Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00
The gift of giving has become the norm lately, especially in Elmont and Mineola. And for 11-year-old Elmont resident J.P Iacona, it’s just practical.
“I was always taught to give if the cause was right,” he said. “And I think this is.”
Iacona recently donated $174 just before Christmas to America’s VetDogs because he saw Mineola residents Bill Urianek and Sal Caltaldo on TV, who spearheaded a fundraiser for Iraq veteran Christopher Levi. Iacona was back with another donation at the most recent Mineola board of trustees meeting.
The 11-year old donated checks for $626 to VetDogs Corporate Alliance Manager Christine McDonald.
Iacona wasn’t alone. Urianek stood outside local supermarkets recently and collected over $650.
Iacona said he feels that giving to the people who keep us safe is just “the right thing to do.”
“It really is,” Iacona stated. “I find it worthwhile to help out a good idea that is America’s VetDogs.”
Christine McDonald couldn’t have agreed more. McDonald, a native of Elmont, received a call from Urianek about Iacona and welcomed the donation.
“Our service dogs act as the arms and legs for our veterans,” McDonald said. “The dogs are trained to do everyday tasks from providing balance as veterans learn to use new prosthetics, to turning on lights.”
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 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 to combat stress relief and for military therapy.
“I was here in December to receive an award from Mr. Urianek and Mr. Cataldo and wanted to thank the new mayor for having me here,” Iacona said. “I felt the need to give back to veterans because many of my scrap metal supporters are members from American Legion Post 1033 in Elmont.”
On Christmas Eve, Iacona showed his family the video of the December meeting in which he first attended to present his first donation. He said they thought the VetDogs organization was a great group.
“On Christmas Day I decided that I wanted to continue raising money for America’s VetDogs,” Iacona stated. “I’ve set a goal to raise $1,000 by my birthday.”
J.P.’s birthday is May 13.
Iacona hasn’t only been collecting scrap metal for a good cause. He started a recycling program at Covert Avenue School in Elmont. Urianek and Cataldo will be able to pick up bottles and cans from the school in the future.
Urianek said he can’t get over how much Iacona has done for the cause. “It’s truly remarkable,” he said. “He’s a credit to society.”
McDonald agreed. “He’s a great kid for getting out there and trying to make a difference. I was born and raised in Elmont so this touches close to home for me. It’s not just about the dogs; it’s about the veterans, the people, the active soldiers and the soldiers returning. It’s about all the veterans that are forgotten, that we make a point not to forget.”