Find us wherever you are!
Subscribe To Smithtown Matters
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter







4JRYSKDS For Jerry's Kids The Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy 



By June Kempf

“ Mema, what do the letters on your license plates mean? “                                  

 “What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I suppose it means something to you - or about some organization you are in.”

“Well, they mean, For Jerry’s Kids,” I said.


It is a reaction I come to expect these days. In the past, people I met along the road figured it out. They voiced their support by honking their car horns and giving thumbs up signals as they passed me – especially around Labor Day. But today, 13 year old G G, didn’t have a clue. Clearly, I had some explaining to do.

After all, I have been driving around with the same vanity plates for over 25 years. I keep renewing them time and time again, even though they are essentially stale dated. Today, few people know what ‘4JRYSKDS’ signifies; although one truck driver recently gave me what I perceived  to be a friendly gesture  – while I was negotiating that turn from Moriches Road heading  west on 25A – the one without a turn signal.  That driver’s ‘acknowledgement’ was so enthusiastic, I am considering holding on to the tags for sentimental reasons.

I looked to G G for her opinion. She looked up from her iPad with a blank stare on her face and asked again, “So, who is he?”

Ok, I thought. Why should I seriously expect a teenager to recognize the name Jerry Lewis? Come to think of it, can I really expect anyone under the age of 30 to remember? They missed all of it.

“Jerry Lewis was a comedian, an actor and a super hero to kids all over the world - especially to those who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy.”

“Oh, Uncle Jay,” she whispered as she swiped the screen. 

“Listen to me…. Every Labor day, since the fifties Jerry (Lewis) hosted a super fundraiser called the Jerry Lewis telethon - to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association…” 

G G   rolled her eyes, half listening. I went on anyway to tell her all about that once famous telethon that no longer exists.  

“I can google it, Mema.”

“Well, Google can’t tell it like I can.”

As briefly as possible, I told her that Jerry Lewis, the father of the MDA telethon, was once idolized for his comedy and his devotion to his kids who suffered from this deadly disease. He and the telethon raised millions of dollars to support research and the families of ‘Jerry’s kids.’

In the beginning, the telethon was aired nationally, straight through the Labor Day weekend. Jerry Lewis entertained and pulled at viewers heartstrings.  His show presented cameos featuring the plights of the patients and their families, while Jerry passionately pleaded for listeners to pick up the phones and make a pledge.  Almost everyone who faithfully watched the show, made a pledge -  even if they couldn’t contribute much.

There were several centers around the country where volunteers took calls and processed the pledges as they came in. One such center was located in Hauppauge at the Sheraton hotel – right on the Vanderbilt parkway. 

The telethon meant so much to me and my family. It brought to the public eye, all the wonderful assistance MDA gave to victims of 40 different neuromuscular diseases including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).The show demonstrated how difficult it was for patients and families to cope with just the daily routines. Jerry Lewis would beg viewers for funding to supply medical services, support groups and summer camp that gave respite for the families of ‘his kids’. We were one of those families.

We’d arrive at the call center on a Sunday afternoon after personally canvassing the neighborhood for donations. After turning in our collection packets, we’d work the phones in shifts through the night and all through Labor Day. Periodically - just when we were about to collapse, the tote board would display the local and national pledge amounts. This released an exponential burst of energy that would rally everyone in the room. In seconds all the volunteers were enthusiastically answering the calls.

“Good evening, Jerry Lewis Telethon…” 

Some donors would call in their pledges in the middle of the night to ‘talk’ and sometimes offer consolation to those volunteers who had kids with the disease. Some callers set challenging conditions.  One woman pledged five thousand dollars, If she could speak to Jerry Lewis.  Since Jerry Lewis was in Las Vegas and we were in Hauppauge, we ran all around the call center looking for our in-house Jerry Lewis impersonator:

“Hello, Ladeee…?”  Our man schmoozed the caller with wise cracks and shtick. It worked. Ladeee followed through with a check for the full amount - all because of that conversation with ‘Jerry’. 

We worked the telethon for 30 years, until MDA headquarters changed the venue. The old format wasn’t working well.  Jerry Lewis’ health was failing and people were not calling in or watching telethon anymore. The system had to be updated and streamlined.  Today, G G can contribute on her iPad - instantly. But what the fundraiser gained in efficiency, It lost in spirit – no longer providing that special ‘personal touch’ that Jerry and his Love Network, brought to all on Telethon weekend.  

While MDA operates with less hoopla today, it now receives support through social networking, ads and large corporations that operate their own fundraising activities.  One such entity has been the US Post Office, a long time friend to Jerry’s kids. 

