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Make-A-Wish Shares Laughs With L.I. Comedy Festival

Originally Posted: June 15, 2009

Aaron Boyd

The Suffolk County chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation held their annual top-donors reception at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead on Saturday, June 6, opening up their doors to the public as well for the evening. Photos by Aaron Boyd.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation President and CEO Karine Hollander.

Riverhead - The Suffolk chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation held their annual donor recognition night on Saturday, June 6, with four members of the Long Island Comedy Festival, opening up the doors of the event to the public at large for the first time in their 26-year history.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions, is entirely funded on a donation basis and 100 of the county's top donors came to Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead for a preliminary reception, and later joined by another 100 members of the public (at $35 a ticket) for the comedy show. "We like to thank the people who are critical to us," President and CEO of the Suffolk County chapter Karine Hollander explained, in accomplishing the charity's goal to "bring hope and strength to kids when they it most."

Before the laughs began, Hollander took the time to introduce Justin of Holbrook, who was given the opportunity to meet the New York Yankees after undergoing heart surgery in 2001 at the age of 12. Justin was born with a deteriorating heart condition that required invasive surgery, including a prosthetic

Nineteen-year-old Justin of Holbrook was granted his in 2001 after undergoing heart surgery.

stent inserted into one of his arteries when he was only two days old. A nurse in his ward contacted Make-A-Wish and the following March Justin was flown down to Tampa for three days with the Yankees during their pre-season practice.

Justin, now 19, speaks with the weak, raspy voice of a heart patient still on the long road to health, though he is moving on with his life through the recovery. He is currently attending Suffolk Community College and hopes to transfer to SUNY Stony Brook Southampton in the fall. To this day, his face still lights up when he talks about meeting his idols. "I will never, never forget what Make-A-Wish did for me," he vowed. "It is the best organization if you want to help a child out," he asserted, as they provide hope for children who have only known pain and disappointment, "They know that something is going to work out for them." Justin now works as a volunteer with the foundation, speaking at occasional events and helping sick children experience their dreams.

Long Island native, comedian Paul Anthony.

"Giving children the ability to make a wish empowers them," Hollander contended, "They may have limitations physically, but they can always dream," and seeing those dreams come true can provide "the strength and will to fight their battle."

Four members of the Long Island Comedy Festival entertained the crowd, with host Paul Anthony, Keith Anthony (no relation), Carie Karavas and Stevie GB, all Long Island natives. The event raised approximately $8,000 for the foundation, according to community relations director Joanne McGiveron, which will be used to grant the wish of 15-year-old Rita of Rocky Point. Rita is suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and wanted nothing more than to go to Disney World. Thanks to Make-A-Wish, she'll meet Mickey this July.

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