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Criss Angel: Long Island’s Master of Illusion

Criss Angel

Criss Angel may look intimidating and his magic may play tricks with your mind but, beneath the goth exterior — black leather, chains, eyeliner and tattoos — is a soft-spoken, polite person humbled by his fans, his love for the art, and the charity he started on behalf of his son.

While on the road gearing up for his sold-out show at Caesers Windsor in Canada, Angel was excited to talk to the Press about his latest shot, RAW – The Mindfreak Unplugged, happening on his home turf during a limited engagement at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, part of the “In Residence on Broadway” series running from July 2 to 7.

This native Long Islander, born Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos, whose fascination with magic began when he was 6 years old and whose first “major” illusion was making his mother float in the family den, has come a long way. Angel, who admits he’s a perfectionist, has spent most of his life honing his craft and stunning audiences here and abroad, and the payoff has been magical. 

Throughout the years, he’s garnered massive attention for his genius. Some of the most recent honors include the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) Award from Vanish Magic Magazine; Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Brotherhood of Magicians (Angel is the youngest recipient of this distinguished honor, approved unanimously by the organizations board of trustees). And, his Hollywood Walk of Fame star (there are only a few magicians who have been so honored). 

These days, Angel and his family reside in Las Vegas. He filmed the A&E network TV series at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino there and was at the Luxor Las Vegas for a decade. He started his headline residency at Planet Hollywood in December 2018 with Mindfreak, dubbed an immersive evolution of magic.

A building implosion in front of 50,000 people in Clearwater, Florida, his upside down double straightjacket escape with noose and weight in Times Square, his levitation above the Luxor in a light beam, and walking on water are some of the eye-popping, cringe-worthy performances he’s known for.

Despite all the fame and world-renowned status, he is a Long Islander at heart, loud and proud. This month he is ready to come home to see his fans, friends and family and perform a show that he describes as “mind blowing” that’s been 20 years in the making. 

Angel spoke candidly about his early days when pounding the pavement waiting for his big break, the dangers of his craft, his love of pizza, and his new mission in life. 

Read on. It’s epic. 

What would you say sets this show apart from others you have done? This show really takes my most incredible demonstrations I have done on television, many of them for the very first time, and brings them to life onstage in a very intimate setting including one of my demonstrations, my levitation where I levitate and fly and pick a person up in pure light only a few feet away from the audience.  

How does Mindfreak differ from RAW? Mindfreak is over 2,000 lights and over a billion pixels of video and a spectacular immersive experience. A spectacle. This show [Raw] is me, raw, unplugged, basically in your face. It focuses on the magic I have done that blew people’s minds on television; now I get to perform in an intimate setting as if I am hanging out with you in your living room. 

When was the last time you did a show in New York? My last time I performed on Broadway was in Times Square. I performed Mindfreak in 2001. I did it for about 600 performances at the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment nightclub]. I created a theater in the basement. It was a banquet room I transformed. I called it the underground theater.

How does it feel coming back to New York? It is going to be amazing and I am so looking forward to it. It’s kind of coming full circle. I’ve always wanted to play a legitimate Broadway house. Here is the opportunity of a lifetime to play at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater where my childhood idol once performed, Doug Henning in 1986 and his World of Magic. To be on the same stage Doug was on is pretty epic. 

Take us back to the early years. I grew up in Elmont and then East Meadow. I still have a lot of family on Long Island. Coming out to Long Island gets very sentimental to me because I get to reminisce about the days that I used to pound those streets, spending endless amounts of time on the Long Island Rail Road and the subway trying to get a break. 

What kept you going? I think for me tenacity, passion, and intuitiveness were the key ingredients of success. Basically, I knew I had something special to offer and even though people didn’t see it and wouldn’t give me the time of day, I wanted to prove them wrong.

When were you first introduced to magic? My Aunt Stella taught me my first card trick when I was six years young so I drove everyone crazy performing the same card trick over and over again, so my Aunt Stella is to blame. 

Sounds like that is when the journey began. I’d go to the Hicksville Magic Shop. That is all I thought of at the time. Magic and music, that was my life back then.

