Beverly Fortune

In every issue of the Long Island Press and our sister publication, Milieu Magazine, the Fortune 52 column brings you stories of dynamic women who have made a significant and unique contribution to Long Island. To acknowledge their success, Beverly hosts tri-annual networking events that are attended by hundreds of LI business professionals, non- profit leaders and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in knowing more about the Fortune 52, or know a super woman who deserves good Fortune – and a profile – email Beverly at

Achieving Extraordinary Women’s Leadership Conference Gives LI Businesswomen Mom-mentum

Massapequa Park-based nonprofit Mom-mentum is hosting the day-long Achieving Extraordinary Women’s Leadership Conference Nov. 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

Long Island women are being asked to step away from their desks and get a new perspective on their lives by attending the Achieving Extraordinary Women’s Leadership Conference, presented by nonprofit Mom-mentum on Friday, November 6th at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

The day-long conference boasts a full schedule of speakers and interactive workshops designed to give women the opportunity to reassess who and where they are in their careers and share personal and professional experiences with one another. Based in Massapequa Park, Mom-mentum provides leadership, education and advocacy to support mothers in meeting today’s professional and personal challenges. To make the most out of Achieving Extraordinary, attendees will be encouraged to put their phones away and listen.

“We are bringing together a powerful group of female leaders to inspire action and continue to work toward moving the needle on women’s leadership,” says Mom-mentum Executive Director Alison LaFerlita. “We want to empower women to execute change.”

According to LaFerlita, “Women are poised to become a majority in the workforce for the first time in US history. This year, we saw a 25-percent jump from the previous year in the number of women Fortune 500 CEOs. In the last decade, women-owned businesses nearly doubled in number, and now account for 40 percent of all US businesses.”

In response to this projection, the organization has established a professional development service called the Mom-mentum Return-to-Work Program to give advice and assistance to both women in the workforce and those looking to return to work.

“We are often asked how we can help women succeed in today’s world with so many demands, on both their personal and professional lives,” explains LaFerlita. “These requests inspired us to create a strong professional development service for women in all phases of their careers. This service is unique to all others, as it is a benefit of membership and a built-in support system to help you achieve extraordinary.”

Conference emcee, Danielle Campbell, co-anchor for News12 Long Island, is a professional media executive and mother of four. Campbell’s charming persona will keep a lively conversation flowing, ensuring that the conference program moves along.

While webinars can fill in the knowledge gap up to a point, there is no replacement for face-to-face presentations and networking to focus on the task at hand and spark creativity. The conference organizers are asking Long Island women leaders to go outside of their network, cultivate new contacts and meet new people in their industry.

The conference begins at 8:30 am with breakfast, an exhibitor expo and networking. Immediately after, the first course, Building and Leading High Performance Teams and Leaders, is being presented by Ellen Cooperperson, CEO of Corporate Performance Consultants, an expert in the field of team building and a Certified Facilitator and Strategic Business Leadership coach.

Cooperperson’s interactive workshop will show women how they can compare their leadership style in three critical areas and learn the best practices of highly successful women leaders. “You will learn how your greatest strength can become your greatest liability and how to identify your team member’s unique abilities and limitations to reach and exceed goals,” Cooperperson says.

“An organization is a network of conversations,” she continues. “The ability to adapt your communication style to influence a group of diverse individuals and turn them into a cohesive winning team is key to your effectiveness as a leader.”

Next on the day’s agenda is Liz Bentley, founder of Liz Bentley Associates, who will begin a conversation about the Leaky Talent Pipeline: Things That Hinder Women from Advancing or Advancing More Quickly.

Bentley will talk about how women can build their confidence and overcome barriers, both internal and external, to their growth. She will offer strategies to address these unique challenges to help women be more impactful in their organization.

The luncheon keynote speaker, Debra Sandler, touted as a Visionary Global C-Level Executive, will share her insights and experiences from her more than 30 years in corporate America and the boardroom. Sandler will also be sharing her views on how women who choose to work can create a world of limitless possibilities.

The afternoon session is a panel of highly successful Long Island business experts led by moderator Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at Farrell Fritz, PC, who will be discussing the topic: Courageous Conversations: Voices of Work & Life.

