10/25/13 5:04pm
10/25/2013 5:04 PM
Courtesy Canopies for Kids Website

Courtesy Canopies for Kids Website

On Saturday, a group of expert skydivers will give children at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital “The Bravest Teddy Bears in the World” – in the hope that the special bears will help give young patients the courage they need in to fight on.

Divers from Skydive Long Island in Calverton will take about 25 bears on a and free fall of about 13,500 feet soaring over Eastern Long Island.

It is part of a national project called “Canopies for Kids,” ran buy a nonprofit that rallies skydiving enthusiasts to takes teddies from the sky and gets them into the arms of sick children nationwide.

The dive will take place Saturday, at noon, and the bears will be delivered to children with a personalized message from the skydiver, according to Stony Brook.

For more information about the event contact Skydive Long Island at 631-208-3900.

09/16/13 8:00am
09/16/2013 8:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Skydive Long Island and All-Star bowling sponsored Sunday's human bowling ball event to benefit Brendan House.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Skydive Long Island and All-Star bowling sponsored Sunday’s human bowling ball event to benefit Brendan House.

Sound Beach resident Pawel Bistram really is Superman.

Wearing a shirt featuring the superhero’s iconic logo, he soared through the air Sunday afternoon in Calverton after jumping out of an airplane. He then turned himself into a “human bowling ball” and struck a bunch of novelty-sized inflatable pins, knocking them all down with his body.

He was the only person to have a strike at the area’s first-ever human bowling ball event. The fundraiser was sponsored by Skydive Long Island and All-Star bowling in Riverhead and benefits Brendan House, a group care facility planned for Riverhead.

“It was awesome,” Mr. Bistram said shortly after jumping. “I must have had perfect timing and the wind was just right.”

Fellow skydiver Domenick Gilio of Setauket also had a successful jump, leaving only two standing.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I tried to hit as many pins as possible with my body by spreading my legs as wide as I could.”

Nancy Reyer, whose 17-year-old son, Michael Hubbard, plans to move into Brendan House when it opens, attended the event and said she’s grateful for all the support from participants. The facility is estimated to open within the next four months.

“The community has been behind us 100 percent,” she said as her eyes teared up. “Everyone has been really good to us.”

Ms. Reyer said she plans to skydive for the first time on Michael’s 18th birthday Aug. 16 to raise additional funds for Brendan House.

Her son suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body after being burned by a gel candle that exploded in his backyard May 28, 2011. He went into cardiac arrest a week later, causing traumatic brain injury, as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Michael was originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, but was moved to Blythedale that September.

Blythedale, a short-term care facility, could no longer keep Michael for the extended care he needs, his mother has said. It left her looking for other facilities.

In June, he moved to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead with much fanfare, an arrangement Ms. Reyer said she’s very pleased with.

“His physical therapy at PBMC is nothing but the best,” she said. “Michael was born there and was raised in Riverhead … Every day is a new day and he’s making progress.”

As for the unique fundraising idea, Ms. Reyer said one of her grade-school friends works at Skydive Long Island and had talked to the owners about holding a benefit there for Brendan House.

The timing was good because over the past six months Skydive and All-Star have been coming up with cross-promotional ideas and developing community fundraisers. Recently, the small business owners created a cocktail called LIV free or DIVE. It’s made with locally produced Long Island Spirits’ LIV vodka from Baiting Hollow.

All-Star co-owner Peter Sgroi said he’s happy to be a part of the area’s first human bowling ball event and described it as a fun way to help the community.

“It couldn’t be more perfect,” Mr. Sgroi said of Sunday’s fundraiser. “The turnout is great and the weather couldn’t be better.”

New Beginnings, a Medford nonprofit group that offers support for people with traumatic brain injuries and owns Brendan House, is holding a country fair Sept. 29 at Brendan House to raise funds for the facility. The event will include pig and duck races, music from the Boot Scoot Boogie Band, games, prizes and refreshments.

For more information, visit New Beginnings’ website nbli.org.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/10/13 8:00am
06/10/2013 8:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A skydiver lands in Calverton Sunday afternoon, where more than 40 people jumped out of planes to raise money for veterans mental health.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A skydiver lands in Calverton Sunday afternoon, where more than 40 people jumped out of planes to raise money for veterans mental health.

When decorated Korean War paratrooper John “Red” Pelan turned 77 in 2008, he had an unusual request for his family and friends. He wanted to jump out of a plane again.

Years after his successful birthday jump, more than 40 people carried on that tradition at Skydive Long Island in Calverton Sunday afternoon, leaping out of planes as part of “Reckless with Red,” an annual skydiving event that raises funds for mental health services for returning veterans.

