron and in their communities. The Top Scholar Athlete Award, which also has been named in my honor, was presented to Christopher Daleo of Westhampton Beach High School. Here is a summary of Christopher’s incredible high school achievements.

Academics:

  • Carries a 96 unweighted average and scored 1360 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT.
  • Enrolled in 10 Advanced Placement courses during high school. Recipient of the AP Capstone Diploma. Received designation of AP Scholar with Distinction.
  • Member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, World Language Honor Society and Math Honor Society.
  • Recipient of the Journalism Award presented to the top journalism student in the school district.
  • Elected senior class president.

Football:

  • First Team All-Division, First Team All-County.
  • Team captain.
  • Two-way starter. Two-year varsity record, including playoffs, was 18-3.

Community:

  • Founder, Church Youth Leadership Ministry, expanding the group to more than 30 students.
  • Volunteer for the “Adopt-A-Family” program that provides local families with a helping hand.
  • Contributes his time to the Westhampton Beach Oyster Festival and the Westhampton Beach Talent Show.
  • A peer tutor for younger students.

Wow!

Christopher is going places in school, in sports and in life. I am glad that we met, and I wish him all the best!

Jan 01 2020

Changing Lives Through Rugby

England rugby star Kyle Sinckler was hailed throughout the country for his performance against Australia in the recent World Cup quarter-final. But, he already was a hero at his old grade school, Graveney School in Tooting. He changed lives there after setting up a rugby team when he was just 13 years old.

Kyle had assured a teacher that he would pick the players and help train the team. The hodgepodge group of students gradually grew, year after year, into a dominant team. All of the success, including an appearance eight years later in league finals, came from the foundation created by Kyle.

Following graduation, Kyle continued to build his personal foundation. He earned a scholarship to Epsom College. Then, he was spotted by the Harlequins Rugby Union, which enjoys a 150-year lineage in the sport. Through his personal success and the school rugby program that he created 13 years ago, the prop forward has inspired scores of children to play the game.

Many of the players who followed in Kyle’s footsteps are the first in their families to attend college. Rugby has led them to success through quality education. According to a former grade school teacher, Kyle “has changed lives.”

At the quarter-final game with Australia, Kyle’s outstanding performance was capped with an emotional tribute to his mother, Donna, who works at a police call center. She raised him and she ferried him to training when he was a schoolboy.

The current demographics of rugby indicates that many potential players are similar to Kyle –mixed race, from single parent households and attending grade schools without rugby teams. Today, at Graveney School in Tooting and at many other schools, Kyle’s original determination, along with his current fame, support the rallying cry that is helping many young school boys build solid lifelong foundations.

Dec 17 2019

He Gave His All On The Football Field And On Battlefields

Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., was known as “Jock” to his friends. A natural athlete from Covington, Virginia, he earned the nickname “Jocko the Monkey” after a popular children’s character of the early 1900s.

Jock graduated from Greenbrier Military School in West Virginia and he received the school’s single appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was a star football player at West Point, leading Army to victory against the University of Norte Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy during the 1935 season.

Everything changed for Jock, and for everyone in the country, on December 7, 1941. By 1944, he was fighting in the Philippines. During the battle for the Ormoc Corridor, Jock’s battalion received a flanking mission to cut off the lead Japanese elements from its rear echelon. With only the ammunition and food that they could carry on their backs, his battalion infiltrated the enemy lines and climbed 900 feet to the crest of Kilay Ridge. They dug in for a long stay.

For three weeks, in torrential rain, Jock’s battalion repulsed daily attacks. Rifles became caked with mud. The weapons were more useful as clubs. Many hand-to-hand engagements resulted, and Jock’s men beat the Japanese with entrenching tools, bayonets and the butts of their rifles.

Food and ammo became scarce. Supplies from air drops often fell outside their perimeter and into enemy hands. Near the end of the battle, Jock received a radio message from the commanding general of the 32nd Infantry Division: “You are the talk of the island, and perhaps the United States. Oh, and Jock, Army beat Notre Dame 56 to 0, the worst defeat on record.”

When the battalion was relived, fresh troops who moved into the muddy foxholes of the ridge were shocked to see 1,000 dead Japanese soldiers. The successful mission earned Jock the rank of colonel and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Colonel Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., exuded the qualities of an effective and beloved leader. He commanded from the front and never asked his men to do anything that he was not willing to complete himself. Just days before the end of the campaign during 1945, Jock dashed into a barrage to rescue a wounded man. He was killed by a mortar shell.