I do remember The Magic Shop on Hempstead Turnpike for magic stuff and face paint. The Magic Shop is no longer there. I actually bought a lot of the stuff that were collectors’ items. I created a magic shop that looks like that shop, in Las Vegas in my studio.

Any memories you can share? I’d spend the afternoons there. My mom would drop me off. I would look at stuff and when other magicians would come in I’d want to pick their brains. I just wanted to be in that world. 

Was there one trick that skyrocketed you to fame? I spent 24 hours underwater when I opened up Mindfreak on Broadway in 2001. That really captured a lot of attention. It was on the cover of the New York Post. I was the first person to ever do that. 

Criss Angel balancing on his dad’s hands in 1968.

Do you have a favorite trick? I think my favorite one is definitely the levitation because I have worked the longest on it. No one has ever seen anything like this or has done anything like this. 

Just hearing you talk about it sounds like you get such a rush. To do this levitation when I perform it and hearing the audience and how they jump to their feet and stand and applaud when they see it, is so rewarding. I guess for me with everything I have done, this one was the most difficult to pull off and bring to Broadway. Where people dream to fly I actually do fly.

What is it about the craft of magic and the allure? For me, magic is not about how I do it. It is more about how you feel when you watch it. Do you feel like crying? Do you feel excited? Are you scared? What kind of thrill does it give you? 

Can you give us a teaser of what fans can expect at your show? My goal is to create a roller-coaster ride of excitement of twists and turns. To keep people invested emotionally and keep a connection. Keep the show constantly changing and transforming so they don’t know what is going to happen. 

You seem to have this power over people. How does that make you feel? When you see a girl that comes up to you that has 19 tattoos that are Criss Angel it really boggles your mind. When you have guys coming up to you — and I have met so many on this tour — with tattoos of you it really blows your mind because I’ve connected to them. 

What is the most dangerous thing that you have ever done? I have done a lot of things on television that have put me in the hospital. When I do the show Raw there are inherent dangers that can kill me or injure me seriously in the show. I do it because that is what the audience comes to expect from me. 

When you are so focused during a performance, is the audience ever distracting? The energy of the audience is just insane. I love people standing up. I love the craziness of it. 

Any favorite places you like to go on LI? I am a pizza connoisseur. I go Out East to this pizza joint called Cafe Gia. There is also one by my mom’s house called Two Brothers Pizza. It’s my favorite pizza.

I wanted to congratulate you on the birth of your second son and the wonderful news that your oldest boy is cancer free. Can you tell us a little bit about your son’s charity, the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation? One child every two minutes dies of cancer. I have been working with kids since 2001 and had a passion for kids that are going through pediatric cancer. Then I had my own son; before he was 2 years young, he was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. He went through three years of chemo treatment every day, spinal taps, blood transfusions, all sorts of horrible things. Now he is in remission for almost six months. Thank God, and that is beautiful and we just hope and pray he remains there for the rest of his life. I know that he will. 

How has this experience changed you? I just dedicated my life, even more, to try and raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer. I have raised millions of dollars with 100 percent of every cent I raise going to research and treatment for pediatric cancer. If people want more information they can go to crissangel.com.

Is there anything else you want to share with your fans here on Long Island? When I talk about Long Island in my show there are always people in the audience that scream that they are from Long Island so we all have a connection no matter where I am. If I am in Las Vegas or on Broadway, Long Island is always the most special place in my heart and I am just so grateful to have been born on Long Island and have had the experience of growing up on Long Island.

Chuck Scarborough: A New York News Icon

Chuck Scarborough

New Yorkers young and old know that familiar face and distinctive voice that have graced television screens for decades.

Chuck Scarborough, the dapper anchor who has led breaking news coverage locally and abroad — garnering awards, including 36 local Emmys — reigns as the king of New York news. This year marks his 45th anniversary at WNBC, the New York City flagship station of NBCUniversal, making him the longest-serving anchor in New York TV history.

The Press met the legendary newsman at his seventh-floor offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Scarborough spoke about his father, the changing mediascape, his interest in aviation, and his love of furry and feathered creatures.