The fundraiser, now in its sixth year, was named in honor of Mr. Pelan, who served with the 187th Infantry Regiment. Mr. Pelan, like many returning veterans, suffered the effects of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, event organizers said. The annual jump was founded to raise funds for the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island, which works to help veterans with mental health and substance abuse issues.

More than 100 people joined the event this year, said organizer and frequent skydiver Rich Muscolino, including 42 tandem skydivers who raised money by having friends and family sponsor their jumps.

The event has raised more than $75,000 for the organization since it began; The event raised about $15,000 last year alone, and each year it gets bigger, Mr. Muscolino said.

“This year we might be in the running to beat that,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/06/13 5:00pm
06/06/2013 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel.

Afraid of heights but love a thrill, nonetheless?

Well, Skydive Long Island has a new plan in the works that involves skydiving without jumping out of a plane.

The company, based sine 2000 at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, plans to build a vertical wind tunnel on David Court property.

“There’s a thing called indoor skydiving,” said Ray Maynard, SkyDive Long Island’s owner. “You basically have fans blowing the air up at about 156 mph.”

People in the wind tunnel stand in a cylinder that’s about 14 feet high and 16 feet wide and are lifted off the ground and suspended in air by the giants fans, he explained.

“You feel what a free fall feels like without having to worry if your parachute is going to open up,” Mr. Maynard said.

Indoor skydiving is not weather-dependent, it’s a little safer than regular skydiving and children as young as 3 can do it, Mr. Maynard said, although he doesn’t plan to allow kids that young to participate.

He outlined his plan Monday to the Riverhead industrial Development Agency, as he expects to seek IDA tax incentives for the proposed facility.

The vertical wind tunnel would measure 100 by 100 feet and would rise four stories high, Mr. Maynard said and will cost about $4.5 million to $5 million. He plans to build it on the same EPCAL property where Skydive currently operates.

“People who skydive with me presently are driving to New Hampshire or North Carolina to do this, and are spending thousands of dollars a week to do so,” Mr. Maynard told the IDA. “We would be the first such facility in the New York area.”

The wind tunnel will probably double the amount of visitors SkyDive gets, Mr. Maynard said, in part because it can operate year-round, whereas sky diving takes place only between April and November.

He told the IDA board that between 20 and 40 employees would be required to operate and maintain the wind tunnel.

IDA members seemed receptive to the plan, although executive director Tracy Stark-James said the project would also need variances for height and setback distances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and a variance from the Conservation Advisory Committee for being within 150 feet of a wetland.

IDA members said they expect to hold a public hearing on the request for tax abatements sometime in September. The IDA can give tax abatements for mortgage recording tax, sales tax on building supplies and on the assessed value increase of the improvements to the property.

Mr. Maynard said it would probably take about nine months to build the wind tunnel.

“Do you think you might have a zip line too?” IDA member Paul Thompson asked, jokingly referring to a recent proposal to put a zip line along the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/06/12 10:41pm
12/06/2012 10:41 PM

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce honored its 2012 “People of the Year” during its annual holiday party Thursday night. The event was held at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

Here’s what the chamber has to say about this year’s honorees:

Person of the Year

Ray Maynard, Skydive Long Island

“It’s not unusual for Ray to take a leap of faith,” said presenter Tracy Stark James of the Riverhead IDA, the chamber’s treasurer. “So he jumped into Riverhead … and off he flew.”

Business of the Year

Riverhead Raceway, Barbara and Jim Cromarty

“Their business helps drive business to the Town of Riverhead,” said presenter Robert Bugdin of American Tent Company, a chamber board member.

The Cromartys could not attend the dinner since they were traveling to a Nascar event. They did appear via Skype and announced the iconic Indian statue, damaged during Superstorm Sandy, “will be up by Christmas.”

Gold Key Award

Star Confectionery, The Meras Family

“They are a true reflection of the town,” said presenter Tom Lennon of Pine Barrens Printing, chamber director at large.

Brian Stark, who delivered a bit of a roast to the Meras’ said: “The nice thing about Papa Nicks is that you always feel like you’re at home.”

“My parents taught me … you take an interest in your customer,” said Anthony Meras, who then rattled off the regular breakfast, lunch and ice cream orders of a few of the guests at the event.

Agricultural Achievement Award

Long Island Cauliflower Association

“The officers, directors and management of the Long Island Cauliflower Association, some of whom are descendants of its founders, are still committed to the success of the Long Island Cauliflower association and to serving the growers of Long Island,” the Chamber wrote in its program. Chamber executive director Mary Hughes presented the award.

