News

Heisman Visit at Mount Sinai

On Sunday, December 9th, newly-minted 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray from Oklahoma University visited patients at Kravis Childrens Hospital at Mount Sinai.

He participated in a hospital-wide broadcast from the Kids Zone, made a couple of bedside visits and then visited the hospital’s Lion’s Den Room. Pediatric patients from other children’s hospitals across the Lion’s Den Network participated in a Google Hangout with the star quarterback. There were many smiles from the patients and Kyler as they asked him about his morning routine, his chances against the University of Alabama in the upcoming college football playoffs, and his favorite candy!

Murray is the second consecutive Oklahoma quarterback (Baker Mayfield in 2017) to visit the hospital on the day following the Heisman announcement. These visits go a long way to buoying the spirits of pediatric patients at both Kravis Children’s and across the Lion’s Den Network. The Heisman Trophy Trust has been partnered with Companions in Courage Foundation for a decade in providing access to college football’s top player for these very meaningful patient visits.

Read more

Santa Delights Across the Continent

On December 4th and 5th, the 2018 version of Santa Connection was conducted in a dozen children’s hospitals throughout North America. More than 100 pediatric patients and their siblings got the chance for a personal visit with Santa Claus (and Pere Noel in Ottawa and Montreal!) via a live Google Hangout.

As always, this event is an emotional roller coaster replete with ample amount of laughter and tears.

The difference made by volunteers from Cisco, Google, St. Dominic High School and YouTube could best be articulated by Alexa at Cohen Children’s Hospital on Long Island, who told Santa that all she wanted for Christmas was to be able to go home with her family… Don’t we all wish that for each of these special children?

We danced with Elijah at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when “Eesh the Elf” revealed that he was on Santa’s “Nice” list. We celebrated with Abigail at Oishei Children’s in Buffalo when it was revealed that she had her intubation tube removed that morning. We cheered on Kreek at Wolfson Children’s in Jacksonville as he celebrated his discharge day. Three-year-old Chloe at Ste. Justine in Montreal made us laugh when she brushed aside her nasal intubation to mimic Pere Noel’s “Ho! Ho! Ho!” And 11-year-old Leon brought a tear to Santa’s eye when he shared how he had created a Harry Potter Bingo game for his fellow patients at Kravis Children’s at  Mount Sinai in New York so they wouldn’t feel so alone in the hospital.

Far more patients than in any previous year accessed the Santa Connection from isolated rooms, where Child Life staff had to first don masks and gowns before conducting the session via Chromebook. This just amplified the importance of this annual program as we try and reach special children who simply cannot visit Santa in a shopping mall.

Through the generosity of Companions in Courage Foundation donor, every child received a gift card from Santa. These heartwarming visits reminded us all to be “good, for goodness sake!” For all who contributed their talents it helped put perspective on what the holidays are all about.

Read more

Nicole Oliver Records “Personal Best”

By Amy Moritz, Buffalo News | Published November 10, 2018 

The joy was gone.

Nicole Oliver loved running, grew up running and was pretty competitive during her high school days at Williamsville South and in local road races.

But life happens, including being diagnosed with dystonia at age 20. The condition is a movement disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily. As she sought the treatment that worked best for her, running became a challenge both physically and mentally.

Her times got slower and her performance didn’t match what she so desired to do. Oliver lost her motivation. She started telling people she didn’t run anymore.

Finally, her husband, Nate, initiated the difficult conversation to get Nicole running again.

“Nate told me, ‘You can run. You can go out and run 10 miles if you wanted to,’’’ Oliver said. “Still, I was really struggling with enjoying running anymore. It got to be around the time where people were posting about training for the New York City Marathon and I was just really down. And t

hen I started to think Nate was right. I can still run. He told me I was throwing away a gift.”

See, Oliver might not have been up to her speed standards, but she still could go out and whip out a long run of 10 or 12 miles. She might not feel that great after it, but it wouldn’t faze her. She had a talent for running, even if that talent wasn’t about crossing the finish line before everyone else.

So yes, she could still run. She would still run. She decided to train for a marathon and settled on the Niagara Falls International Marathon in late October. But in order to keep her motivation, in order to give her perspective and rekindle the joy, Oliver needed to find a bigger reason to run. She started researching charities and settled on the Companions in Courage Foundation, founded by former Buffalo Sabre Pat LaFontaine. The charity connects hospitalized children with their family, friends and heroes, by building interactive playrooms in hospitals. Kids get to be kids, at least for a little while, during battles with illness and disease.

