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Local Long Islanders Hit the Beach for Local Disaster Relief

It was a beautiful, cool Saturday, Aug. 8, as people headed out to Centre Island Beach where hundreds of Long Islanders flocked to attend the 20th Annual Swim-A-Cross and Beach Bash BBQ. The event so far has raised $15,000 for the American Red Cross in Nassau County.

Jeff Maimone of Bayville said, “The water was clean and the day was beautiful for a swim. And it’s a great cause and a way to help them continue their work in Nassau. I hope more people come out next year to support the Red Cross. And why not pay the extra registration fee for a loved one and get inspiration from them as you swim. And it helps the Red Cross also.” He swam again with two ID bracelets, one for himself and one for his mother, the late Renata Maimone, with whom he regularly swam in the event.


Another local swimmer was Nathaniel Szymkowicz of Bayville, an 11th-grade student at Locust Valley High School. He’s been practicing with a friend at the beach. He is a mixed-martial arts athlete and may take up fencing this winter, he said. He hasn’t started looking into colleges but is thinking about SUNY Purchase to study both history and acting. He recently swam for a cancer benefit held at Morgan Park in Glen Cove in memory of a family friend who died of cancer. “That swim was for her,” he said.

Bob Bertlotti of Oyster Bay was one of the swimmers. He is a mechanical designer and works at V-Twin Cycles on Hamilton Avenue. He is restoring his own Jewel by the Bay home. “The swim is practice for the Oyster Bay Triathlon,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this before, I’ve been practicing and hope to finish on Sunday, Aug. 30.”

The Keller family of Oyster Bay was there in great numbers again. Susan Keller Goldstein with her daughter Marleane, 8, and her husband Jay were all swimming that day, as well as Laurence Keller and William Keller. Three generations of the family were taking part in the swim. Her father Tom stopped swimming. He made news swimming shortly after recovering from a stroke. Robert Keller of Oyster Bay Cove was also there, taking pride in his family’s great spirit.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Frank Cassano, CEO of the Nassau Red Cross, “and with the economy being the way it is, we are very pleased with the turnout.”

This year, the Red Cross continued to fine-tune the event. Instead of a major one-mile swim for people, there were three swims to choose from. Just over 150 swimmers, ranging in age from 8-80, swam distances from 50 yards up to an entire mile. Meanwhile, hundreds of beach-goers enjoyed a barbecue on the shore. Red Cross volunteers sold wrist bands for $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under for food. There was a free Red Cross “wheel of fortune” for items for a dollar a twirl, which guaranteed a prize for everyone including a Red Cross emergency kit, a doll or a wrist bracelet among others.

Raising money was the purpose of the event and one family was doing its best, said Red Cross Executive Director Sam Kille who introduced the Viccellios of St. James. Kelynn Alder [Viccellio], and their children Lucas and Maya swam in the event. The two children raised over $1,000 for the Red Cross at $505 each, said Kelynn, a portrait artist [who uses her maiden name]. She inspired her children to take part in the swim. She swam 13 miles across Long Island Sound, in 2005, to raise money for pet rescue after Hurricane Katrina.

“My son Lucas trained with me so I knew he could swim the mile for the Swim-A-Cross and he did two years ago, although he was only 11. You have to be 12, but this year both children are legal. Maya turned 12 this year.

“They practiced for the swim in the pool. They are both great swimmers,” said Kelynn.

Sam Kille, director of public relations for the Red Cross of Nassau County, said, “Almost every day disasters take place including house fires, flooding, the collapse of apartment buildings, and roof tops and your Red Cross volunteers respond to all of them with food, clothing and shelter. Maybe they are not as big a tragedy as a hurricane or a tornado, but think about it – if it happens to you it is big.”

He said the swimmers were helping fellow Long Islanders and added that the Red Cross was accepting donations from the pledges until Aug. 30. “At that time we will crown the top fundraiser for Long Island.”

Mr. Kille thanked the sponsors, and announced CEO Frank Cassano who told the listeners, “I’m in the swim with you. Lets jump into Oyster Bay Harbor and raise money for the Red Cross.”

But before that, he and Sam Kille presented certificates to honor the women who started the Swim-A-Cross, Joan Imhoff and Judge Ute Lally.

Judge Lally said, “Peter Von Berg and his wife Janet should be on the list of founders. And Nancy Kraft, my secretary. We were the first swimmers. Bud Winslow was in the security boat. To get swimmers, I had to appeal to my secretary saying ‘If you don’t swim, you don’t work for me.’ I’m delighted to see how it evolved.”

Joan Imhoff thanked Red Cross and all the swimmers and supporters of the event. She said to the swimmers, “Good luck and God bless.” Ms. Imhof added, “I’m very excited to see the Swim-A-Cross and how it’s grown. It’s been 20 years, and there were only five or six swimmers the first year. Then there were 20 and the next year more kept coming. I remember Peter Von Berg, who was the CEO of the Nassau County Red Cross, and his wife Janet who was with the Suffolk Red Cross chapter. They were all very special people.”

Nassau County Legislator Diane Yatauro said, “What’s the bigger thrill, the weather or Frank Cassano swimming with you? Have a great swim and thanks from the Red Cross.”

Mr. Kille explained the new swim routes to the participants, telling the groups to watch for their color buoy, red, blue or orange, including a yellow one marking a one-eighth mile swim. There was room for every level of swimmer.

Coming out of the water after his swim, Frank Cassano had a very real comment, “I forgot how rocky this beach is.”

Coming up to greet Ms. Imhof was Ed Rosenthal, 79, a resident of Smithtown. He said he was a Red Cross instructor for 27 years. He said there was a swimmer who was 82, taking part in the event this year.

The Nassau Red Cross has responded to 239 local emergencies—mainly house fires—over the past two years, at which, nearly $250,000 in food, clothing and shelter were provided to nearly 1,200 Long Islanders. According to Cassano, all funds donated to the Nassau Red Cross for local relief stay in Nassau County.

Entertainment was provided by a number of sponsors, including the New York Islanders who attended with their ICE Tour, complete with interactive games and inflatables for all ages. Islander Joel Rechlicz was on hand to sign autographs and greet fans, along with mascot Sparky and the Ice Girls.

Live music was provided by Terminal Ileum, a Long Island-based band who played hits from the 1960s through today. Radio stations WBAB and WBLI were also on hand with giveaways and to play music in-between the band’s sets.

Burgers and hot dogs were provided by Big Daddy’s of Massapequa; beverages by Coca-Cola of Hauppauge; and Wise Snacks by New Hyde Park-based Yorkshire Foods.

AW Mobile, a T-Mobile Limited dealer with locations throughout Long Island, also afforded beach-goers with opportunities to win free prizes. Modell’s Sporting Goods provided discount coupons that, when used, will help generate more donations for the Red Cross.

Despite the success of the event, the Nassau Red Cross, like many nonprofit agencies, has seen a drop in needed donations. Every year, the local chapter responds to hundreds of local disasters—mainly house fires. On average, more than 500 Nassau residents seek food, clothing and shelter from the Nassau Red Cross during these incidents.

To learn how you can help, visit the American Red Cross in Nassau County online at or call 747-3500.