Some people think of Long Island as nothing more than a bedroom community for the thousands of workers who commute to New York City to earn a living. Driving through many of the Long Island's downtown areas and seeing the businesses that line the streets, one might think that it is merely a place where people eat out or get take-out after work and women get their nails and hair done, but Long Island is so much more.
Whether they work locally or commute to the city, and whether there is one working parent or two, Long Island is where people raise their families, and that speaks volumes. Our school systems, religious institutions, sporting leagues, scout troops and dozens of varieties of extracurricular activities create overlapping layers of community and a huge web of interconnection. There is so much more to this place and these people than meets the eye.
The suburbs are often knocked for "NIMBYism" (Not In My Back Yard) by those who feel that it blocks progress, and perhaps at times it does, but the same way that Long Islanders can come together to block a project, they can and do come together to support a cause. In the current economic climate, charitable giving is down everywhere (including Long Island), but our communities continue to support their members in need in ways small and large.
This is the glue that binds a society together - the feeling that especially in times of crisis, one is never truly alone; that you are a part of something larger than yourself; a living, breathing organism that is long on heart and worth being a part of. I look around this place we call home and see how people reach out to help one another. Several weekends a month, in Wantagh is booked with fundraisers for families facing overwhelming medical expenses, dealing with the aftermath of a fire or the loss of the primary breadwinner. People care.
Beyond the single-event giving, there are many charitable foundations with their roots right here on the Island. Their founders saw a need, whether it was through their own or their families life experience or seeing the suffering of those around them, and they set out to put a system in place to alleviate that suffering for others. Establishing a foundation takes a lot more than just writing a check (though many such checks are needed).
Timothy Jaccard founded AMT Children of Hope to address the issue of abandoned newborns, providing a safe way to relinquish an unwanted baby and a decent burial for those who were abandoned anyway.
Friends of those lost in the September 11th attacks founded Tuesday's Children to lend support to the children whose parents were tragically lost that day.
After the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, friends and family of Joe Testaverde, cousin of former New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, founded the Testaverde Fund for Spinal Cord Injury. The foundation provides assistance to spinal cord injury victims and their families.
After suffering a very serious illness in his youth, John Theissen founded the . The foundation collects and delivers toys to seriously ill children spending the holidays in hospitals and collects school supplies at the beginning of each school year for children in need.
All of these are worthy causes and all of them show that Long Island has heart, but they are only a small sampling of the needs that bring Long Islanders out in droves for walks, runs, motorcycle rides, poker games, dinners, music showcases, carnivals and more to help ease the suffering in our communities. Each of us has something that moves us to support a cause. Some choose only those causes that they hold near to their hearts, and some follow a format, like the runners who do every 5K race, regardless of the reason. I guess I do some of each.
On October 20, the Long Island Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation will be holding a 3 mile walk in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow with registration starting at 8:30 am to raise funds for Type I Diabetes research. I'll be walking to support my cousin Amanda. You can join the walk or support the cause by clicking here.
With the incidence of Type II (Adult Onset) Diabetes reaching epidemic proportions among older Americans, everyone knows someone who is diabetic and has some idea of what goes into living with the disease. When Amanda was diagnosed with Type I (Juvenile) Diabetes a year ago, I learned that there is a huge difference between the two types. If you think that being a teenager is tough, try to imagine what it would be like to be a teenager living with Type I Diabetes.
Each day brings multiple finger pricks for blood sugar measurements and multiple injections of insulin. Every morsel of food needs to be measured to calculate the insulin dose. Snacking isn't fun and there is no such thing as mindless eating. Sometimes eating is actually a chore - to bring up a too-low blood sugar level. Nothing can be taken for granted. Life unfolds on a balance board between too high and too low.
Research and development has resulted in a wearable pod that delivers insulin subcutaneously, reducing the number of injections needed, and has yielded the working theory that Type I Diabetes is an auto-immune disease in which the body turns on itself, destroying the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
Recent studies have discovered that some cells may survive, creating the hope that additional research might find a way to help the surviving cells to regenerate. That would mean a world of difference to people living with this disease. That's why I'm putting my heart into supporting this walk and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I hope that many of my fellow Long Islanders will put their hearts, sneakers and dollars into it as well.