Oliver created a Facebook Page, Nicole Runs for A Purpose, to share her training while raising money for Companions in Courage and spreading its message. The task not only brought her joy, but helped her reconnect with her own childhood, including asking her mom to dig out the LaFontaine poster that hung in her room when she was in fourth grade.

“I was reliving my childhood and watching some YouTube videos,” Oliver said. “He was such a great hockey player. He came to my elementary school when I was 8 and that’s what really got me turned on to hockey.”

Her whole attitude toward running shifted. She found joy in running for people other than herself. It even helped her when she suffered a groin injury 12 weeks into training. She had to take time off and decided to bump down from the marathon to the half-marathon — a distance she had run many times in training but never raced. She knocked out the half-marathon and claimed her first 13.1-mile distance medal, finishing the race on Oct. 14  in 1:54:42.

“My whole perspective on running has changed,” Oliver said. “There’s this certain joy and happiness you can find from endurance training and racing where it’s not about you and not about your times. Having a goal in mind is great, but when you think about helping people less fortunate than you, it’s just I can’t put it into words. I felt like I had run the best race of my life. It certainly was not the fastest, but I crossed that finish line and felt like this has been the best race so far.

“The day before the race, I was looking at the weather and it was supposed to be cold and rainy, and Jim Johnson, the executive director of Companions in Courage, said it would be an easy day in comparison to what the pediatric patients I’d be helping were going through,” she said. “I thought about that Mile 12 and he was right about that. For every honor or trophy or medal I’ve received in high school or road racing, this was more meaningful.”

Read more

16th Annual CiC Golf Classic is Epic!

HUNTINGTON, NY, September 27, 2018  –  The 16th Annual Companions in Courage Foundation Golf Classic took on epic proportions when Pat LaFontaine decided to recognize all members of the New York Islanders selected last year for Hockey’s 100, along with the members of the team who have had their number retired.

Huntington Country Club on Long Island was buzzing with excitement as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Bill Smith were joined by Bob Nystrom and Clark Gillies. (Earlier in the week, Denis Potvin stopped by to autograph items, since he would be in Florida to broadcast a Panthers’ game on the day of the outing). The legendary group helped raise money and awareness for the organization that now serves almost 60,000 pediatric patients per year in hospitals throughout North America.

A record number of golfers teed it up on a perfect fall day, on a beautiful golf course. Michigan artist Paul Madden spent the day completing a commemorative original drawing of the five Islanders players voted to Hockey’s 100. The piece would be auctioned at a spirited post-event dinner attended by 150.

The Islander legends participated in panel discussion that included remembrances of recently passed G.M. Bill Torrey and hilarious stories of the team’s celebrating with the Stanley Cup. Mike Bossy took particular note of the charitable work conducted on Long Island, especially by his former teammates, Nystrom, Gillies and LaFontaine. Each foursome sponsor received a unique image of the retired Islander banners, personally autographed by each Islanders legend.

LaFontaine introduced 32 unique double magnum bottles of The Pinot Line – a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – created in order to donate all proceeds to the foundation. Within a matter of minutes, he had raised more than $30,000 for the charity by offering the wine and autographed jerseys from each of the legends in attendance. Harmony Home Concierge Service served as Franchise Sponsor for the day and also contributed 100 gallons of home heating oil, and a 10,000-watt portable gas generator to the raffle. Sal Paterno of Milano Men’s Fashion also generously contributed gift certificates to his Huntington men’s clothing store. Joe McMahon of the McMahon Family  Foundation donated an autographed Matthew Barzal jersey that drew a lot of attention.

The day was filled with poignant moments, including traditional tributes (at Amen Corner) to CiC Foundation supporters who have passed on. The golf course, and later, the dining room was filled with a spirit and enthusiasm that is contagious and inspiring.

Tricia Hiller, Director of Child Life at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester County Medical Center delivered a stirring keynote presentation on the importance of services like a Lion’s Den Room in patient care.  Her hospital is the site of the first of the 20 Lion’s Den Rooms that have opened across North America. Hiller brought tears to many eyes as she validated the value of the rooms to patients, their families and to healthcare professionals at the hospital.

