04/13/13 12:00pm
04/13/2013 12:00 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO |  Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford,  urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group's proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group’s proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

New Beginnings Community Center’s proposal to create a home for victims of traumatic brain injuries in Riverhead needs an interpretation from the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals as to whether it is a permitted use, because town code doesn’t specifically mention that type of facility anywhere.

New Beginnings in Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The New Beginnings Brendan House site on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Group respresentatives appeared before the ZBA on Thursday, and will have to appear again on April 25, as ZBA members asked for more information about what type of uses were allowed in the large colonial house on Sound Avenue, in which New Beginnings hopes to build.

New Beginnings is looking to convert the vacant house at 4079 Sound Avenue into a facility that will be named Brendon House, after Brendan Aykroyd of Blue Point, who died at the age of 25 from injuries sustained through a traumatic brain injury two years earlier.

Brendan’s parents, Sandra and Marshall Aykroyd, attended Thursday’s ZBA meeting in Riverhead Town Hall.

The group is planning to renovate the building to house four brain-injured patients, either veterans or civilians, New Beginnings vice president, Steve Scerri, explained to ZBA members. The center will be staffed with aides working around the clock to ensure the patients are fed and take their medication, although the aides will work in shifts and not actually live in the home, he said.

New Beginnings also plans to convert a separate building on the property into a home for a “house mother,” who will live in that home and will manage the facility and fill in when an aide can’t make it to work, Mr. Scerri said.

Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead youth who was badly burned by a gel candle explosion in May of 2011 and suffered brain damage after his heart stopped beating for a short time, is expected to live in Brendan House once it opens. Because there is no such facility locally, he has been staying in an upstate hospital with his mother, Nancy Reyer, by his side the whole time sine the accident.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone and ZBA members wanted more specifics, particularly about what was on the property before it was donated to New Beginnings, and when was the second building built, and for what purpose.

Mr. Scerri said he didn’t know when the second building was built, although he believes it was at least eight years ago.

Richard Reeve, who owns a farmstead across the street from the proposed center, was also in attendance Thursday night.

He said the second building was originally a shed that was renovated into an apartment by the previous owner about two years ago. He said the shed wasn’t there in 2004. Mr. Reeve said he believes the proposed facility is “good endeavor” but warned the New Beginnings representaties that the building is in the middle of an agricultural area — and that there will be noise.

ZBA member Leroy Barnes said he wanted to see the building department and assessment records for the property before making a decision.

The ZBA adjourned the hearing to their April 25 meeting.

Alysson Scerri, president of New Beginnings and the wife of Steve Scerri, said she got involved in New Beginnings about two years ago, when her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

“I saw the debilitating effect it has on families,” she told the ZBA members. ”When I work at the center, on a daily basis, I see a lot of parents who struggle with the thought that, if something happens to them, what happens to their loved one?”

New Beginnings Community Center provides office space specifically designated for individuals or groups committed to providing treatment to individuals with traumatic brain injuries and other similar disabilities.

Sandra Aykroyd said her son was blind-sided with a punch in 2009 that severed an artery and left him unconscious with a fractured skull.

He spent 71 days in an upstate hospital, and then continued his rehabilitation in New Beginnings when he came back home. He had been working with the group but still had seizures, never drove a car again and lost his independence.

On June 16, 2012, she said, he died suddenly.

“I can’t say enough about what New Beginnings has done for him and what is has done for us as a family and what it has done for community of survivors of traumatic brain injuries,” she told the ZBA. “It changes lives forever.”

Ms. Aykroyd said the proposed home will give its residents the sense of independence, hope and freedom they lost when they suffered their traumatic brain injuries.

“I thank you for the consideration of this project and I ask that you think about traumatic brain injuries, reach out and find out a little bit about it and look into your hearts before you make a decision,” she told the board.


04/13/13 10:08am

RIVERHEAD SCHOOL DISTRICT PHOTO | Riverhead High School emerged on top at Friday night’s Crazy Sports Night, which raised money for the Brendan House.

From crawling under barriers to hula-hooping, Riverhead teachers and staffers left it all on the court Friday night at the annual Crazy Sports Night, a fundraiser for the Brendan House.