During our chat, Scarborough invited anyone who shares his passion for animal welfare to join him and his wife, Ellen, at the 13th Annual GET WILD Benefit on June 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Little Orchard in Southampton. And, asked viewers to Save the Date – August 17 – for WNBC’s Clear the Shelters Pet Adoption Drive.

Congratulations on your 45-year anniversary at WNBC. Did you think you’d be here this long? I came here in 1974. There was no cable television, just three major networks and a couple of independent stations. NBC New York had suffered a terrible rating decline and they were looking to do something dramatic and put the first two-hour newscast on from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. They were looking for someone to do that. I was hired out of Boston. I was 30 years old. Forty-five years later and I guess it worked.

How have the stories changed? It’s not so much the stories have changed; it’s just that we have an explosion of platforms. The coverage from all sources have made it a little more challenging. I would say fundamentally human behavior hasn’t changed over the time I have been doing this. There is the same degree of complacency and heroism.

Chuck Scarborough circa 1978 preparing for a newscast at WNBC.

It may be hard to imagine, for some, but how were the days of news coverage pre-internet? Before we had the internet, we had these very disciplined systems that were well-managed disseminating information and making sure we were living up to the standards we are living up to as journalists: being fair, and honest and balanced and making sure our sources were accurately and positively sourced. All of the basic rules of journalism and the structure to reinforce them. The internet came up. It provided a way for anybody to disseminate globally anything. That has helped us in some ways but has also created this enormous arena for mischief.

How do you feel about the term “fake news”? I think to fire at every news organization out there isn’t fair. But I think there is plenty of questionable material floating around the internet. Certainly, it has enabled the amplification of bad human behavior; by that I mean you can bully someone now anonymously and organize it.

Has it changed your role? I don’t think my job has changed a great deal. My standards certainly haven’t and our [National Broadcasting Company] standards certainly haven’t. I do have these concerns about the quality of information that people are receiving because the whole point of the First Amendment and the whole point of establishing a free press was to make certain that citizenry A) was informed to make a reasonable decision at the ballot box and B) has one more check on power. These are very important functions in a democracy.

You have done thousands of stories. Was there one that had the most impact on you? The biggest impact by far was 9/11. We were on the air for a week straight without interruption covering that. That changed the entire globe that day. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, once NY settled down, I went off to the Philippines to cover what had been a little unknown corner in the war on terror. We had 160 special forces troops down in the southern Philippines helping the military army pursue the Abu Sayyaf terror group linked to Al Qaeda. What I saw there were posters of  Osama Bin Laden being sold in kiosks on the street. It hit me at that point soon after 9/11 what a pervasive and dangerous force radical Islam was, and I didn’t confront the global nature of it until I was in the Philippines.

What were some of the most memorable Long Island stories you covered? The biggest story was Flight TWA 800 in 1996 that was going to Paris. As soon as we got word that a plane had vanished from radar we jumped on air. I was in contact with the helicopter and as he was approaching the South Shore of Long Island where the plane vanished we could see a strange glow in the distance and as the helicopter got closer we realized it was the jet fuel from the plane that was burning. The ocean was on fire. It was the most chilling thing I’ve ever seen. Your heart fell when that happened. Families were wiped out. It was just hideous. The Pine Barrens fire was another. It was a big story and a disastrous fire, 2,500 acres burned. And the Avianca Flight 52 crash from Bogota, Colombia to New York. The Boeing 707 ran out of fuel after a failed attempt to land at Kennedy Airport and crashed off the North Shore of Long Island in Cove Neck. Sixty-five of the 149 passengers on board were killed.

I understand you have your commercial pilot license. Do you still fly? My father flew bombers in the second World War. When he came back I was two years old when I met him. He would regale me with tales of training and his missions. As a young boy growing up this was all fabulous and it was inevitable that as soon as I could I would fly an airplane and I did. I will go out when I get the itch go out to the airport. I take an instructor pilot with me because I don’t fly often enough to feel safe. Flight is fairly unforgiving. You can’t pull over on the side of the road if you forgot to do something. 

Chuck Scarborough at home in the cockpit.

How have stories changed with social media? Everyone has a camera now. We get all sorts of material we never would have gotten. That has opened up more possibilities for us to expand our coverage. Our own reporters can whip out their phones in an emergency; if they see something happening they can start recording.