In addition to the Islanders legends, LaFontaine also welcomed former teammates Ken Morrow, Brian Mullen and Benoit Hogue. The field of celebrities included former NBA star Wally Szczerbiak, his dad Walter Szczerbiak, and hockey’s Pat Jablonski.

CiC Foundation board member Jerry Wood, was the overall champ on the course, shooting a 68. He won a match of cards over another member of his foursome, Clark Gavin . David Lehanski, from the NHL Foundation foursome, won the Long Drive contest with a bomb on Hole # 7, while Chris Thompson (5’2”) won the Closest-to-the-Pin contest on Hole #12. Todd Carroll (in the net!) won the “Nearest-to-the-Net” contest on #18. Alex Kwiatkowski posted the Ladies’ Low Score (87) to capture that trophy. Andi Husted of Phoenix won Ladies’ Closest-to-the-Hole on 12, while Jacque Husted took the Ladies’ Long Drive on #7.

The foursome of Wood, Gavin, Steve Fisher and Paul Mazzola took the low gross team honors with a score of 59. By three strokes, they bested the runner-up teams of Sean McAuley, Chris Thompson, Chris Montanaro and Rob Walter; along with Nick Patti, Jr., Mike Patti, Rob Ronne and Mike Whelan.

Many golfers took advantage of pre-round massage and stretching offered by Steven Login of Golf & Body. His Huntington shop features proactive physical therapy and wellness for men and women looking to remain active.

LaFontaine thanked the Franchise sponsor – Steve Goldman of Harmony Home Concierge service. He also thanked the Major sponsors that included Rob MacInnis, Striano Electric, Lombardi Design, NHL Foundation, Ferreira Construction, Sean McAuley, Jerry Wood, Delaney Contracting, Patti & Sons, Inc., TVR Communications, Unsung Siblings Foundation, Croatian-American Foundation, Discount Tire, Capital One Bank, Botto Mechanical, the Lake Placid Wreckers, Harbor Irrigation, Cameron Engineering & Associates, Paul Gillin, Soldier Design, Polymers-Merona, Valor Hockey and Sun Seven Stars Media.

LaFontaine also thanked Harmony Home for sponsoring the dinner, Jim Botto of Botto Mechanical for sponsoring the Caddies; John Cameron for sponsoring the Halfway House, Jerry Wood for sponsoring the Texas Hold’em Tournament;  Rob MacInnis for sponsoring the Premium Cigars; Andrew Cameron of BNB Bank for sponsoring the Driving Range.

Read more

14th Annual Runner’s Edge Main Street Mile

Back in February of 2005, during an awards luncheon for Long Island Track and Field, Mark Leff, a Senior Manager with Cisco Systems, and Bob Cook, owner of Runner’s Edge in Farmingdale, were talking about the possibility of putting on a race to support Companions in Courage Foundation (CIC), founded by Hockey Hall of Famer and former NY Islander and Ranger Pat LaFontaine. Cook’s thought was to put on a one-mile race. The belief was that it would be unique and would attract participants of all levels of capability.

By June of 2005, North Fork Bank and Dr. Larry Lembo, a Farmingdale Chiropractor, were among the very first sponsors. During Labor Day weekend of 2005, the very first Runner’s Edge Main Street Mile was held. It attracted 180 participants and $3,000 was raised for CIC.

A lot has changed since then. This great event has grown significantly and has become a Labor Day tradition in Farmingdale over the last 14 years and one of CIC’s most anticipated events of the year. It now attracts more than 500 participants each year. And over the last 14 years, the Runner’s Edge Main Street Mile has raised, cumulatively, more than $160,000 to support the great work that CIC does. And most impressively the Runner’s Edge Main Street Mile has been named “one of the top 10 things to do on Long Island for Labor Day weekend.”

A post-race fundraiser was once again held at The Nutty Irishman, which is located right near the finish line. Once again, more than 500 registrants took part and helped to raise a record amount of more than $18,000 to benefit CIC.