The interactive conversation between the panel and the conference attendees will explore ways to handle work-life balance and examine workplace policies and legislation that impacts the family, and will openly discuss how they achieved business success while managing their personal lives.

Panelists include: Terri Alessi-Miceli, president of the HIA-LI; Scott Behson, professor of management at Farleigh Dickinson University; Yvonne Grant, president & CEO of Girl Scouts of Suffolk County; Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events; and Nassau County Supreme Court Justice, the Hon. Hope Zimmerman.

Whether you are a CEO, a senior or a middle manager, an entrepreneur or a young emerging leader, Achieving Extraordinary: Women’s Leadership Conference will offer dynamic presenters, refreshingly relevant topics, and the chance to advance yourself while connecting with other inspiring business professionals.

LaFerlita say that participants of this conference will come away with the latest information and tools needed to strengthen their leadership skills and have a greater influence and impact on their team.

On Monday when it’s time to return to work, you will be encouraged to share what you’ve learned at the conference with your coworkers, and keep the Mom-mentum going.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to

Boz Scaggs Rocks NYCB Theatre at Westbury [Concert Review]

Boz Scaggs, the Grammy Award-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer/songwriter/guitarist, released his latest album Memphis in 2013, after a five-year hiatus. The record is a self-proclaimed retrospective compilation of songs that Scaggs says best matches his style and voice.

All those tracks and much more were on full display at NYCB Theatre at Westbury Sunday night, Aug. 3.
The evening’s set list was a mix of something old, something new, something borrowed—and mostly blues.

Born William Royce Scaggs, Boz (shortened from Bosley, a nickname given from a school-age friend), recently celebrated his 70th birthday, and not showing his age one bit, reached a pinnacle in his performance with his whiskey-smooth voice galvanizing his fans into a swaying mass.

Grammy Award-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer/songwriter/guitarist Boz Scaggs delivered an electrifying set Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury. (Photo: John J. Murphy III)
Grammy Award-winning, multiplatinum-selling singer/songwriter/guitarist Boz Scaggs delivered an electrifying set Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury. (Photo: John J. Murphy III)

Gold standards like “Georgia” and “Lowdown” were backed up by a stellar six-piece band, and Scaggs, confident in his own near-perfect performance, shared the spotlight with Grammy Award-winning singer Ms. Monet (Conesha Monet Owens), who brought the house down with her rendition of Sly & the Family Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) and Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You.”

“Corrina, Corrina,” a 12-bar country blues song that was written more than 85 years ago was “Bozzed” into a perfect rendition and begs the eternal question that Bob Dylan and so many others have asked throughout the decades: “Corrina, Corrina, where have you been so long?”

Scaggs ended the concert with the funky, sultry “Lowdown,” and when the band left the stage, many fans left their seats to get a jump on exiting the parking lot.

After a loud and long standing ovation, Scaggs and his band took the stage once again and launched into “Lido Shuffle.” Almost like a fire drill in reverse, fans raced back to their seats so they wouldn’t miss a minute of this classic.

Scaggs managed to save his bluesy best for the encore, with a powerful 15-minute production of “Loan Me A Dime,” a concert staple, reminiscent of his days back in ’69 laying down the track for his second, self-titled album, with the late, great Duane “Skydog” Allman.

Scaggs and his entourage had the entire venue moving to his own brand of music with a hypnotic beat, like “Smokestack Lightning.”

For more information on future shows at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, check out their page in The Island Ear.

Alanis Morissette Shines at NYCB Theatre at Westbury (Concert Review)

It was a beautiful Saturday night so we arrived early at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury to enjoy a cocktail and people-watch before Alanis Morissette’s Intimate and Acoustic Show.

The theatre’s outdoor lounge was filled with fans mixing and mingling before the signal that it was time to move inside. There was no hesitation, as we were all eager to hear Morissette.

The seats filled quickly with an army of women who first connected with her songs when Jagged Little Pill, her breakthrough album, debuted in 1995.

It’s astounding to realize that Jagged Little Pill remains the best-selling debut release by a female artist in the United States and still remains in the top spot as being the highest-selling debut album in music history and in 13th place as the highest-selling album of all time. Globally it has sold more than 33 million copies.

