18th Annual CiC Golf Classic is Worth the Wait

October 13, 2021 in News

After COVID Hiatus – a “family” celebration!

HUNTINGTON, NY, September 30, 2021  –  After a one-year hiatus, caused by the COVID pandemic, more than 130 golfers convened at Huntington Country Club today for the 18th Annual Companions in Courage Foundation Golf Classic.

There was a palpable energy amongst attendees as the Companions in Courage “family” convened for the first time in two years.  The assembled 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 painting created on the back of a LaFontaine jersey. The piece would be auctioned at a spirited post-event dinner.

The day was filled with poignant moments, including traditional tributes (at Amen Corner) to CiC Foundation supporters who have passed on. The highlight of the dinner was when Clinton Brown III reminded everyone that at one point in his life he had been a “recipient” of the work of Companions in Courage. He was honored to be on hand this night as a “supporter.” He concluded his comments with a message about the honor of being involved with the CiC “family,” and then he led everyone in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” for his mother Cheryl, a longtime foundation volunteer.

LaFontaine recognized longtime supporter Mike Heagerty of Edward Hall Insurance and ONE80 Intermediaries with the prestigious Pioneer Award. The honor was initiated in 2009 as a way to recognize those special ‘companions in courage’ who have gone above and beyond in helping the foundation achieve its mission. Mike and his wife, Mary, have been fixtures in supporting children’s charities in the Huntington area for decades, and he has supported the Golf Classic since its inception. The entire Heagerty clan was on hand to surprise the recipient and to revel in the special moment.

The newest member of the foundation’s executive board, Chris Andricopoulos of Northwestern Mutual in Connecticut delivered a poignant story about why he and his family were inspired to become more engaged with the foundation. He then surprised LaFontaine by providing a $10,000 donation from Northwestern Mutual corporate.

Frank Bellizzi of Three Monkeys Wine introduced the latest vintage (2017) of The Pinot Line – a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. He offered that a couple of auction items were unique in that they represented the last of the full flight of Pinot Line vintages (2012-2017). The flight of .750 bottles went as quickly as the flight of magnum bottles. Along with 30 autographed magnum bottles of the 2017 vintage personally autographed by LaFontaine, the wine maker helped raise more than $13,000 in a matter of minutes.

Jim Johnson, Executive Director of the foundation talked about “The Mane Event” podcast that the organization was now creating and distributing. The podcasts feature inspirational stories designed to inspire and motivate pediatric patients to get well. One clip featured Dave Stevens, a Quinnipiac University professor, born with no legs, who has played professional baseball and tried out for the Dallas Cowboys!

LaFontaine also welcomed former teammates Clark Gillies, Steve Webb and Randy Wood. The field of celebrities included former NBA star Wally Szczerbiak, his dad Walter Szczerbiak, and hockey’s Pat Jablonski.

Phil Risman, from the Northwestern Mutual foursome, won the Long Drive contest with a bomb on Hole #7, while Tim Blair (10’6”) won the Closest-to-the-Pin contest on Hole #3. Tom Hildebrandt won the “Nearest-to-the-Net” contest on #18.

The foursome of Clark Gillies, Chris Amplo, John Catapano and Joe Macina took the low gross team honors with a score of 58. By a single stroke, they bested the runner-up teams of Greg DeRosa, Victor Medina, Peter Tiberio and Peter Tonna; along with Mike Bachmann, Chris Basta, Robert Codignotto and Tom Milana, Jr.

Many golfers took advantage of the “Air Cannon” on Hole #15, sponsored by Rosini Engineering. The cannon would launch a tee shot about 350 yards on the par 5 hole and give every team a shot at eagle. Several golfers commented that the cannon should be an option on EVERY hole!

LaFontaine thanked the Franchise sponsors – NFP Insurance. He also thanked the Major sponsors that included Lombardi Design, the Heagerty Family Foundation, Northwestern Mutual, Port View Leasing, X-Cell Realty Associates, Striano Electric, Botto Mechanical Corporation, Delaney Contracting, the McAuley Family Foundation, Patti Spray Fireproofing, G2D Development, Harbor Irrigation, the Croatian-American Foundation, J.C. Steel Corporation, Mercedes Benz of Huntington, TAM Industries, Green Cubes Technology, Rob MacInnis, Bill Isenberg, Jerry Wood, Paul Gillin, and John Moran.

LaFontaine also thanked John Cameron of Cameron Engineering for sponsoring the player’s gifts, Jim Botto of Botto Mechanical for sponsoring the Caddies and the Practice Green; Jerry Wood for sponsoring the Texas Hold’em Tournament;  Rob MacInnis for sponsoring the Premium Cigars; Jim Buzzetta of Mercedes Benz of Huntington for sponsoring the Hole-in-One competition, and Ken Delaney of Delaney Contracting for sponsoring the Driving Range.

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The ‘Mane’ Event Inspires

June 1, 2021 in News

New Series Inspires and Educates Pediatric Patients

HUNTINGTON, NY, April 2021  –  The Companions in Courage Foundation announced today that their weekly series, The ‘Mane’ Event is now available on iTunes, Spotify and on PodBean.

The ‘Mane’ Event is a series of short inspirational videos  featuring people who have overcome challenges , designed to motivate pediatric patients to get well. Videos drop every Thursday and include a handout that Child Life Specialists can use to guide patients through each story and to evoke conversation about how the stories relate to their  treatments.

Isolated by COVID restrictions, these kids need inspiration now more than ever. Initial stories in the series have featured  Special Olympian Chris Nikic – the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon; Patrick Harten – the air traffic controller who helped guide Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to a safe landing on “The Miracle on the Hudson;”  Kyle Merber – an American middle distance runner who overcame a serious injury to set a world record; and Clinton Brown III, a little person with Diastrophic Dysplasia who overcame all odds to lead a life of service on behalf of Little People.