Much of the success was also due to the generosity of our sponsors that included Bob Cook, owner of Runner’s Edge and presenting sponsor. Major sponsors once again included title sponsor Cisco Systems. Additional sponsors included Farmingdale Chiropractor Dr. Larry Lembo, who has been a sponsor for all 14 years of the event, the Farmingdale-based law firm of Carman, Callhan and Ingham, the Melville-based law firm of Carter, Deluca, Farrell and Schmidt, Race Awesome who did an incredible job setting up a first-class finish line, The Nutty Irishman (who donated the post-race brunch), Saucony (who donated all race shirts), Stamford, CT-based Horizon Paper and Sunpower Solar Energy Systems. Syosset-based David Lerner and Associates (sponsor of the post-race fundraiser at The Nutty Irishman), Plainview-based B&G Group and 103.1 MAX FM were also major sponsors. The co-race directors were Bob Cook, owner of the Runner’s Edge and Mark Leff of Cisco Systems, along with the race committee of Mindy Davidson of the Greater Long Island Running Club and BOCES, Craig Gluf of Universal Photonics and Jim Johnson, Executive Director of Companions in Courage.

The race finish in front of the Farmingdale Firehouse and Village Hall, with the post-race awards ceremony taking place in back of The Nutty Irishman. There were a record 482 finishers in the race, 85 of them from Farmingdale, 27 from Massapequa and Massapequa Park and many from surrounding local towns such as Bethpage, Seaford, Wantagh and as far away as Waltham, MA, and Santa Monica, CA.

The event had strong local representation with other sponsors that included The Posillico Foundation, who sponsored 24 members of the Farmingdale Girls Volleyball Team; The Library Café of Farmingdale; Dr. Jospeh Ciaccio, DDS of Hewlett, NY; Babylon Bike Shop, Bill Romas, LMT; The Greater Long Island Running Club; Polar USA (who very generously donated heart rate monitors to the raffle); Arizona Iced Tea (who donated all the water at the finish line); Anton Media Group of Mineola; Mario’s Pizzeria in Massapequa; Stew Leonard’s and Stew Leonard’s Wine Shop in Farmingdale; Uncle Giuseppe’s in Massapequa; The Good Life in Massapequa Park; and

Palmers American Grill. There was also a kid’s fun run where the younger participants ran a quarter-mile up and down Main Street and received medals and free ice cream from McDonalds’s on Route 109 in Farmingdale. This year’s official race photographers were Island Photography of Port Washington and Joel Harris Photography of Mineola.

Pat LaFontaine, one of Hockey’s Top-100 all-time players and the founder of Companions in Courage Foundation said, “Over the last 14 years, we have watched this event emerge to become part of the fabric of Farmingdale’s Labor Day weekend. Our record number of participants, sponsors and funds raised this year to benefit local pediatric patients is a reflection on the village’s emergence as one of the great downtown’s on Long Island. I cannot thank the race committee, sponsors and of course, Bob Cook at Runner’s Edge enough for their vision and support.”

Dignitaries in attendance included Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Greg Carman from sponsor Carman, Callahan and Ingham, who is also the Deputy Town Supervisor, and Brian Harty, the Farmingdale Village Administrator.

Doing the race announcing was “the Voice of Long Island Racing” Terry Bisogno. Race timing was provided by PRTiming of New Paltz, NY. The finish line and much of the race logistics were provided by Corey Roberts of Race Awesome of Seaford.

Jim Johnson, executive director of Companions in Courage Foundation said, “It is so inspiring to see athletes of every level competing in this family-friendly event that benefits families in need. Our stellar race committee has assembled a group of very special sponsors and partners. Race Awesome makes sure that the finishers of our one-mile event cross the Finish Line under an arch that is worthy of an Ironman Triathlon. It’s just one more way to let everyone know just how special this event really is.”

The race was followed by the special fundraising event at The Nutty Irishman, who generously donated their space with a buffet for all the participants. The festivities also included a performance from the SPITunes, a band lead by Companions in Courage Executive Director Jim Johnson, and where Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joe Saladino played drums for one number. There was also the biggest raffle the event has ever held with numerous prizes that included a Schwinn Cruiser Bike donated by Babylon Bike, a Sony Playstation 4, a Race Awesome VIP pass for all 2019 races, and many other numerous prizes and gift certificates that also included autographed memorabilia from Pat LaFontaine. The MC for the event was The Wiseman of 103.1 MAX FM Radio who wore his infamous beanie. He brought so much energy to the event. He even played some hockey trivia games with some of the participants. The Main Street Mile once again produced great performances for both the men and women.