Almost 20 years later, Morissette remains a vanguard and staunch advocate for women’s issues and artists’ rights. Many concertgoers arrived with their daughters and husbands in tow to expose them to her prolific and meaningful lyrics.

Alanis Morissette treated NYCB Theatre at Westbury concertgoers to an amazing performance July 26, 2014. (Beverly Fortune/Long Island Press)
Alanis Morissette treated NYCB Theatre at Westbury concertgoers to an amazing performance July 26, 2014. (Beverly Fortune/Long Island Press)

On stage, Morissette was flanked by two guitarists and had the audience’s attention from her first note. What’s the giveaway? Panning the room, there was literally no illumination from cell phones. All eyes were on Morissette. She had everyone at her “Mercy,” which was her opening song.

As she ripped through the set, it became even more apparent that her songs are as authentic and impactful as they were when they were first heard.

Morissette elicited major vocal participation from her fans as they happily sang along for almost the entire set, and she did not disappoint. She was flawless and in full control.

Her fans went wild when she played the harmonica, and interestingly, my friend, John, leaned over and said, “Her voice is so hauntingly beautiful, I could listen to her all night. She doesn’t need to play the harmonica, it’s like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” to quote a well-known phrase.

In between songs she bantered with the audience, who echoed their love for her. A fan asked what her favorite song was and she revealed without hesitation, “Ave Maria.” The only disappointment voiced by some at the end of the show was that “You Oughta Know” was not part of the set.

For more information on future shows at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, check out their page in The Island Ear

The traditional encore was Alanis-ized when she announced that this is where they would traditionally leave the stage and return when the audience yelled for more. She didn’t move from her perch, receiving a resounding standing ovation from the crowd before banging out “Thank U” without missing a beat.

Thank you, Alanis. It was a beautiful night.

Full STEAM Ahead: Creating Amazing Learning Experiences

Most women working in the computer science industry can trace their interest back to a compelling mentor or someone in their childhood who inspired them. Laurie Carey of Cold Spring Harbor got her start in this predominately male industry in a different way.

Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, Laurie got a job on an assembly line at Fairchild Semi Conductor. In a twist on the famous I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel tried to keep pace with chocolate bonbons overflowing from the conveyor belt, Laurie had to assemble circuit boards at a fast pace. Laurie’s managers belittled the employees who could not keep up with her fast pace and they, in turn, gave Laurie a hard time.

No matter what came her way, Laurie mastered every task that she was assigned. “They kept moving me,” she says. It was at her next job that she was asked to build a PC from scratch and her untapped technological aptitude was finally recognized.

During the 80s, Laurie rose through the thin ranks of women in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) by working with many mentors. She built a networking community especially for women through Netware International, to not only open the lines of communication between women, but to encourage them to share their ideas and frustrations.

“I like to build and bring people together,” she says.

For more than 10 years, Laurie has been working at Microsoft and is currently a Partner Tech Strategist.

Drawing from her own experience, Laurie wanted to make high school and college students aware of the opportunities for STEM careers. She also wanted to inspire a greater population by adding an important element to the equation:  the Arts.

“The “A” in STEAM is for a student who is artistic. They have a spark you don’t want to squelch, they can use that talent. There are many industries that can be applied to their capabilities,” she says.

Even today, less than 20 percent of undergraduate degrees in engineering are earned by women.

“There are so many bored high school students who are not using their talents. How do you make kids discover something exciting?”

Laurie’s vision came to fruition when she founded the non-profit We Connect the Dots. Their mission is to empower both students and teachers by giving them the education and tools needed for pursuing STEAM careers.

“We break it down for them. These are skills they can use to succeed for the rest of their lives,” she says.

And it’s that passion and natural curiosity that Laurie is seeking in the students who are mentored by the We Connect the Dots (WCTD) organization.

“We need to teach kids how to build their confidence and how to apply technology in business, like using a CRM, online tools and office products.” Laurie explains.

Laurie’s planning to roll out multiple WCTD programs throughout New York state and Long Island this year and then nationally, including a spring pilot program at the Digital Animation & Visual Effects School in Orlando, Florida.

“We have a five-day curriculum for a select group of 10 students, 13 to 18 years old,” she explains. “We want to expose them to see what can excite them.”

WCTD offers internships, job shadowing for students and teachers, career development and coaching.