Teams were based on each school, plus the district office, and the high school won by winning the final tug of war event against the middle school. The high school team, wearing blue T-shirts, dethroned the defending champs by the slimmest of margins.

The sports night inside the Riverhead High School gym featured an obstacle course, a 3-point shot competition, a scooter race and a three-legged sack race.

Riverhead principal Dave Wicks served as the referee while Doc Greenberger and Lorene Custer entertained the crowd by emceeing the event.

The event raised $5,427 for the Brendan House home for victims of traumatic brain injury on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead teen who suffered brain damage after a gel candle explosion two years ago and has since been recovering in an upstate children’s hospital, will be one resident of the home.

RIVERHEAD SCHOOL DISTRICT PHOTO | Representatives from the Brendan House at Friday night’s Crazy Sports Night.

03/24/13 12:00pm
03/24/2013 12:00 PM
Riverhead New Beginnings

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | New Beginnings Brendan House on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

It’s been more than a year since New Beginnings Community Center announced plans to build a group home on Sound Avenue for people with traumatic brain injuries who need long-term care but are too young for nursing homes.

And although a storm-packed fall and winter slowed down fundraising, the effort is still going strong, said the group’s founder.

“Not only are we raising money to put the house up but we’re educating people as well,” said Allyson Scerri, who founded New Beginnings, a Medford-based outpatient center, in 2011 after her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

Help with renovating the house was redirected due to storm cleanup, she said.

“A lot of our volunteers had prior commitments because of the storm, but I feel that we’re back on track now,” Ms. Scerri said. “I feel like finally now after this long winter we can really get refocused and just plunge right through and get the building up.”

The group has raised $35,000 of the roughly $250,000 needed to renovate the house, a two-story home on Sound Avenue that once served as a refuge for single mothers.

When completed, the 12-bed Brendan House will offer round-the-clock nursing care for those with traumatic brain injuries or other cognitive and physical disabilities as they make their recoveries and learn to live with their conditions.

Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead teen who suffered brain damage after a gel candle explosion two years ago and has since been recovering in an upstate children’s hospital, will be one resident of the home, she said.

Speaking at a meeting last August at the group’s Medford location, Michael’s mother, Nancy Reyer, said the house would be an answer to her prayers. “It’s nothing but the grace of God that Brendan House is going to be two miles away from where I live,” Ms. Reyer said. “If this is not God in the works, I don’t know what is.”

The home will be named in honor of Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point man who suffered a brain injury in a 2009 assault. Mr. Aykroyd joined New Beginnings in 2011 for rehabilitation, but he died in his sleep last June.

The group originally planned to open the home this coming June, but Ms. Scerri said they are now shooting for an August grand opening.

While it appears the group has a ways to go to reach its funding goal, Ms. Scerri said the target price tag will likely be much lower thanks to donations of supplies from companies like Home Depot that cut down on construction and renovation costs.

New Beginnings has also gotten support from Riverhead residents. A fundraising drive was held at River-head High School, and Riverhead Rotary Club members have also worked to raise money for the cause.

“The community’s wonderful,” Ms. Scerri said. “Nancy [Reyer] is out there working hard for Michael.”

Ms. Scerri said the town government, specifically the zoning department, has also helped move the project along.

“They’re doing everything in their power to get the permit to us as fast as possible,” she said.

For more information about Bren-dan House, including how to donate, visit the New Beginnings website.


08/31/12 12:00pm
08/31/2012 12:00 PM
Brendan House, Michael Hubbard, Nancy Reyer, New Beginnings

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | When completed, Brendan House will help fill a medical care void on eastern Long Island by providing round-the-clock care for young adults.

Nancy Reyer held back tears as she spoke about how Michael Hubbard, her 16-year-old son who was seriously burned in a gel candle accident in May 2011, would benefit from a proposed group home in Riverhead for traumatic brain injury victims.

“It’s nothing but the grace of God that Brendan House is going to be two miles away from where I live,” Ms. Reyer said. “If this is not God in the works, I don’t know what is.”

CARINGBRIDGE.COM COURTESY PHOTO | Nancy Reyer and her son, Michael Hubbard, celebrated Mother’s Day this year at Blythesdale Children’s Hospital.