The men’s open division (under 40 years of age) was won by Joseph Grieco of Massapequa at 4:17, followed by Jonathan Afanador of Patchogue and Yean Jimienez of Union City, NJ.

In the men’s master’s division, Boyd Carrington of West Islip won with a time of 4:24, followed by Early Penney of Glen Head and David Lopez-Merols of East Northport.

In the women’s open division, Jen Dagan won with a time of 4:52. She was followed by Michelle Walker and Katie McGrath.

In the women’s masters division, Vivien Lim of Great Neck won with a time of 5:31. She was followed by Una Broderick and Heather Riddiough.

The wheelchair division was once again won by Peter Hawkins of Malverne with a time of 3:27.

The race’s oldest finisher once again was 90-year-old Bert Jablon of Syosset. In honor of Bill Benson, a well-known and loved member of the running community who was beloved at past Main Street Mile events and who passed away in 2016 at the age of 97, the “Bill Benson Memorial Award” award awarded to Bert Jablon as the race’s oldest finisher for the third straight year. Also a notable performance came from Virginia Guichard of Melville who finished with a time of 23:51 in the 80-84 year old division.

There were 83 Farmingdale residents who participated and fared well in the race. Top finishers included Noelle Cutter for the women and Patrick Smyth for the men. Other participants included Anthony Diaz, Franklin Diaz, Connor Fawcett, Steve Waters, Ronnie Vichman, Trevor Gayron, John Russo, Gavin Roger Rogers, William Hammond, Leann Nicholas, Joseph Picini, Stephen Kessler, Joseph Kessler, Eamonn McLoughlin, Briana Bellando, Christine Gayron, Christine Gilleran, Kelly Bergersen, Jack Brosnan, Matthew Oppedisano, Savanna Spakalik, Hannah Wenzel, Bill Coleman, Chris Unger, Misel Diaz, Elizabeth Kaufman, Michael Beriloff, Bill Pawlowski, Christopher Hunt, Dylan Coleman, Kelsey Gallagher, Kyra Akley, Toniann Penna, Madison Burke, Emily Hunt, Michael Oppedisano, Caleb Carle, Hailee Comple, Adam Bruzzese, Kimberly Fields, Julianne McNally, Aidan Hamilton, Charlotte Luquer, Meghan Kane, George Graf, Cuinn Sunde, Julian Farrell, Jessica Beriloff, Teigan Sunde, Joseph Beriloff, Alyssa Fields, Kelly Palandro, Walter Buser, Erin Smyth, Victoria Pizzarelli, Kimberly Warshauer, Tara Syrett, Alexa Pereira, Kyle Gayron, Meredith Beringer, Dana Oppedisano, Jennifer Labas, Natalyia Hammond, David Ladd, Patricia Fawcett, Tiffany Blatz, Helen Kappel,, Elizabeth Russo, Samantha Stanton, Isha Hamilton, Tara Coleman, Janet Dawson, Robert Ryan, Joslyn Larocio, Jessica Deluercio, Tiffany Ladd, Shawn Rogers, Vanessa Damo, Christine Hopper, Suhany Longarello, Joe Sokol and Frederick Benlein.

Massapequa and Massapequa Park residents were represented by 33 participants thatincluded Joe Grieco, Michele Walker, John McKeon, Thomas Augeri, Thomas Erdmann, James Porr, Erin Byrnes, Steven Simmons, Christopher Leon, Vincent Corrado, Alyse Batt, Kristina Leon, Patricia Hedderson, Christine Poplawski, Glenn Morse, Thomas Tuffy, Jonathan Fields, Lois Bentivegna, Judy Digiovanni, Norman Hershkowitz, Thomas Hilbert, Heather Riddiough, Jack Rhein, Frank Vereline, Liz Henry, John Nora, Tom Verlene, Michael Cors, Thomas Coll, Taylor Jonak, Kathy Rose, Seamus Vereline and Eileen Creaven.

There were also 60 participants from the RunStart program, which is sponsored by the Greater Long Island Running Club and Runner’s Edge to help introduce new runners how to train, with the Runner’s Edge Main Street Mile being one of the races the members of this program train to take part in. Debbie Blair and Bob Cook are to be thanked for their efforts with this group.

