Full Throttle Magazine’s 7th Annual Winter Wonderland Party/Toy Drive/Toy Run
Benefits The Child Life Program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital & Ski’s Kids
Story by Lee Sheridan
Photos by Sonny McKuskie, Cowboy, Ron Monteleone, Bob Stegmaier
This is immediately became my favorite event of the year. It takes G-Man and myself eight months of brainstorming and planning with our toy run committee, who I like to refer to as Operation Elves, to orchestrate this 2 day event. Each and every detail of this event from decorating and placing the donation boxes at over 25 toy drop locations, to delivering the thousands of toys that we collect and place under the massive Christmas tree in the lobby at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is gone over with a fine tooth comb leaving no room for error.
Dec 14th turned out about 150 supporters whose arms were filled with toys and monetary donations. As they entered into our Winter Wonderland event, they were welcomed by the magical decorations that give this event such a warm and festive ambiance. The Lovely JoJo, who does all the decorating for this event, put a new twist on our 9 foot tree by giving it a beautiful candy theme. The Chinese Auction tables were astonishing with over 90 baskets and items each worth hundreds of dollars. Our ‘special auction’ table featured a 60’ flat Screen TV, bicycle, American Girl Doll, NASCAR tickets, autographed sports memorabilia, Calvin Klein pocketbooks and more. If not for the efforts of Barbara Barker (Jingles), Dana Berkman and our newest volunteer, Jenn, our Chinese auction would have never displayed half the amount of items that it did. I’m proud to say that almost every item and basket on those tables were put together and decorated my me and the girls. We always make every effort to feed our guests well, this year we had over 24 feet of dining tables filled with catered food from local restaurants, served by some of Santa’s helpers. And if that wasn’t enough, in true FTM style, we put a spread out of holiday desserts including a filled sheet cake, homemade cupcakes, cookies, nuts and fine chocolates.
As for entertainment, well, what can I say…the place was rocking! Our dear friend, Mark “The Animal” Mendoza from Twisted Sister jumped up on stage to jam with the G-String Band, who returned this year and invited our special guest, Ric Mango, from Jay and the American’s to join them for a few songs. It was prevalent that all really enjoyed the entertainment as they sang along, danced and ohhed and ahhed whenever they heard a favorite song played. As always, DJ Joey kept us all in the groove by filling in between the sets with rockin’ Christmas tunes to help set the tone of the party.
Joining us on this very special evening was Elisa Ruoff, Development Coordinator for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Elisa addressed our guests telling them about all the wonderful services the hospital provides to their young patients and their families, as well as to those who have very special needs. Joan Alpers, Director of Child Life Services, and Christina Rosa-Ragona, Development Officer for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital were not able to attend; however, they also work very closely with us to orchestrate the toy run. They share in our passion and enthusiasm when it comes to this event and are always a delight to work with.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were kept busy by the good lil’ biker boys and girls who sat on their laps and posed for photos. Bobby and Lucky Colon have played our toy party Santa and Mrs. Claus since the inception of this event. They are so perfect for this role, exuberating a jolly persona, warm hearts and friendly hugs to all.
The Toy Run
Unfortunately, we were not as blessed with weather for this year’s toy run. The weather threatened rain and so many of our supporters did not come out to ride with us. But that didn’t dampen our spirits, we loaded up the Fire Trucks with thousands of toys and made our special deliver. Each year we receive an overwhelming amount of support from many of the local Fire Departments and the Fire Police. With that being said, one of the F.D.’s becomes our rides host and allows us to conduct our monthly meetings and helps to orchestrate the run at their station, as well as lead the ride and shut down the roads that we travel to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. This year Smithtown F.D. was our host and may I say that they were a pleasure to work with.
Our toy run Santa, firefighter, Vinny Ammirati, boarded the holiday sled along with Miss Full Throttle, Dolores Dominguez; Wonder Woman, Melisa Vlasaty and Superman, Sean Csaszar. Santa’s sled travels up in front of the procession, so that the first thing the children of Stony Brook Hospital see and hear is Old St. Nick, followed by the sirens and lights from the fire trucks, Fingers (the rides Grand Marshal) and the roar of the motorcycles. Once we arrive at the site, we all head over to the Full Throttle van and fire trucks to bring in the thousands of toys that were so generously donated by so many riders and individuals from our neighboring communities. There was literally hundreds of leaf bags and huge boxes filled with toys and stuffed animals.
The toy party and run touch so many of us in a way that cannot be put into words. To capture the true meaning of the holiday spirit, you must join us next year. As we all gather around the hospital Christmas tree, Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, MD. Chief Executive Officer and VP for Health Systems of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital addresses all with such heartfelt words of appreciation and thanks. As we presented the good doctor with our donation of over $13,000 for the Child Life Program, it was stated that we had met our pledge of $25,000 that we made last year.
It was agreed that we would sign a new pledge of $75,000, which we have 5 years to raise, but I have no doubts that we will reach that number way before the 5 year mark. Without the support and assistance of so many our pledge would not be reachable. The gratitude that Greg and I feel towards so many who helped to make this event possible, as well as successful, is overwhelming. There are so many to thank, and while I did mention some of you in the story, others will see their photo here. I would like to add a few lines to thank our Chinese/Special auction donors for all the wonderful merchandise, and Legislature, Tom Muratore for his support. Much gratitude is extended to our presenting sponsor – 1-800-HURT-911, and our sponsors – Red River In, Cavalier & Associates, Motorcycle Mike Esq., Indian Motorcycle Riders Group, Big Dog Automotive, Astoria Bank, Pet Smart, Berkman Law Firm, Helicopter Mike, Specialized Insurance and Keller’s Motorsports. Warm thanks goes out to The FTM staff and our photographers, The Elks Club, our food sponsors- Millers Ale House, Eddie’s Pizzeria, Lake Grove Deli and Glenn Wayne Bakery. As a rule I never list sponsors for an event of this magnitude for fear I will leave someone out. I do believe that I have thanked everyone, and if I didn’t, please know that we sincerely appreciate you and your support.