“It’s a team collaboration,” she explains but said there is a need for more companies to offer student shadowing.

Laurie found her passion the hard way. Because of her own experience, she wants to motivate children and young adults to learn STEAM skills while they’re still in school.

“Going to work should not feel like work. My passion is to help others find the right career.”

For more information, go to: or to contact Laurie: or 917-597-6974.

Christina Amato-Smith – Founder: Beauty for a Cure, Owner: Top Cuts Salon

Christina Amato-Smith of Lindenhurst doesn’t back down when confronted with a challenge, and she’s been faced with a few.

It took seven years of fertility treatments before she conceived her son, Anthony, who was born in 2003.

“When we were trying to have a child, it would fail, and I would say to my husband, ‘Gerry, we’ll do it again,’” she says. “I’m not a quitter.”

Her next challenge came five years later in 2008, when Christina had just turned 40 and found a lump in her breast.

“I will never forget how I was given my diagnosis,” she recalls. “I got a call from the doctor with the news. I hung up, and I looked at my mother and said, ‘I have breast cancer.’

Christina says she got her car keys and went to pick up her son from school. She didn’t allow the devastating news to change her routine.

“I was not going to let it beat me,” she says. “I was going to win this one. My son is my miracle. There is no way I am going to lose this battle.”

One month later, the Smith family received more bad news when Gerry Smith, Sr., her father-in-law, passed away. As a last request, he asked to be buried with a fork in his right hand and that a poem be read at the service called “A Woman and Her Fork.”

Christina said that the poem’s message was about a woman who was told to always keep her fork when the table was being cleared because there was always something better coming along, saying, “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”

While at the funeral, Christina’s cousin recommended that she see Dr. Dwight DeRisi, a surgeon from Glen Cove. Even though Christina had an appointment with another doctor, she agreed to see DeRisi. The next day as she waited in his office, she picked up a pamphlet on display about healthy eating entitled, “Beat Breast Cancer With A Fork.”

When she met the doctor, she says she felt an immediate affinity with him and thought, “This is where I need to be. He is like an angel.”

Dr. DeRisi recommended that she begin chemotherapy immediately.

While in treatment, she received a book from her aunt as a gift. When Christina unwrapped it, on the cover was a picture of a cake with a fork. The book was called “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

“That was my turning point,” she says. “It was a sign letting me know this is where I was supposed to be.”

With the help of the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition’s Lend a Helping Hand program, Christina tried to make her life as normal as possible. Her house was cleaned and they provided transportation if needed.

“That was so important to me,” she says. “I didn’t have the energy. I wanted to make sure my son’s life was the same as much as possible.”

Besides her family, other people depended on Christina. She is a successful salon owner who employs 22 people at Top Cuts in Bethpage as well as being a beauty educator for Joico, an international beauty and hair product manufacturer.

“My staff wanted to do a fundraiser for me,” she says. So in 2009 and 2010 they held a Cut-A-Thon and donated the proceeds to the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition.

In 2011, Christina founded Beauty for a Cure and now funds four Long Island coalitions.

For the Cut-A-Thon, all regular salon services are donated by her staff on the day of the event. The shop begins its transformation at the beginning of October when the hair and beauty products on display are put away to make room for dozens of raffle baskets that line the walls. Prizes include Jet Blue tickets, trips to Disney World and sporting event box seats plus hundreds of other premium items. Food is donated by local restaurants and a DJ provides entertainment.

The Cut-A-Thon brings the entire community together. “We take over the parking lot,” she says, noting that last year more than 185 services were donated, and at least 300 people came to the event. “Strangers come in, people just stop by to say, ‘Thank you.’ The Plainedge Cheerleaders come every year to offer their support.

“We made $10,000 just on that day,” she explains. “Everything we raise gets divided among four Long Island coalitions.”

In total, more than $100,000 has been donated to Babylon, West Islip, Long Beach and Lean on Me in Great Neck.

The Cut-A-Thons have become so successful that Joico asked Christina’s assistance to create a template that other salons can replicate nationwide.  Locally, Safie Salon in Massapequa and Amore Salon in West Babylon host Cut-A-Thons. Joico was so moved by Christina’s commitment to help other women that they produced a flat iron in her name and donated a portion of the proceeds to City of Hope.