Proceeds from the race go toward CIC. As seen at www.cic16.org, CIC raises funds to build interactive playrooms in children’s hospitals throughout North America. Through innovative communications tools, these playrooms are meant to replace the isolation of a hospital with a connection to family, friends and celebrities during their hospital stay. This effort paves the way for their motto, “No child in the fight for life or health should ever have to go it alone.”

The rooms, dubbed “the Lion’s Den,” have state-of-the-art technology from Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Google. Patients receive a “smart” card when they check into the hospital, identifying them as members of a special community with unique privileges. The key is an ID device that allows each child to personalize their experience within the Lion’s Den room with activities such as web surfing, video game playing and video-conferencing. Lion’s Den playrooms in the NY area include one at Huntington Hospital, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC, Maria Fareri Chidren’s Hospital in Valhalla, NY, Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, and the most recent one being at Cohen’s Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park.

The proceeds from this event will go a long way toward helping children and their families in their time of need given the great work done by CIC. This is inclusive of a CIC initiative known as “Santa Connection.” a way to bring live and personal Santa visits to children in numerous hospitals around the U.S. and Canada this coming December using video conference capabilities from Google. This event will once again will be hosted at Google’s YouTube Studios in NYC in December. There are also plans to once again have the Heisman Trophy winner do children’s hospital visits via a Google video conference, known as a “hangout” this December as well. Past Heisman Trophy winner visits have included Robert Griffin III, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.

“I think about how far this event has come over the last 14 years,” said co-race director Mark Leff of Cisco Systems and lead for the CIC Technology Advisory Board. “I think about how today, prominent leaders and business people in the Farmingdale community have come together to make this event special and first-class in every respect. We can’t thank Joe Fortuna enough for making The Nutty Irishman available and for his great hospitality. But most importantly, we need to thank the Farmingdale Village Administration as well as the Nassau County Police and Auxiliary Police for their great support. Brian Harty and his entire team were phenomenal as they are every year. I also think its important to give special thanks to the MTA Police for their support. This event means so much to the community as well as to the children and all the participants who helped support children’s hospitals all over the U.S. and Canada. What a great example of bringing the community together for a great cause. And how about that finish line setup by Corey Roberts and Race Awesome? They deserve a huge thanks. Finally, I can’t thank our sponsors enough for their generosity and support. This event keeps getting better every year. It’s a great team effort; this is not possible without an incredible race committee, volunteers and sponsors.”

For more information on Companions in Courage, visit www.cic16.org.

For more information on the Main Street Mile, visit www.facebook.com/MainStreetMileFarmingdaleCiC. View photos from the race and the post-race fundraiser, and highlights from Facebook Live.

–Submitted by Mark Leff

Read more

LaFontaine presents at Jefferson Awards

Pat LaFontaine served as a presenter at the 2018 Jefferson Awards New York National Ceremony on March 123th in Manhattan. The Jefferson Awards are generally considered the “Nobel Prize for Public Service.” LaFontaine had been a recipient of a national award in 2012.

The member of Hockey’s Top-100 recognized a young girl who had grown very special to him. LaFontaine said that Emma Stumpf was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 7, and had survived 20 surgeries and 70 weeks of chemotherapy treatment. As part of her recovery, Emma turned to artwork and thought that the same things that made her happy, might benefit other pediatric patients. She started collecting supplies and delivering Emma’s Art Carts to kids in need.

Inspired by Emma’s project, The Charter School of Wilmington (DE) collected more than 10,000 art kits this year and delivered them to pediatric patients throughout Delaware. For their effort, the Jefferson Awards had LaFontaine present them with their LEAD360 Award for 2018.

NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was also recognized for his extensive philanthropy. He told a story of how his mom, Lucille, asked him to support a local school where none of the children would receive a Christmas present. Shaq said, “I asked her how many kids she was talking about – hoping she’d say a couple of hundred. But it was more like a couple of thousand.” Within 48 hours “Shaq-A-Claus” was born. The NBA star rented a few U-Haul trucks, “bought out” a Toys-R-Us store, and everyone had a gift. That was 15 years ago.

Among other recipients of Jefferson Awards was Alexis Jones, a former contestant on the reality show, “Survivor,” and an advocate for women’s rights. She is an internationally recognized author, activist, speaker and media personality. She recently founded ProtectHer, a locker room program educating male athletes on the importance of respecting women.

