Good News: Hero's Welcome, Christmas Cheer

Some stories put a smile on your face. Here's our wrap-up from around Long Island.

US Army Sgt. David Worrell is welcomed home. Credit: File Photo
US Army Sgt. David Worrell is welcomed home. Credit: File Photo
As a local news organization, Patch covers stories of all kinds, from heartbreaking tragedies to nitty-gritty breakdowns of government and school district issues. But some stories are simply inspiring, often showing that at the heart of our communities is a desire to do good. Here are some of the touching headlines from the past seven days.

Hampton Bays Welcomes Home a Hero

Despite the snow and a flight delay, the Hampton Bays community turned out on Saturday to welcome home a hero. 

Just in time for Christmas, US Army Sgt. David Worrell, of East Quogue, arrived home from his 9 month deploy to Afghanistan, which followed a tour in Iraq, which started in 2010 and ended in July 2011. 

Christmas Comes Early For Young Russian Heart Patients

Calling it their best Christmas ever, two young Russian girls had their broken hearts mended at St. Francis Hospital this week.

Born with holes in their hearts that caused them to tire easily, 5-year old Viktoria Orekhova and 6-year-old Maria Zharkova made the trip to Long Island through Russian Gift of Life USA, a humanitarian organization that brings hundreds of children to the U.S. to receive donated life-saving cardiac procedures.

Beloved East Northport Teacher to be Memorialized as Book Character

After the recent passing of their beloved English teacher Leslie Spanko on Thursday, East Northport Middle School students and community members banded together to memorialize her in a way fit for a reading teacher – in a book.

In an outpouring of emotion and support from parents, teachers and students, the community petitioned to have one of her favorite authors, Tim Green, name a character in one of his upcoming books after her.

Green, a former National Football League player turned author, was holding a Facebook contest  for his readers to have one of his characters named after them. Within two days, more than a thousand votes were cast for Spanko, who worked in the school district for 40 years, making her the clear winner.

“Leslie has inspired an entire town and I don't think she can be beaten,” Green wrote on his Facebook page.

Queens Community House Receives $50K Grant for College Access Programs

The Queens Community House has received a $50,000 grant that will go toward the Forest Hills center’s college access programs.

The grant, which was presented to the nonprofit by the New York Life Foundation through the United Neighborhood Houses College Access project, will help to expand the Community House’s programs for low-income students in Queens.

Nassau Court Officers Hold 10th Annual Teddy Bear Drive

Monday afternoon at the Nassau County Courthouse the annual teddy bear drive display got a little larger thanks to donations by cheerleaders from Locust Valley who have been aiding the program for several years.

FOCO President Sgt. Joe Canella thanked each of the girls for their donations as this year the pile was a bit smaller due to the shortened time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Hopefully we get some last-minute donations," he said.

Officers will soon distribute the bears to children Franklin General Hospital, Winthrop University-Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, Schneider/ Cohn's Children's Hospital, Pediatric Oncology Ward and the Interfaith Nutrition Network

Calhoun Choral Group Brings Holiday Cheer to Nursing Home

Members of Calhoun High School's Express Yourself Choral Club recently brought some holiday cheer to residents at the Broadlawn Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Amityville.

Express Yourself, a club comprised of students from both the On-Tour Company theater program and Prep for the Future program, sang holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells,” “Oh Hanukkah,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

HBO to Air Billy Crystal's Long Beach-Themed Play

Reminiscence of Billy Crystal’s boyhood home in Long Beach is coming to a living room near you.

HBO will tape Crystal in his one-man autobiographical Broadway show 700 Sundays , Crystal announced after his performance of the Tony-winning show at the Imperial Theater on Saturday. HBO will film at the Jan. 3 and 4 shows.

A Christmas Miracle: Massapequa Family Returns to Sandy-Damaged Home

Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Henry family's house in Massapequa, but random acts of kindness have brought them in home in time for Christmas.

On Friday, the Henry family received a $10,000 donation from KPMG to help with rebuilding expenses. The family has also received a donation of $25,000 from an anonymous man from North Dakota and $5,000 from New York Says Thank You.

"So many people have helped us so much," Beth Henry, a school teacher, said. "We're going to be home sleeping here on Christmas Eve, and that was important for us and for the girls to be here."

Kevin Wood Makes A Singing Dream Come True

Recently musician Kevin Wood met Jesse Wickey, a student with Down syndrome and Shoreham Wading River alum, who has always loved to sing. 

"He graduated Shoreham Wading River in 2012, after a successful inclusionary educational program and was voted "most unforgettable" by the seniors for the yearbook," Wood said.  

Because of Wickey's love of music and dance, Wood invited him  to his house to record some holiday songs. "My few hours with Jesse were priceless and I will remember them forever...Jesse had heard I had a studio in the house from my daughter and friends, but life moves quickly and I never recorded Jesse before he graduated," Wood said.

Islanders Spread Holiday Cheer in NUMC's Peds Unit

Four members of the New York Islanders joined nurses and hospital officials during their annual visit to the pediatric units at Nassau University Medical Center.

Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner visited with each of the children and their parents, bringing signed autographs and toys to help cheer the children up during their hospital stay.

Plainview Student-Athletes Give Back to the Community

Plainview JFK  student-athletes took part in several volunteer programs throughout the year that are designed to give back to the community. The purpose is to help the student-athletes develop a sense of community while building strong character traits. 

To date, the student-athletes have raised more than $250 during the District’s Breast Cancer Awareness week, and helped organize the district’s NFL Punt, Pass and Kick program. The girls varsity volleyball team helped raise over $250 during the Breast Cancer Awareness week this year. The Varsity team wore specialty designed warm-up shirts, while the Junior Varsity team created their own ‘Pink Game’ jerseys.


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