Christina says that for her, the hardest thing was losing her hair. “It’s what I do for a living,” she says. When she knew it was the right time, she asked her son to shave her head.

To help other women get through the trauma of losing their hair, Christina opens her salon any time before or after hours to accommodate them.

“People can ask me or call me for anything, though I don’t have all the answers,” she says, but she knows that sometimes just talking to someone who has lived through it helps.

In 2010, Christina opted to have a second mastectomy and had trans-flap reconstruction surgery that took more than 12 hours. She is now cancer free.

“It was my only option,” she says of the surgery. “It was a long recovery.”

Christina believes that she has been given a second chance at life and is not missing a minute of it.

Top Cuts was recently featured on Bravo’s reality show Tabitha Takes Over and the salon was renovated as part of the show.

To raise more money for Long Island women with breast cancer, Christina founded LAX for Hope, an all-girls lacrosse tournament which will be hosted by Farmingdale State College on Oct. 6th. Girls ranging in age from 9 years old to high school teens will be competing in the tournament, with 50 teams already signed up to play.

“They will be all pinked out,” she says proudly. Her ultimate goal is to raise enough money to donate funds to all 10 Long Island breast cancer coalitions.

“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that I was diagnosed with breast cancer so I know what people go through so I can make a difference,” she says. “It makes it easier to do what I do.”

This year’s Cut-A-Thon is Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Top Cuts Salon, 3956 Hempstead Tpke., Bethpage. 516-579-8866. Info for Lax For Hope info can be found at or email

Monica Zenyuh – Founder, Adopt a School

monica-zenyuhWe never tire of hearing “Sandy stories” about Long Islanders who have gone above and beyond to help others when the storm struck.  These stories make us feel good and reaffirm our faith in mankind.

Since 1996, Monica Zenyuh of Northport has been teaching in the Harborfields Central School district. Besides being a teacher, wife and mother of two children ages 6 and 8, Monica also plays soccer with the Long Island Ladies Soccer League and coaches her daughter’s soccer team. She’s also an adjunct professor at Hofstra University.

Like most mothers, Monica has a lot on her plate and thought there wasn’t any time for another commitment.

After the storm, like countless others, her neighborhood was without power for more than a week.

Once the electricity was restored, Monica sent a mass email to her friends on and off Long Island letting them know that her family had come through the storm unscathed. Then she related stories of what was happening here, especially on the South Shore.

When she checked her email the next day, she was surprised at the number of replies she received.

“My inbox was jammed with emails from people wanting to help,” Monica says. “The response was huge.”

Inspired by their reaction, Monica saw an opportunity for her and her colleagues to help the hardest hit schools by collecting donations for needed supplies.With the support of her husband, Christopher, Monica  emailed the school superintendents from Long Beach, Oceanside and Rockaway and told them about her Adopt a School campaign.

When Harborfields schools remained closed for another week, Monica had more time to coordinate the project, creating an Adopt a School letterhead and spreading the word to a broader network.

“People started telling me what they needed,” she says. “I became a liaison with school social workers and began raising money and collecting supplies.”

Gift cards, box-top donations, clothing, cash, school supplies and books came streaming in and were inventoried for distribution.

“It took on a life of its own,” she says.

With her mathematical acumen, Monica created a spreadsheet of donors and helpers so she could match them with the recipients’ requests.

Her Adopt a School spreadsheet revealed much more than the amount of supplies collected. It showed Brownie troops helping other Brownies, pre-schools supporting other pre-schools, athletes aiding other athletes, and musicians lending other musicians a helping hand.

“Everyone knows someone,” Monica says. “That was the neat part about it.”

As Monica was making connections around the Island, Harborfields Middle School principal Joanne Giordano asked Monica if she could promote her program on Long Island’s vast school Listserv as well as on Facebook.

As the word spread, other schools from as far away as Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut contacted Monica offering to help. Using her spreadsheets, Monica was quickly able to match donors with recipients. Then she had to figure out the logistics of getting the supplies to Long Island while gasoline was still in short supply and many roads were impassable, making the trip a challenge,  but not one that Monica couldn’t handle.

“We brought all their donations home,” she says proudly.