Miss New York State, Gabrielle Walter introduced sisters, Reagan and Payton Garnsey of Delaware, who were awarded a LEAD360 Recognition by the Jefferson Awards for their project, “Buckets of Love.” Buckets of Love is focused on collecting recycled icing buckets from Sam’s Club in Dover and filling them with goodies to distribute to children in local hospitals aged 2-12.

“I help shop for things and I help stuff the buckets,” Payton said. “We put in coloring books, crayons, markers, stuffed animals, games and crafts.”

Since starting in June 2017 the sisters have raised $3,000 to support the effort and have distributed 101 buckets. When asked why, Reagan said she wants to cheer up kids who might be sad or scared while the await or receive medical treatment.

“I’ve never had to stay in the hospital overnight, but I’ve been in hospitals before,” Reagan said. “In there, despite all the bright paintings on the wall, it can be a sad place sometimes. We just wanted to bring some happiness to the kids in the hospital.”

The Jefferson Awards Foundation was created in 1972. The Awards are given at both national and local levels. Local winners are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition. The Foundation is led by its Executive Director, Hillary Schafer, its President, Sam Beard, and its Chairman, Joseph N. Sanberg, in conjunction with the Foundation’s Board of Governors.

Read more

Love in CHEO!

Wives and girlfriends of the Ottawa Senator stopped by the Lion’s Den  Room at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in February to help the patients get into the spirit for Valentine’s Day. Everyone had a great time!

Read more

NASA “Rock Star” Outta This World!

Kobie Boykins – a NASA Senior Mechanical Engineer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena – delivered presentations on the Mars Rover Program today to more than 600 school-aged children at The Cradle of Aviation Museum. The presentation was transmitted via Google Hangout by Companions in Courage Foundation to their Lion’s Den Rooms located in children’s hospitals across North America.

Boykins is considered a “rock star,” having been awarded a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2013.  He designed the solar array systems for the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and designed the actuators on the Mars rover Curiosity.

He kept the planetarium, as well as the pediatric patients online, in rapt attention as he discussed the preparation that went in to sending each Rover to the Martian surface and the nuances of each mission. His enthusiasm was palpable as he talked about the incredibly valuable information that has already been gleaned from these missions.

The engineer explained that when Spirit and Opportunity were launched in 2003, there life expectancy was a mere 90 Martian days. Spirit roamed the red planet for 7 years, while Opportunity has traveled almost 30 miles on the Martian surface and is still functioning today.

Curiosity was launched in 2011, and Boykins shared a story with the children. He said, “If you were alive in November 2011, your name was included on a microchip that is traveling around on Mars with Curiosity!” He explained that the names of everyone on earth was included as a way of demonstrating how all-inclusive this mission is.

He shared a neat story about how the engineers originally wanted to have the initials, “JPL” (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) embedded into the wheel treads of Curiosity. He explained that idea was shot down by senior managers. So, the team came up with the ingenious idea of including “JPL” in Morse code on each tread.

Boykins explained that the team at JPL expects to launch the next Rover in 2020. Among many other features, it will include a device named, “MOXIE”. The object of the device is to take samples of the Martian atmosphere and convert it to 96{dbba103197f763f3625c83787b2ffe6b05a03ab690785f26a5579b932964cfa8} pure oxygen. Obviously, that will be an important development to determine if man could ever travel to the Martian surface.

The engineer explained that the technology exists to send a manned mission to Mars. But there are certain limitations, such as creating a rocket that could deliver a large enough payload to bring humans to the Martian surface. Coincidentally, later that day, the SpaceX organization launched their Falcon Heavy rocket on a trajectory toward Mars. Boykins predicted that could be big enough to get a payload that included humans to Mars safely. In fact, he added, “the astronauts who may one day visit Mars may currently be in the 2nd or 3rd grade!”

Support material for the program was created by The Cradle of Aviation Educational Director, Catherine Gonzalez. She was thrilled that her lesson plan could be shared with teachers located at some of the hospitals in the Lion’s Den network. She explained, “The Cradle has been designated by NASA as part of their “Apollo at 50” program. We expect to have quarterly presentations like this one to celebrate the space program and inspire young people to advance their studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mechanics. Our hope is to be able to bring as many of these programs as possible to Lion’s Den Rooms on the Companions in Courage Network.”