The message announcing Jock’s death was distributed to the entire division. The words summed up Jock’s character: “No finer soldier ever wore the uniform of our army. No braver commander ever led his unit in battle. He was not only a skillful and gifted soldier, but the kind of military man we would all like to be.”

Oct 01 2019

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”

Tim Tebow made a splash on the college football field but he has not enjoyed the same success on the professional football and baseball levels. His good and open heart continues to beat strong, however, and this includes his work with ill children.

Earlier this year, the Tim Tebow Foundation opened its 10th Timmy’s Playroom. This new playroom is located at AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a children’s hospital in Florida. The space allows kids to escape from their medical conditions and enjoy life. Tim gives children in hospitals a chance to “just be kids again.”

“Hopefully, it can bring a brighter day for so many in their darkest hour of need,” Tim said in a video posted by AdventHealth. “That is our goal, to encourage and uplift people, especially when they’re going through such a tough time…”

The playrooms include a football field floor, specialized lockers for seating, tables for arts and crafts, flat-screen televisions, video games, toys, interactive games and other activities. The playrooms also display Tim’s favorite Bible verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The foundation’s mission delivers faith, hope and love to pediatric patients and their families. The playrooms are “creating a space where children can heal in a very unique way,” according to the foundation. Timmy’s Playrooms can be found at other hospitals in Florida and at hospitals in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and the Philippines.

Each playroom has been recorded as a huge touchdown in all the scorebooks. Tim Tebow certainly is a star off the field!

Jun 02 2019

Country Over Sports — Marines Before College Lacrosse

Catrina Babnick is a Carmel (Putnam County) High School girls’ lacrosse goalie who has opted, temporarily, to forego college for a different opportunity.

Cat could have pursued a successful collegiate sports career. She set a school record with 25 saves in one game. Then, she set a school all-time girls’ lacrosse record when she recorded her 489th save. But, while the other local girls committed to play college lacrosse this fall or next year, Cat decided to follow a path that led her to the United States Marines. She was sworn in on February 8. Following graduation, she will attend boot camp on Paris Island in South Carolina.

It’s a rare choice among promising high school athletes, but Cat firmly and succinctly stated her preference — “I want to serve my country.”

A high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter test allowed Cat to choose her Marine Corps career path. She considered joining the military police to follow her father’s footsteps. He is a retired New York City police detective. Her recruiter, though, reviewed her score and encouraged her to pursue a better opportunity.

Initially, Cat considered becoming a pilot, but this would require many more years of service than the four of active duty and four additional years of reserve service. So, she decided on diesel mechanics that will allow for maintenance assignments with planes and tanks. Cat will enroll in Marine-funded college classes, hoping to complete two years during her enlistment. She plans to secure her degree post-service and become a history teacher.

Cat has played lacrosse since fifth grade, becoming a full-time goalie as a high school freshman. She loves the game and will miss it. Playing college lacrosse after her service is possible, but not a guarantee.

For the moment, Cat has promised to commit herself 100 percent to the Marines. She summed up the challenge with just a few words — “It’s like the ultimate team.”

Jan 15 2019

A Hockey Setback Takes Flight

Wilbur was a three-sport athlete. He enjoyed football, skating and gymnastics. He also was a very good student and had his sights on attending Yale.

One day, while playing hockey on a lake in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the 18-year-old was struck in the mouth with a stick wielded by another boy several years younger but much larger. It may have been an accident, but the boy was known as a bully. Years later, that same boy was executed for the murders of his mother, father and brother.

The hockey injury caused weeks of excruciating mouth and jaw pain for Wilbur. Several front teeth were lost and replaced by the crude dentistry of the day. This led to digestive complications, heart palpitations and depression. Wilbur remained a recluse for three years, ending his pursuit of a Yale education. During that time, though, he initiated what became a passion for reading and learning. He read about everything and had a specific fascination for history.

Wilbur was close to his younger brother, who had started a print shop that issued a town newspaper and then began publishing a variety of reading material. They worked together in the printing business and then they became involved in the growing bicycle craze that had swept the nation. Since they both enjoyed mechanics, the brothers opened a shop that sold and repaired bicycles.

When the younger brother was diagnosed with typhoid, he spent more than a month in bed. As he recovered, Wilbur read to him. Together, they became fascinated about the discoveries of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider enthusiast who had studied the flight motions of birds.

The brothers were excited about Lilienthal’s experiments and they never stopped learning. After several years of planning, they decided to use their mechanics ingenuity and their interest in the flight of birds to build several flying machines. They tested their creations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, changed history. The setback for Wilbur while playing hockey was just one of many catalysts in their lives that led to the collaboration that taught the world how to fly.