Director of the Year

Carmela DiTalia 

“While always the consummate professional, she always has a fun personality,” said presenter Robert Kern of 2XS Consulting, a chamber board member. Ms. DiTalia is an attorney with Esseks, Hefter & Angel LLP of Riverhead and the secretary of the chamber.

Spirit of Riverhead Award

2012 RHS Girls Basketball Team

“In 2012, we were dazzled by a group of smart and unstoppable girls,” said presenter Janine Nebons of Tanger Outlet Center, the chamber’s president. Accepting for the Blue Waves was coach Dave Spinella, and players Marta Czaplak, Jocelyn Zaneski and Katie McKillop.

Lifetime Service Award

Jesse Goodale, Sr.

“He has lived a life of honesty, integrity and community and it shows,” said presenter Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, a chamber board member. “Riverhead Building Supply is a reflection of its founder.”

11/12/12 3:28pm
11/12/2012 3:28 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard in a 2007 News-Review photo.

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of its annual awards for 2012, according to a statement from the chamber.

The chamber chose Skydive Long Island founder Ray Maynard as their Person of the Year. Mr. Maynard, a former U.S. National Parachute Team member and silver-medalist in the 2001 U.S. Nationals, established the Calverton business in 1986. He was named the Times Review’s Business Person of the Year in 2007.

The Spirit of Riverhead award will go to the 2012 Riverhead High School Girls Basketball Team, which won the county title last school year.

Riverhead Raceway will be awarded Business of the Year by the chamber, which will also give the Gold Key Award to the Meras Family who run the Star Confectionary on East Main Street.

The agriculture award will be given to the Long Island Cauliflower Association, according to the chamber. Carmen DiTalia will win the Director of the Year award, while the lifetime achievement award will go to Jesse Goodale Sr.

The awards will be presented at the chamber’s annual awards dinner at The Vineyards on Main Road in Aquebogue on Dec. 6. The event will last from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will cost $65 per person or $115 per couple.

07/26/12 3:15pm
07/26/2012 3:15 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Amber Gandolfo (center) is brought down safely by Manorville firefighters after she and her skydiving instructor (right) became trapped in a tree.

While Amber Gandolfo and her tandem skydiving instructor floated back down to Earth hundreds of feet above the ground Tuesday afternoon, the pair started making small talk. Ms. Gandolfo, a first-time skydiver, told her instructor she would definitely jump again.

Then, she said, the wind picked up.

“We were talking and having conversation up there, and all of a sudden he got quiet and I realized we weren’t where we were supposed to be,” Ms. Gandolfo said. “He did his best to get us over grassy areas … [but] every time we got to a good area, the wind pushed us somewhere else.”

The pair were rescued from a tree in Calverton Tuesday evening after they were blown off course by sudden gusting winds and became entangled in the tree’s branches dozens of feet off the ground.

Ms. Gandolfo, a 25-year-old Massapequa Park native, said she decided to go skydiving with Skydive Long Island to join her boyfriend, who jumps “a few times in the summer.”

[Another jumper recounts his story of being blown off course]

She was nervous in the plane during the trip up, but said the freefall was “exhilarating.”

“You feel like you’re being pushed upwards, like you’re fighting the air,” she said.

Then, after the two deployed their parachutes, the wind blew them into the tree.

“We hit the tree going 20-30 miles an hour and I’m lucky enough to not have any broken bones,” she said. “I am lucky.”

Ms. Gandolfo only suffered minor scratches from the collision.

Four other tandem teams were also blown off course by the sudden storm, said Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard. Mr. Maynard said he noticed the wind suddenly pick up, but was too late to stop the teams from jumping.

Manorville firefighters arrived on the scene about 6:30 p.m. and worked to cut away branches to free the pair.

“The scariest part was after the impact with the tree, and you don’t know if you’re going to fall,” Ms. Gandolfo said. “The tree wasn’t very sturdy, we were definitely blowing in the wind.” She said the pair tried to keep things lighthearted, and were joking around to keep calm.

The two were smiling as they were lowered back to safety, but when Ms. Gandolfo made it back to the ground, she became emotional and cried.

“It was a wave of relief,” she said. “It wasn’t an ideal landing, but I made it back to the ground in one piece,”

Her mother, Susan, said she heard about what happened when Amber called her from a cell phone.

“She’s all right and that’s what’s important,” Susan Gandolfo said.

Amber thanked the Skydive Long Island team, who she said did a great job of teaching her the steps before the jump and preventing the crash landing from being worse.

It may be a while down the road, but she even thinks she may skydive again.

“I think people expect me to say no, but I’m not opposed to it,” she said. “I might. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. I’m not to shaken up by the experience.”

psquire@timesreview.com