Future stories will include similar inspirational achievements by the famous and not-so-famous.

To support this effort and to suggest future story ideas, please visit 

The ‘Mane’ Event can be accessed at:




Santa Claus visits pediatric patients virtually

December 9, 2020 in News

by Brett Levine – WALK-FM

(East Farmingdale, NY)-  Over the past nine months, the coronavirus pandemic has cancelled events like the Olympics and Broadway shows but it turns out there is one thing, COVID can’t cancel and that’s the Companions in Courage Foundation’s, 13th annual 2020 Santa Connection.  The Companions in Courage, in collaboration with Google, Cisco Systems and Connoisseur Media Long Island, provided pediatric patients across North America with an opportunity to have a personal and virtual visit with Santa Claus last week.  More than 80 children and families from Long Island to Alaska and even Canada, participated in this year’s event.

On Long Island, select pediatric patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park and at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside were able to speak one-on-one to Santa Claus, live from the “North Pole”, at Connoisseur Media Long Island.  Through generous donations, the hospitals were also provided with gift cards from the foundation to use for purchases for each of the children that took part in this year’s Santa Connection event.

James Johnson, Executive Director for The Companions in Courage, “Our foundation provided gift ca

rds to the Child Life departments at each participating hospital. The Child Life staff polled their patients and 

purchased items with the gift cards that had meaning to each patient. The gifts ran the gamut from Pez dispensers to foot massagers. Though, we did have to decline the young boy who asked Santa for a Lamborghini!”  Johnson also said, “with COVID restrictions limiting hospital visitation from even family members this year, it was more important than ever to connect these special patients to the North Pole”.

Over the years, The Companions in Courage, which was founded in 1997 by Hall of Fame hockey player, Olympic athlete and former New York Islander, Pat LaFontaine, has built 20 interactive rooms for children at pediatric hospitals across North America, including on Long Island at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park and Huntington Hospital in Huntington.  The interactive rooms, called “Lion’s Dens”, were designed to help the pediatric patients unwind and relax and have some fun.  In the Lion’s Den, the children can play with Xbox kiosks and also access Google Chromebooks.

The Companions in Courage are still accepting donations for this year’s Santa Connection, donations can be made here .

Heisman Star Brings Inspiration to Young Patients

February 24, 2020 in News

Feb 24, 2020 | AsthmaFeaturedPatient Stories |

Patients and families at the Child Life Zone at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital received a special visit on Sunday, December 15, from Joe Burrow, just a day after he was named the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner. The Louisiana State University quarterback hosted a special trivia-themed episode on KidZone TV, answered questions, opened up about his personal life and adversity, and provided inspiration to patients and their families in an appearance made possible through the Companions in Courage Foundation.

Mr. Burrow also signed football keepsakes for the patients, much to the delight of one 13-year-old patient, Ryan Diaz, an aspiring football player himself. Ryan already has helped his Harlem Jets youth football team win two championships—no easy feat for this offensive guard and center who happens to have severe asthma.

“He has had asthma since he was a baby, and he has been in and out of the hospital,” recalled his mother, Christina Ortiz. “He would miss up to 18 days a year of school.” Added Ryan: “It was really hard. I would miss so many things because I couldn’t control my asthma. I struggled so much from something I didn’t cause.”

“We have many, many patients like Ryan with severe asthma,” said Alfin G. Vicencio, MD, Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs and Strategy, and Division Chief for Pediatric Pulmonology at Kravis Children’s Hospital, who started treating Ryan in September 2018. “He has multiple triggers, and it’s hard to isolate one thing, so what is your recourse, stay inside a bubble?”

Dr. Vicencio is primarily treating Ryan with an injection of omalizumab, a monoclonal antibody, every two weeks. “This medication targets very specific molecules that are important in the asthma-inflammation cascade,” said Dr. Vicencio. The treatment acts to decrease the number of sudden episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing in individuals whose symptoms are not controlled with inhaled steroids.

“Mount Sinai has a very active program for the diagnosis and treatment of children with severe asthma,” said Dr. Vicencio. “This includes some important research initiatives that are starting to identify new subtypes of asthma, some of which may be driven by unsuspected infections.”

Other components of the research program, he added, are starting to identify new genes in the airway that may contribute to severity. This is part of a collaborative project with Supinda Bunyavanich, MD, MPH, MPhil, Professor of Pediatrics, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences, aimed at finding new therapeutic targets for patients with severe disease.

Following this protocol has allowed Ryan to keep active—except for when he was sidelined for two weeks in February with the flu and pneumonia. He is now able to resume his strenuous four-hour weekend football workouts and continue his participation in a dance and theater program.

Throughout it all, he has excelled in middle school, which has earned him an academic scholarship to Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, a football powerhouse.

“I just love football,” said Ryan, whose father, Juan Diaz, a registrar in Mount Sinai’s Institute for Advanced Medicine, played football for George Washington High School in New York City and has been a coach for the Harlem Jets since 2013. “It is a bond,” said Ryan.

Mr. Burrow is now certainly part of this bond, too. “It was really inspiring to speak with someone of that caliber,” said Ryan. “We talked about football, staying in school, and doing your best. One thing that made me proud—he signed my football jersey, and I gave him a signed Ryan Diaz #74 Harlem Jets hat, which he wore for the entire event.”

As for the football that Mr. Burrow signed, Ryan said he no longer has it. “We decided to give it to Dr. Vicencio because he has done so much for me. He let me lead a normal life. He really likes football, and I felt he really deserved that,” said Ryan. “I felt very, very touched,” said Dr. Vicencio. “I told Ryan that when he is in the National Football League, I will ask for one of these signed by him.”