Renovations and fundraising efforts are almost ready to begin for Brendan House, a planned 12-bed long-term care home on Sound Avenue for people with brain injuries and other cognitive issues, organizers said at an informational meeting last Thursday night in Medford, attended by about a dozen people, including Ms. Reyer.

Organizers said they’re in the process of getting permits from Riverhead Town to begin improvements on the structure, which once served as housing for single mothers before it was donated last year to New Beginnings Community Center, a nonprofit outpatient rehab center in Medford.

New Beginnings and nonprofit group Family Residences & Essential Enterprises of Old Bethpage will run the home, named in honor of Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point man who suffered a brain injury in a 2009 assault. Mr. Aykroyd joined New Beginnings to continue his rehabilitation last year but died in his sleep that June.

The home will allow victims of traumatic brain injuries to live independently while still receiving the care they need. Few centers like Brendan House currently exist to aid people who are in need of long-term care but too young for seniors-only assisted living facilities, a February special report in the News-Review found.Family Residences & Essential Enterprises has already begun interviews with potential housemates; Michael has been guaranteed a spot in the home already, New Beginning’s founder Alysson Scerri said.

Since there are no local options for Michael to receive the support he needs, he must stay at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y., more than 80 miles away from his Riverhead home.

Plans for Brendan House, designed pro bono by architect Roger Smith of BBS Architecture, who designed the Long Island Aquarium and the Hyatt Place East End hotel, are nearly complete, said project manager and New Beginnings executive vice president Steve Scerri.

Once the permits and plans are finalized in the next month or two, fundraising and renovations for the home will begin in earnest.

“We’re still going to need volunteers. We’re going to need materials,” Mr. Scerri said.

Renovations are expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000, volunteers said. The group has already received donations from The Home Depot and has several shipping containers of supplies already on hand, but it will need funds to complete the construction work.

Supporters discussed ways to raise money for the project. Carolyn Carrera, a classmate of Michael’s, said she would try to organize students at Riverhead High School to help with construction efforts and would also sell T-shirts. Ms. Reyer suggested the group set up a booth at the upcoming Riverhead Country Fair to raise awareness and funds.

A first fundraising event has already been organized, a golf outing in Mount Sinai on Sept. 25, Ms. Scerri said.

In the meantime, Ms. Reyer will continue to do what she’s done for more than a year: fight to help her son. Michael is making progress in his recovery and now smiles and laughs, gifts Ms. Reyer said are the “greatest things” God gave her back, she said at last week’s meeting.

“We’ve come a long way,” she told those in attendance. “I just continue to say the Devil is a liar; my son will walk and talk someday.”


03/27/12 9:00am
03/27/2012 9:00 AM

Nancy Reyer, the mother of Riverhead burn victim Michael Hubbard, spoke about her son’s recovery efforts at a fundraiser Sunday.

“I’ve cried all the tears that I can cry,” she said. “I’ve shed a lot of them, and now it’s just joy in knowing that my son is alive.”

Watch a video of Ms. Reyer’s speech below and read the complete story from the fundraiser here.

Meanwhile, there is a “Crazy Sports Night” fundraiser event this week for Michael and another Riverhead School District student, 9-year-old Christopher Timpone, who just underwent his last chemotherapy treatment for a rare cancer.

The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the high school. The cost is $5.00 for kids 12 and older and $3.00 for 2 to 11-year-olds.

“The PTO Executive Council is sponsoring this night of crazy sports that will pit the teachers, staff and administrators from each building against each other,” said school district spokeswoman Sandra Kolbo. Tickets are available at each building. See the flyer.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Curtis Johnson, Nancy Reyer, Fran Reyer-Johnson and Shelby Block at Sunday's fundraiser for Michael Hubbard.

03/26/12 7:39am
03/26/2012 7:39 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Curtis Johnson, Nancy Reyer, Fran Reyer-Johnson and Shelby Block at Sunday's fundraiser for Michael Hubbard.

“I’ve cried all the tears that I can cry. I’ve shed a lot of them, and now it’s just joy in knowing that my son is alive.”

Those were Nancy Reyer’s words Sunday at a sold-out fundraiser for her and her son, Michael Hubbard, who remains in Blydedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, NY after being badly burned in a gel candle explosion in his backyard last May 28.

