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Eight-Year-Old Cancer Survivor From Ronkonkoma Makes Easter Chocolates



Forest Hills Aigner Chocolate Shop Hosts Long Island Girl Who Credits Chocolate with Her Recovery

Athena Giassakis, an eight-year-old cancer survivor from Ronkonkoma, NY, who credits chocolate with helping her through her battle against Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) recently visited Aigner Chocolates, located at 103-02 Metropolitan Ave, Forest Hills, NY, to make special chocolate treats for Easter. 

Children who undergo chemotherapy treatment typically eat chocolate afterward to help with some of the side effects of treatment. 

Athena, who was diagnosed when she was 21 months old, preferred what she called “fancy chocolate” during her treatments, the same kind that are created in the Aigner Chocolate shop owned by husband and wife team Mark Libertini and Rachel Kellner. 

The dream-come-true experience was made possible by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island Chapter (LLSLI), located in Melville, NY, as part of their “Random Acts of Light” Program.  

“We were thrilled to be able to connect Athena and Aigner Chocolates for this special day,” said Sara Lipsky, Executive Director of LLSLI. “We know chocolate plays a special role for kids who go through chemotherapy treatment. Seeing her smile is what our Random Acts of Light program is all about.” 

Libertini and Kellner volunteered their time and shop to help Athena feel special as she nears her five-year anniversary of remission this summer. 

In addition to making chocolates in the basement kitchen of the shop, Athena also helped show off a four-foot, 25-pound Easter bunny made of solid chocolate, which will be raffled off in the tradition of the landmark store in Forest Hills, founded in 1930, which was just named “Best Chocolate Shop in New York” in a recent writeup.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island Chapter: 

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world‘s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS Mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the work and provides free information and support services. Follow LLSLI on Facebook & Instagram


SADD Club Sponsors Distracted Driving Simulator To Save Lives

Distracted driving simulator helps educate Smithtown HS West students

To teach their fellow students about the dangers of making poor decisions while driving, the SADD Club of Smithtown High School West hosted the International Save a Life Tour in the school’s auditorium on April 10. All Smithtown High School West juniors participated in the program which began with an assembly highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving.  

Throughout the day, juniors were invited down in smaller groups to experience driving in simulated situations of being distracted either by texting or using alcohol. Students also took a pre and post survey on their knowledge of being impaired while driving. After their experience driving in the simulators, SADD students encouraged their peers to sign a pledge card to remind them of what they experienced.  

All of the Smithtown High School West juniors signed the pledge, which will hang in the school as a reminder to all students to make good choices while driving.

Photos: To teach students about the dangers of making poor decisions while driving, the SADD Club of Smithtown High School West hosted the International Save a Life Tour in the school’s auditorium on April 10. Photos courtesy of Smithtown Central School District


Smithtown Youth Bureau To Host Volunteers On Global Youth Day

Smithtown, NY: The Smithtown Youth Bureau will host approximately 80 teen volunteers who will spend their Saturday cleaning up Sweetbriar Nature Center and beautifying the grounds in honor of Global Youth Service Day.  The volunteer youth will help get Sweetbriar ready for the season, planting a pollinator friendly Butterfly Garden, painting “Kindness Rocks” and variou raking, weeding and beautification projects throughout the grounds.  

The Smithtown Parks Department has provided the volunteers with equipment necessary to clean up the property. Sweetbriar Nature Center Director, Marie Smith and her team of devoted professionals will be readily available to educate the volunteers regarding the rescued wildlife living on the grounds and the many benefits the helpers are providing by assisting in the clean up.

About GYSD:

Established in 1988, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) celebrates and mobilizes the millions of young people who improve their communities through service. Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world and the only one dedicated to the contributions that younger generations make year round. Global Youth Service Day is celebrated in more than 135 countries, highlighting young people working together in schools, youth organizations, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, national service programs, government agencies and mentorships, addressing the world’s most critical issues to help change their communities.



74 Million People Visited NY State Parks In 2018

Letchworth State Park

Historic 74 Million Visits to State Parks in 2018

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced New York’s system of state parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails welcomed more than 74 million visitors in 2018. This milestone marks seven years of steady visitor growth and represents an overall increase of 28 percent, or 16.2 million visitors since the Governor took office in 2011.

New York State Parks saw 2018 visitation increase 4 percent from 71.5 million  in 2017 to 74.1 million. Continued improvements made through the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan promoted healthy outdoor recreation and encouraged families and visitors to explore State Parks. New York State Parks also had nearly 212,000 camping reservations in 2018, up 1 percent from 2017. Parks also attracted new visitors with the convenience of a family-sharing Empire Pass Card option. State Parks sold more than 102,000 Empire Passes in 2018, the most annual sales on record, and a 31 percent increase from 2017. Learn more


Congratulations Eagle Scout Kevin Stickevers Troop 301 St James


Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta and County Officials Congratulate Eagle Scout Kevin Stickevers of Boy Scout Troop 301 - St. James

(Smithtown, NY)…Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga, NY) came out to salute St. James Boy Scout Troop 301’s newest Eagle Scout, Kevin Stickevers. The rank of Eagle Scout is scouting’s most prestigious and highest accomplishment.

In addition to earning the required merit badges and meeting the other requirements, Kevin has demonstrated that he has mastered the skills of leadership and mentoring. For his Eagle Scout Community Service Project, Kevin fundraised, designed and built a movable duckling shelter with two heat lamps and two sinks with plumbing for the ducklings residing at the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. 

“Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is a great achievement and one that will be with you for the rest of your life. As your brother Erik was an inspiration to you, I hope that you are an inspiration to the younger scouts in this troop and for all the teenagers throughout Suffolk County,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta.


Pictured at the ceremony are from left to right: Suffolk County Legislators Leslie Kennedy, Rob Trotta, Eagle Scout Kevin Stickevers, his parents Mrs. and Mr. Stickevers, brother Erik, an Eagle Scout, and County Comptroller John Kennedy.