When Long Beach schools said they had enough supplies, the Adopt a School group found other areas in need.

Monica would spend between four to five hours every evening matching donors and recipients. Dozens of requests for supplies were still coming in every day.

After hearing that some students from Lindenhurst needed money to pay for a school trip, she put the word out, and funds were quickly raised.

When Monica learned that New York City had a database similar to hers, she found a match between the Harborfields school district and PS 52 on Staten Island and coordinated the Adopt a School program between Long Island and Staten Island.

Even now, months after the storm, requests for help are still being fulfilled by Adopt a School and despite its growth and her intention to keep it active year round, Monica says it will remain strictly grassroots.

“Everyone just wanted to help people and to know where their donations were going,” she says. “People trusted me to help.”

And so the effort continues.

“It’s not over if there’s something you need,” she says. Now that Long Island’s school budgets have been voted on and finalized, Monica will begin to contact schools to see what their needs are.

The program  was a huge success and impacted thousands of Long Islanders, but as a teacher, Monica also wanted student donors and recipients to learn from the experience.

“I wanted it [Adopt A School] to be educational,” she says. Students were asked to do some research on the school that they adopted and in turn, students who received the donations learned about their benefactor.

“We found out who the school mascots were,” she says. “We had the kids send stacks of cards and letters, and our kids connected with the other kids.  Some are still pen pals.”

By Monica’s estimate, the Adopt a School program has provided supplies to more than 20 schools with the assistance from more than 40 different clubs and organizations.

In the weeks immediately after the storm, when the need to match donors and recipients was critical, Monica remembers how it felt to find herself organizing a massive relief effort out of her own home. She had volunteered for numerous fundraisers in the past but never considered the possibility of being at the helm of such a large undertaking herself.

“I had always marveled at how  other people do this,” she says, “and when I was in the middle of it, I realized, ‘I am doing it!’”

For more information about Adopt a School, to donate or if you need assistance, email:

In every issue of the Long Island Press and our sister publication, Milieu Magazine, the Fortune 52 column brings you stories of dynamic women who have made a significant and unique contribution to Long Island. To acknowledge their success, Beverly hosts tri-annual networking events that are attended by hundreds of LI business professionals, non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in learning more about the Fortune 52, or know a super woman who deserves good Fortune—and a profile—email Beverly at

Catherine O’Connor, CNC, CRP, RYT – Owner, Inspired by Life – Founder, Lake Grove Chapter Holistic Moms Network

Catherine O'ConnorCatherine and Kevin O’Connor were high school sweethearts, who got married and settled in Middle Island to raise their four children, Hailey, Anna, Kevin and Logan.

Kevin was a patrolman with the New York Police Department and Catherine was a stay-at-home mom. When the World Trade Center was attacked on 9-11, Kevin was dispatched to the scene and, like many first responders, he eventually developed respiratory problems. He left the NYPD to become a Suffolk County Parks Officer, but while on duty in Setauket Woods Park, Kevin was struck by an illegally operated ATV, and suffered extensive back and leg injuries. For the second time in his career, Kevin, only 30 years old at the time, was injured in the line of duty. His medical condition worsened when he developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) syndrome, a chronic and systemic neurological condition with severe pain, swelling, sweating and other changes to the skin.

Catherine says that Kevin was prescribed a huge amount of medication, mostly to help ease his constant pain, but the numerous side effects severely impacted his quality of life.

“The pain was unbearable for him,” she says.

Unable to walk on his own, Kevin had to use a wheelchair.

When the O’Connors were advised that the next course of treatment to alleviate Kevin’s pain was a procedure to embed a permanent catheter in his back for morphine, they were devastated.

Then a friend recommended that they see Dr. Christie Harrington, an acupuncturist in Port Jefferson.

“We were going the wrong way with treatment,” Catherine says. “Dr. Harrington was a big turning point for us.”

Almost instinctively, Catherine made radical changes to Kevin’s diet to start the healing process.

“We began eating vegan and Kevin started to get healthier,” she says.

As Kevin’s health improved, Catherine made more changes to her family’s lifestyle, which meant social changes as well.

“We used to eat at McDonald’s, but we realized it wasn’t for us,” she says. “I was raising my kids in a different way than everybody else.”