Michael suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, and then went into cardiac arrest a week later and suffered traumatic brain injury, as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Michael was originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, but in September was moved to Blythedale in Westchester County.

Ms. Reyer spends most of her time with him. She said she only comes home to Riverhead a couple of days per month.

He hasn’t been able to speak since then, although he says individual words, and Ms. Reyer said she’s encouraged by the fact that he laughs when she plays a “fart app” on her cell phone for him. Progress is slow but positive, she said.

“To watch my sister go through this pain has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do myself,” said Fran Reyer-Johnson, Nancy’s sister.

“She stays by his side and lives out of her car and sleeps in the hospital room with Michael for the past 10 months while all of us live in our homes,” she continued. “She’s a single mom who gave up her job, her home and her life just to be with her son. Never to leave his side.”

Sunday’s fundraiser at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue was a sellout, with 200 tickets sold, according to Ms. Reyer-Johnson. She said she got calls from about 240 people who wanted to go, but they could only hold 200.

“We were two single moms raising our boys together for the past 14 years,” a teary Ms. Reyer-Johnson told the crowd Sunday. “Just the two of us. And sometimes it’s hard for me to celebrate my son’s joys and accomplishments, and I know that Michael has missed so much.”

The accident happened the day after Ms. Reyer-Johnson got married.

Ms. Reyer said she’s thankful for all the support the Riverhead community has given her family. And she’s also become a crusader to get the citronella candle that exploded and injured her son pulled off the market.

“My journey has not stopped because this candle is still out there, there are a lot of people who don’t know about it,” she said Sunday, addressing people at the fundraiser. She said even Michael’s nurses discovered, after seeing her on television talking about the candles, that they had some of them in their own homes.

“There are 80 victims, my son isn’t the only one, so keep all of them in your prayers,” Ms. Reyer said.

The 200 people at Sunday’s fundraiser paid $40 for a ticket and were treated to music from That 70′s Band, as well a buffet, and a Chinese auction and raffle with gifts donated by local businesses.

A fund has been set up to help Ms. Reyer and her son. The address is Michael Hubbard Fund, 81 Rabbit Run, Riveread, NY 11901.

And people can follow Michael’s progress at a caringbridge.org.

Ms. Reyer-Johnson said she envisions Michael someday returning home recovered, and the town holding a parade for him.

And Ms. Reyer said she’s not giving up.

“He’s the greatest gift I got from God and I’m not turning him back,” she said.


10/30/11 9:00am
10/30/2011 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Dominique Aviles of Mattituck (far left) sings one of 'Just B Cuz' original songs 'Keep your hands in the Master's hand' with other vocalists (from left) Darlene Hubbard, Kevin Ford and Grace Hubbard during Saturday's fundraiser.

The Jamesport Meeting House was rocking Saturday night, as the North Fork gospel group “Just B’ Cuz” played a concert there to raise money for Michael Hubbard and his mother, Nancy Reyer.
Michael is the 15-year-old Riverhead High School student who was badly burned in May when a gel candle exploded in his backyard.
Michael had been in Stony Brook University Hospital, with his mom by his side, until late last month, when he transfered to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. in Westchester County.
Just B’ Cuz, a nine-member family group, has good reason to want to help Michael. It’s drummer, Michael Hubbard Sr, is his father.
“He’s moving his legs and arms on his own, but he’s still not quite coherent,” Michael Sr. said of his son. Michael “looks around when people speak to him, but he doesn’t seem to know you’re there yet,” he said. “Hopefully, through the grace of God, he’ll come through this.”
The group’s leader, Kevin Ford, who’s also the South Jamesport Postmaster, said the Jamesport Meeting House Preservation Trust allowed them to use the building at no charge.
“100 percent of the proceeds will be going to Michael and his mom,” he said.
“We offered the space at no charge because the board at the Meeting House Preservation Trust supports the cause and we want to make it possible for them to raise as much as they possibly can,” said Richard Wines, the president of the trust, which owns the Meeting House.
The nine members of Just B’ Cuz have been playing gospel together since 2005, are all related, and all come from the North Fork, according to Alethia Ford, the group’s keyboard player, who’s also a Riverhead High School math teacher.