Kids Get A Taste of Montauk Hospitality
by Denise Bonura

 

MONTAUK - The sacrifices made by New York City's fallen emergency personnel will forever be remembered in the hearts of their families.

Countless volunteers from across the state also recognize these sacrifices and are willing to help these families overcome their losses. One private, non-profit charity, The New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund, has been providing both financial and emotional assistance to the families of fallen New York police and fire department, Port Authority police and emergency services personnel since the 1980s.

Montauk residents are no strangers to the fund's efforts and have put together an annual day of fun for the children of these heroes. The first get-together was held Saturday, Aug. 16, and began with a fishing trip aboard The Ebb Tide, a party boat from Salivar's Dock, and ended with a barbecue at the home of Ken Guistino, the publisher of the Montauk Sun.

 

The Party

A group of 20 children, their parents and volunteers boarded The Ebb Tide at 9 last Saturday morning. Rich Worme, one of the boat's mates, suggested taking the children out on the fishing trip in May. He said he supports the fund's mission and wanted to give them a day to remember. The owner of the boat, Jane Bowman, and its crew, were receptive to the idea. Guistino said Worme later approached him help promot the event and once he heard of it, Guistino wanted to join the effort.

"I thought it would be a good opertunity to make people more aware of the organization so I thought I would through a barbecue and pool party after the fishing trip," said Guistino. "Once the people of Montauk knew what we were doing, no one hesitated to volunteer or donate. All of the people I approached helped and were so generous I had to cut it off at a point because we were covered with food and volinters to get this year's event off the ground."

Linda Giammona, the benefit fund's director of development, was pleased with the generosity extended to the families in Montauk.

"The Montauk community has nothing but embraced the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund," she said. "All the crew donated their time and every kid had their line baited for them. They each had a personal fishing lesson and within 15 minutes, they were professionals. What really touched me was the sign that said it was the first annual children's fishing trip. They are already planning this for next year. They understand that these men and women of emergency services put their lives on the line every single day. I have nothing but good things to say about the people of Montauk."

The boat docked around 12:15 p.m. and the fun didn't stop there. The children were spoiled with gifts donated by area businesses. Many of them donned Ebb Tide hats and carried gift bags filled with sunglasses, lanyards, yo-yos and other goodies. Five of them were given fishing rods & reels all set up by donated by Paulie's Tackle of Montauk.

The families then headed to Guistino's home to take a dip in the pool; feast on hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, salads, corn on the cob, chilly, pasta and desserts, among other items; and just enjoy one another's company.

Area restaurants that donated food and other items for the party were The Havana Beach Club, Lenny's on the Dock, Gurney's Inn, MTK Café, Salivar's Restaurant and Marine Bar, Tipperary Inn, The Point and Pepei. Cromer's Market also donated great food for the event.

Chad Backer volunteered to lifeguard while the children were in the pool. Paul and Lorraine Salvato, Wayne Marx, Barbara Marx, Wayne Marx Jr., Kreider "Karen" Sabella, Jimmy Sabella, Jen Mcbeichel, Ray Worme and Orla Troy also volunteered their time to help setup the party.

Pepsi donated soda, Spalding basketballs and EA Sports duffel bags for each child. Pepsi also donated an X-Box 360 that was later raffled off. Tipperary Inn donated a bicycle that also was won in the raffle.

"It is at times overwhelming and always very heart-warming that total strangers, still to this day, continue to give so unselfishly," said Eileen Rafferty of Islip. "It was very nice of them to open their boat and their home to us and make sure the kids had a good time."

Rafferty attended the fishing trip and barbecue with her three children - Kara, 16, Kevin, 13, and Emma, 8. Her husband, Det. Patrick Rafferty with the New York City Police Department, was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 10, 2004. He and his partner, Det. Robert Parker, were shot and killed with Rafferty's own weapon by a man who is now serving two life sentences for their deaths.

The Fund's History

The New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund was created in 1985 by Chairman Daniel J. "Rusty" Staub, retired New York Met and Major League Baseball All-Star.

The idea to help the families of the fallen heroes came to him while reading an article about a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Staub also had a family member who was part of the New York City Police Department so the cause hit close to home.

The fund originally reached out to New York City police and fire personnel, but after the Sept. 11th attacks, expanded to include Port Authority police and emergency service personnel killed in the line of duty.

The fund consists of a board of 19 directors, relies on private donations and is mostly run by volunteers. Giammona, who began working for the fund in May 2007, is the organization's first paid employee.

Since its inception, the organization has assisted nearly 700 families. Giammona said 97 percent of every dollar donated is sent right to the grieving families of these heroes and each family immediately receives $25,000 to help them through the hard times. More than $96 million has been given to these families over the years. The organization is not affiliated with the fire or police departments. Those departments have separate funds that assist families. The New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund is the only non-profit organization that assists all emergency personnel of New York.

The organization is registered as a charitable organization in New York, California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey and files an annual report with these states.

"Even though we started in 1985, we have widows who are in their 90s now," she said. "And we have some who are as young as 25. They all have one commonality - they have all lost a husband or wife while they were trying to protect New Yorkers."

She said about 10 to 15 New York City emergency personnel are killed in the line of duty each year, a statistic that "doesn't really change much, even with improved equipment and fire safety education."

The generous contributions the organization received after Sept. 11th from corporate leaders and businesses are predicted to run out within the next two years and distributions to families will be "greatly reduced," according to literature from the organization.

Giammona said the organization is stepping up its marketing campaigns in hopes of getting the word out about the fund and its mission - "to continue making meaningful distributions to all of our widows and widowers for the duration of their lives." She said few people know the fund exists so more effort is being placed into reaching larger audiences and appeals for donations via television and radio public service announcements, print ads and subway posters.

She said even though the announcements have aired on the radio and on some television stations, the organization isn't getting the response it needs. The board is hoping to appeal to other New York televisions stations such as 12 & 2.

"People shouldn't forget the sacrifice these families endured," added Guistino. He said the community of Montauk is already planning next year's event and it will be a bigger and better affair. Volunteers already have agreed to be involved in next year's event.

"Next year we're hoping to raise some funds for the organization," he said. Guistino said next year the volunteers also hope to hold the get-together in conjunction with other events and have more activities such as horseback riding, surfing and a trip to the Montauk Point Lighthouse.

 

 

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For more information on next year's event, contact Guistino at 631-668-5077

For more information on the fund, visit the organization's Web site at www.answerthecall.org




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