Read more

Children’s Author Donates Proceeds

Furry and Fabulous – The Life and Times of Taylor Swift’s Cats, is the third book by Long Island teen author Taylor Sinett. Inspired by the battle her late “Nana Judi” fought against lymphoma, Taylor is donating all proceeds from the sale of this book to the CiC Foundation. Her hope is to raise enough money to purchase a Lion’s Den Room. (www.TaylorSinett.com).

The book follows the exploits of cats named Doctor Meredith Grey and Detective Olivia Benson. They travel the world, attend major events and have LOTS of celebrity friends. They think they are the superstars, but their “assistant,” Taylor is actually the famous one! They learn a lesson in cherishing love and friendship.

In 2013, Long Island student, Taylor Sinett drew a small picture of a weasel at camp. She was inspired to turn her adorable animal into a children’s book character and decided that her furry little protagonist could carry a big message. Inspired by her cousin Casey’s determination throughout a painful fight with ulcerative colitis, Sinett deftly created a storybook narrative about perseverance.

Taylor shared her book, A Weasel on an Easel, with many different students and was able to raise over $16,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Her second book, Jack on a Plaque, continued with her mission to empower children; Taylor’s lovable Yak, Jack, born with a short hoof, faces all the trials and tribulations of competing with a disadvantage

 

and yet never loses his optimism.  Taylor’s sales of Jack on a Plaque totaled more than $10,000, which she donated to the Cohen’s Children’s Hospital to purchase two vein finders that makes injections less painful.

Taylor continues to share her uplifting tales with students and hospital patients. She has received numerous awards and grants to continue to inspire kids to be charitable and creative. She is currently a junior at Schreiber High School in Port Washington, Long Island.

Read more

Santa Connection 2017

One of the most anticipated days of the holidays for pediatric patients is the Companions in Courage Foundation’s Santa Connection. For a couple of days in early December, patients who are too sick to visit Santa in the local shopping mall, are treated to a personalized visit via Google Hangouts. Santa conducts his virtual visits from the North Pole, accompanied by some of his elves. The foundation also sends gift cards to each hospital so that Child Life staff members may purchase a gift for each patient who visits Santa.

Most of these visits are conducted in the hospital’s Lion’s Den Rooms. Using state-of-the-art communication tools, the children are beamed directly in to Santa’s living room, near his workshop. Santa is advised of each child’s name and he looks up the names of their siblings and pets. He tells each patient if they are currently on the “Naughty,” or the “Nice” list, and asks each child what they want as a Christmas gift. Because many of these children are from homes in under-served areas, this might be the only gift they receive for the holidays this year.

Santa had a full schedule this year, meeting and singing “Jingle Bells” on the first day with children from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, Kravis Children’s at Mount Sinai, Wolfson Children’s, the new Oishei Children’s in Buffalo and CHOP in Philadelphia. On Day #2 he met  and sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with patients and their families at Cohen Children’s, St. Louis Children’s, Goryeb Children’s and North Carolina Children’s Hospitals. As an added bonus, a multi-lingual Pere Noel spoke with the patients at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Some of Santa’s favorite visits were with Gavin, Jayden, Jocelyn, Julie (who had her entire family, including grandparents with her!) Porter, “Little” Josh, Grady (who got an American Girl doll from Santa!), Mimi and Beyla. A total of almost 100 patients somehow found their way on to Santa’s “Nice” list this year.

Many patients who were too ill to make their way to the Lion’s Den Room were able to connect with Santa via their new Google Chromebooks, that had been donated by the tech giant and Companions in Courage Foundation in September. These handy devices made it easy for Santa to be with some of his most precious children at their bedsides during the Santa Connection. Very special thanks were extended by Santa to all of the Child Life and tech support people at each hospital who made the visits seamless.

Of special note was the preparation and participation of Steve Maykowski from Google and Mark Leff of Cisco Systems. They set up multiple tests with each hospital in advance of the big day, and then worked tirelessly for two days behind the scenes to ensure smooth delivery of each session. They were joined by “Elf” Amber Browning-Coyle of “Spotlight On,” and “Elf” Nicole Desantis from Google. Along with volunteers from St. Dominic’s High School on Long Island, who manned the social media aspects of the day, they made each patient visit very special. Some photos from the day are available in our Gallery at http://www.cic16.org/view_gallery.aspx?g=33

Read more