To meet more like-minded people, her pediatrician suggested that Catherine contact the Holistic Moms Network (HMN), a national community of more than 10,000 members who raise awareness and support for holistic parenting. Catherine immediately embraced their philosophy and mission. But the nearest HMN chapter was almost two hours away. Catherine started a chapter in Lake Grove in January 2012, bringing the network to families on eastern Long Island.

The Lake Grove chapter has grown to more than 40 members and meets once a month at the Panera Bread restaurant in Port Jeff Station. The first meeting is free for those who want to see what the network is about. Membership costs $45 per year and includes access to the HMN’s co-op that purchase products in bulk or at a discount.

“People come with their kids and they learn together,” she says of their meetings. “It’s a group effort led by example.”

For the O’Connor family, holistic parenting has opened up an entirely new world where they embrace a lifestyle of green living, non-violent communication, natural health and a respect for the connection between all living things.

To complete the transformation, Catherine went back to school and became certified as a holistic health care practitioner. She also studied Iridology, the study of the human iris. “It’s fascinating and another tool to be healthy,” she says.

Now prepared to help others, Catherine has opened her own practice, Inspired by Life, in Port Jefferson, where she counsels her clients on diet and nutrition, and teaches yoga for children and adults.

Choosing to live an alternative lifestyle has reaped numerous rewards for Catherine and her family. “Kevin is no longer on medication and has gone from being bedridden to now walking with a cane,” she says.

At home, the O’Connors raise their own chickens and have an organic garden and a small greenhouse. They sleep on organic bedding and their children play with “green” toys.

By living simply, they have fully embraced their alternative lifestyle.

“It’s a personal choice that you have to decide for yourself,” Catherine says. “For me, there’s no room for discussion.”

For more information, go to or email

Patti Waszkiewicz: International Foundation for CDKL5 Research

Patti Waszkiewicz, Regional Family Support Representative International Foundation for CDKL5 Research
Patti Waszkiewicz, Regional Family Support Representative International Foundation for CDKL5 Research

February 28th marked Rare Disease Day, an international day of advocacy for those living with an uncommon medical malady. Patti Waszkiewicz of Holbrook spent the day at Intercontinental Capital in Huntington, where her husband, John, works. She was hosting a bake sale to raise money for research for their 4-year-old daughter, Emmy, who was diagnosed two years ago with CDKL5 disorder.

Most children affected by CDKL5 disorder suffer from seizures that begin in the first few months of their life. Most cannot walk, talk or feed themselves, and many are dependent on others for everything.

A few days later in New York City, Patti and two other moms from Long Island joined mothers from California, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania and some women from as far away as Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom and New Zealand to meet for the “First Annual International CDKL5 Yummy/Mummy/Mommy Weekend.”

These 30 women all have something in common: a child born with CDKL5, a genetic disorder so rare that only about 600 cases are known in the world. Yet, four of these children are from Long Island, two live in the Sachem School District, and one is from New York City. Patti predicts that once doctors are more aware of CDKL5 and do more genetic testing to diagnose it, the number will increase dramatically.

Although the women came from many different parts of the world, they found comfort in one another. Before meeting in person, they had only corresponded through Facebook.

“There are not a lot of people who can relate to what I go through,” says Patti, the Regional Family Support Representative for the national CDKL5 organization. Coping with the unknown is really hard on a parent whose child has a rare disease.

“On the Yummy Mummy/Mommy Weekend we talked, shared stories, laughed and cried,” Patti says. “The entire experience was life changing.”

Not only did the women get to sightsee and shop in New York City, they were able to enjoy a well-deserved break from their routine and truly bond as friends.

“We have a slogan now: ‘Together We Are Stronger,’” Patti says. “It’s up to us to raise money and spread awareness.”

The women did just that when they were filmed outside the Today Show studio in Manhattan, wearing their green sashes symbolizing CDKL5 awareness. The organization’s founder, Katheryn Elibri-Frame of the UK, was interviewed by a news crew about CDLK5.

Patti Waszkiewicz
Patti Waszkiewicz

During their weekend get-together, the women shared therapies for their children and talked about the need for advocacy and respite care.

