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Volunteers Receive Honors For Community Work

Three Massapequa youngsters collected accolades for their charitable efforts this month as they were chosen along with eight other children from Long Island as the winners of the 2013 Kids of Distinction program.

Recognized by Kids Helping Kids by Kids Way Inc. and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, the winners included Allison Latini and Damien John O’Donnell, both seniors at Massapequa High School, and Julie Teller, a freshman at Manhattan College.

“We have so many exceptional young people living in the town that I’m certain it wasn’t easy selecting just a handful of recipients,” Venditto said. “I thank the committee for their hard work and dedication in designating these 10 extraordinary individuals.”

Kids Helping Kids founders Robert and Philip Eslick were part of a committee that selected winners from a pool of applicants. The winners were presented with a plaque and a $500 scholarship check from the organization.

“This program is very much geared towards recognizing activities done on a youngster’s own initiative,” Robert said. “We are recognizing kids who participate in activities for the benefit of their community and neighborhood, outside of school-related activities.”

Allison Latini was recognized for her endless volunteering since elementary school. She recently served as a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, whose mission is to provide assistance dogs to people with disabilities other than blindness.

The high school senior has been an active Girl Scout since kindergarten and is also a gifted artist who volunteered to help paint the mural at Westfield Sunrise Mall for the Long Island 2 Day Walk to Fight Breast Cancer.  She also painted portions of the Massapequa High School mural and contributed illustrations for a Winthrop Children’s Hospital book.

Damien John O’Donnell was recognized for his time with the Civil Air Patrol, Nassau County Junior Police Explorers, Massapequa Fire Department Junior Explorers, and Bellmore Merrick EMS.  He also serves as the first president of the Massapequa Leos Club (a junior auxiliary of the Lions Club) and recently became the 73rd Eagle Scout in Massapequa’s Troop 90.

As a member of Troop 90, Damien has diligently worked towards giving back to his community, including participating in annual events such as the Dune Planting at TOBAY Beach, Brady Park Earth Day Clean-Up, the Habitat for Humanity Walk-a-thon, and the LI Coalition for the Homeless “Have a Heart for the Homeless” candlelight vigil. Through his role with the Leos, Damien was deeply involved in restoration efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

Julie Teller, who graduated from Farmingdale High School before enrolling in Manhattan College, helped to organize a neighborhood service group called Viceroy Teens Care Too. The group has coordinated charity donation drives for many local organizations, including a Thanksgiving food drive for Island Harvest, a coat drive for One Warm Coat, a holiday toy and food drive for the Eve Eskin Brown Foundation, as well as volunteering at Ronald McDonald House.

In addition to these organizations Teller has been directly involved with neighborhood events, such as helping to coordinate the Halloween Parade and Spring Festival, and coordinating entranceway cleanups and newsletter delivery.

“There are many young individuals who have contributed to the great quality of life we enjoy here in the Town of Oyster Bay. We felt it was important to recognize our young residents who involve themselves … on their own individual initiative,” he said. “They will surely stand as role models for their peers.”