A few weeks before Labor Day, local  post offices all over the country  run their own fundraisers, quietly seeking donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association,  enabling their patrons to continue Jerry’s mission and ultimately find a cure. 

“Can I donate?” GG WAS listening.

“Sure, but what do you think about my license plates? Should I keep 4JRYSKDS or get new ones?”

“Keep them, but you should change one letter.”

“What one?”

“Change  the S to a Z. I thought 4JRYSKDS meant ‘For Jersey kids.”

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why that truck driver waved at me the way he did. He had Jersey plates. 

June Capossela Kempf: Author: Yo God! Jay’s Story and Lady of the Dollhouse traditionally published by Keithpublications www.




August 19th Is National Aviation Day

National Aviation Day: August 19, 2019

AUGUST 19, 2019

From NASA’s Tips for Celebrating National Aviation Day:

“Ever since 1939, August 19 has been celebrated as National Aviation Day, the legacy of a presidential proclamation first made by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“Selected because it was Orville Wright’s birthday, the decision to revel in all things aeronautical came at an exciting time in aviation history.

“Just 36 years after the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air flying machine in 1903, aviation was a growing – if not thriving – industry in the United States and around the world.

“New world speed and distance records were being set, airlines that still exist today were being formed and, as World War II began, both Allied and Axis Powers sought new ways to beef up aviation’s role in warfare.

“By 1939, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (N.A.C.A.) – NASA’s organizational predecessor – was 24 years old and already well established with the nation’s premiere aviation research laboratory in Virginia, and a brand new center just approved to be built in California.

“Fundamental problems with flight were being solved on the drawing boards and in the wind tunnels of the N.A.C.A., enabling aircraft to fly faster, higher, farther and with more and more cargo and passengers.

“Today, with the N.A.C.A.’s research heritage still alive and well at NASA, it can be said that every U.S. aircraft and air traffic control tower in operation today uses some kind of NASA-developed technology.”


Kennedy Honors Eagle Scout David Pennino

Kennedy Honors Eagle Scout David Pennino

Aug 2019 – Legislator Leslie Kennedy joined by Suffolk County Comptroller recognized David Pennino for his achievements in Scouting. David, through much hard work and dedication, has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout; the highest rank and honor bestowed upon a Scout by the Boy Scouts of America.

Every Scout must complete a project that benefits the community in order to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. David chose to plan and construct 24 Motor Skill Stations at the Pal-o-Mine Equestrian Center for the Disabled, enhancing the experience and the activities available to students. 

“I am very proud of David for his achievement,” Legislator Kennedy stated, “His project was very thoughtful and serves to benefit our most vulnerable member of the community. I am confident that David will continue to succeed at anything he decides to do in the future.”

For more information about this event or other events in the community, please call our office at (631)-854-3735 or log onto Legislator Kennedy’s Facebook page at

Caption: Legislator Leslie Kennedy, David Pennino and his family, Comptroller John Kennedy


2019 Dennis Cannataro Summer Concert Begins With Residents Singing National Anthem


Local Residents Sang the National Anthem at the 2019 Dennis Cannataro Family Summer Concert Series Hosted by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta

(Smithtown, NY)…At the Dennis Cannataro Summer Concert Series at the Smithtown Main Library Building, the following residents sang the National Anthem before one of the shows: Cherie Lehmann of Kings Park, Kieran Brown of Kings Park, Caitlin Beirne of St. James and John Zollo of Smithtown.  Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta obtained funding for the concerts through the Suffolk County Office of Economic Development.

Legislator Trotta thanked everyone for coming to the concerts and supporting the local businesses in Smithtown. He also complimented Julie Delaney, the Smithtown Library‘s Director of Community Relations, for coordinating this program.

Cherie Lehmann, a music teacher, (left) opened the concert series with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. She is pictured with Legislator Rob Trotta and Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, who initiated the concerts when she was a county legislator and is the sister of the late Dennis Cannataro who was instrumental in coordinating the concerts.



Legion Act Recognizes The Service Of All Wartime Veterans


In a significant legislative victory for The American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.

The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. servicemembers who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war. The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.

The LEGION Act offers American Legion membership eligibility to any U.S. military veteran who served at least one day of active military duty since Dec. 7, 1941, and was honorably discharged or is serving now.

“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’”

Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.

The law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.

Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.

“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”

Besides involvement in local community service, and camaraderie of fellow vets, additional benefits of Legion membership can be found at

Smithtown area veterans can contact American Legion Post 833 at (631) 724-1804 or visit the post  [51 Juniper Ave.]  on Saturday mornings from 9-11 A.M.   Our Post website has additional information on upcoming events (Open House & Pancake Breakfasts) and updated application forms. Post meetings are held on the first Monday of each month at 8 PM.