The women compared notes on what services and benefits were offered by individual state and foreign governments. “I found that New York has a very good support system,” Patti says, “We don’t have to fight to get the services we need,” and added, “The UK has better respite care available that we don’t have here.”

For Patti, the disorder means Emmy requires constant care, which she receives at home and the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) in Ronkonkoma.

When Emmy was first diagnosed, Patti didn’t want to talk about it with her friends who have typical children.

“I asked, ‘Why me?’ Now I would do it differently,” she says, “and expose more of my life to bring more awareness.”

Like other parents with a special needs child, the Waszkiewicz family struggles to spend quality time with their typically developed children. Payton, 6, sometimes feels left out, so Patti says she makes extra time to have one-on-one time with her older daughter.

Research for a cure is of the utmost concern, but Patti believes that finding respite care is also an issue that needs to be addressed, so parents and caretakers can have an emotional and physical break from the special care these children need 24/7.

Patti is convinced that her daughter will be a CDLK5 success story. “She might go to college when she’s 21, not at 18,” Patti says hopefully.

“Emmy just might be the one who’s going to show us the way.”

For more information visit or contact Patti by email at  

*This story appeared in the April issue of Milieu.

Jennifer Nevadomski: Co-Founder & Mom-In-Chief Long Island Networking Moms

Long Island Networking Moms
Jennifer Nevadomski
Jennifer Nevadomski, Co-Founder and Mom-In-Chief of Long Island Networking Moms

Jennifer Nevadomski is a trendsetter. For more than 10 years, she has brought together thousands of women online through her social media savvy and blogging, and now Jen is giving Long Island mothers the opportunity to meet and network with each other.

Jen, a former social worker for a foster care agency in New York City, became a stay-at-home mom after her twins were born in 2008. Last April Jen was featured on CNN’s Your Bottom Line in a piece called, “Meet a Mom Who Can’t Afford to Work,” after she had to quit her $45,000 full-time job because day care was costing her family almost $30,000 a year.

A decade ago, when her daughter was an infant, Jen became a regular contributor to a mothers’ website called Bronx Babies. When the media giant Gannett took notice of her following, they asked her to participate in its new online national network,, which was segmented into hyper-local parenting sites. Jen’s network was New York City. Eventually she became her groups’ “Ambassador/Community Correspondent” and, even more special, the “Mom-Bassador.” At its height, had more than 100 town specific sites with dedicated followings.

“I ran it for three years,” Jen says. “It was the best job.”

Unfortunately, Gannett decided to close the popular site in October 2011, removing all the content, and launched DealChicken instead.

“All of those sites don’t exist anymore,” she says.

Since then, Jen has had her hand in many different endeavors. She now owns and administers, which provides resources to interested mothers. She also operates her own social network and has published three books: “Becoming A Mother,” “Our Twins Journal” and “Mommy’s Having Twins.”

Now the mother of four children—ages 10, 4 (the twins) and 3—Jen and her husband Paul recently moved to Massapequa. Jen works from home as a behavior counselor for, where she video-conferences with clients from across the country.

But it’s the social aspect of connecting with other mothers that drives her.

Long Island Networking Moms
Long Island Networking Moms

Last August, Jen attended a BlogHer conference event in NYC. “I felt such energy,” she says. She took the momentum from the seminar, channeled it into her passion to connect women online and started Long Island Networking Moms that same month with co-founder and group advisor, Cheryl Roach.

Jen announced the launch online and had no trouble finding a group of local moms interested in joining. “The first meeting we had 13 attendees; by the third we were up to 54,” Jennifer says proudly. The group now has more than 70 members in Nassau County who meet monthly. Recently Long Island Networking Moms launched a Suffolk chapter and Jen says it’s membership is growing by the day.

“We are moms in business,” she says. Long Island Networking Moms has a no-competition, business category-exclusive rule so that the members are encouraged to do business with each other.

Giving women a milieu where they can share stories, vent, give or receive advice and make new friends is also Jen’s goal.

“The group is not just for growing your business,” Jen explains. “Most of our members say they also enjoy the friendship and camaraderie.

“I love to bring moms together and help them create a better work-life balance,” Jen says.

“Being able to manage your business, family, friends and home? That’s a big thing.”

For more information, go to or email

*This story appeared in the March issue of Milieu.