Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 24 December 2010 00:00
“A long time coming,” Bill Urianek said at last week’s board meeting; a long time indeed.
Urianek, with the help of other residents (both in and outside Mineola), has been on a quest; a quest to bestow gratitude upon veteran Christopher Levi. With the help of Urianek, countless Mineola residents, an Elmont resident and the Mineola Fire Department, checks were donated to Levi of Holbrook, who was injured overseas in an effort for him to purchase a special “Vet-Dog,” a trained dog for injured veterans.
For the last 64 years, America’s VetDogs have provided guide dogs, service dogs and new technologies for disabled veterans. Men and women who have lost their eyesight or limbs, suffered traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder are given companions to help them lead a more active life.
These K9s are used in a number of ways to assist in providing veterans with active and happy lives once returning home. The dogs can be used as guides to help combat stress and for military therapy.
A Hummer Levi was traveling in was hit with a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2008. Urianek and other residents to date have raised $11,250.
“I’m very grateful for it,” Levi said. “It’s always hard to accept such generosity from so many people because just like so many people out there, there’s so many stories of selflessness and self-sacrifice and going out of their way to help someone, it comes so natural to help someone; to be selfless. To accept this type of generosity from these people is very humbling and endearing and special to me.”
Residents began collecting bottles and cans to raise funds in 2008, starting with Urianek. According to Urianek, over 70,000 bottles and cans were collected.
“It felt great helping out someone like Christopher,” he said.
But the help and collecting did not stop there. Because of the wonders of technology, a young Elmont resident saw Urianek on television one night, requesting that anyone with aluminum pots and pans to recycle for funds to please call him.
“I wish there were more like you,” American Legion Commander Sal Cataldo said.
Eleven-year-old J.P. Iacona heard his request. Iacona met Urianek with his father at a recycling center in New Hyde Park and donated $174 to America’s VetDogs. Iacona donated another check last Wednesday night as well, courtesy of the Ladies Auxiliary Post 1033 in Elmont to VetDogs.
“I thank Mr. Urianek and Sal Cataldo for their efforts in this cause,” Iacona said. “I’d also like to thank Mayor Martins for having me here tonight.”
Martins said he was approached one night in North Valley Stream by a family, stating that they watched him on television and asked ‘How’s Bill Urianek and Sal Cataldo doing?’ prompting a laugh from the crowd and the board of trustees.