What can you share that our readers may not know? My mother lived in East Hampton and moved to Southampton and then went to Peconic Landing. She spent the final years of her life there. And I have a home on the East End of Long Island. I spend a lot of time out there. It is a wonderful place to go. After 9/11 when I could finally get away after that horrible day I went out to the East End. It was so peaceful after the chaos and to spend time there was some sort of touchstone. Long Island saved me that day.  

You’ve managed to look good. What’s your secret? When I hit the age of 60 I decided I needed to be a little more serious about taking care of myself. I couldn’t coast along on my previous youthful conditioning. That is when I got a little more disciplined about my exercise and diet. I like eating dessert but stopped eating it. It took one tough year. And I do cardio at least three days a week and some weight training to keep muscle tone. I will throw something out from the Air Force on days you don’t feel like exercising: “Defeat the urge to skip a day.”

I know you are an animal lover. We have two female mixed-breed shelter dogs named Phoebe and Emma. Phoebe was found on a roadside in Texas. The senior of the two is Emma. She was from South Carolina and was living in the woods. We also have a black-and-white male tuxedo cat.

What are some initiatives you support? My wife Ellen is involved in three different animal organizations and shelters. She chairs the fundraiser for the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. It is the only place you can go to on the East End of Long Island if you stumble on an injured furry or a feathered creature. It is a struggle every year to raise the funds necessary to keep the center going. The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons is another. Ellen is on the board. And a marvelous little shelter called Gimme Shelter. This is where we got two of our little black dogs.

Many of our readers are passionate about animals. What can they do? I would like people to be aware these are vital resources and we can do something to help. Get Wild at the Wildlife Rescue Center is the first thing coming up, on June 29 and that really needs support. We have crowded animals out to a great extent on Long Island with development and we do share the environment with these creatures and they do enrich our lives.

Will our readers get to see you? I will be there.

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GET YOUR HAPPY (LIGHT) ON
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New Personal Wellness Gear To Help You Live Your Best Life

FruitionBottle

STAY HEALTHY & HYDRATED ON THE GO
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5 Products To Help You Live Your Best Life

A NEW WAY TO WORK OUT
Check out these white boxing gloves by Boxing & Barbells that double as weight-lifting gloves. The gloves open in the hand so users can lift weights, drink water and use their phone all without taking the gloves off. The gloves are sized according to your hand size. $45. boxingandbarbells.com.

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Beth Stern: The Cat’s Meow

Beth Stern with one of her foster kittens. Photo by Howard Stern

The last time I interviewed animal lover, animal rights activist and author Beth Stern, she was promoting her book Oh My Dog and working with North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill pet rescue and adoption center, as their national spokesperson.

Eight years later, Beth is still working tirelessly with the team at North Shore Animal League America to raise awareness and find homes for adorable animals.

“Life is good. I am really happy,” says Beth, who stopped to talk with the Press while on a media tour for Kitten Bowl VI.

Beth was eager to talk about her passion for fostering cats and kittens at the home she shares with husband/radio personality, Howard Stern — who is just as smitten — and the unconditional love she has for her pets, which she describes as a “love affair like no other.”

What can you say about how our pets benefit us emotionally, physically, spiritually? Howard and I don’t have human children together. He has three daughters from a previous marriage who are very much a part of my life. Our children are our animals and our family. I feel like I gave birth to all of my cats — that is how much I love them. We are in tune with each other. My cats know when I am sad. They know when I am crying, just like dogs. I think with any animal that becomes part of a family, you feel very connected to them.

I know how much you love dogs too. Is it all cats all the time now at the Stern residence? I am equally a dog person. I love all animals and I work with the wildlife rescue. Right now, Howard and I have four resident cats. They are my world. We have Yoda, the Persian cat who is the star of my children’s books. We have Walter, a domestic short-haired white cat. Walter is Howard’s favorite and his best friend. We adopted him as an adult. He was returned to North Shore Animal League America a few times. We don’t know why because he is the perfect cat. We have Bella. She is a calico. She is our blind cat. She was most likely abused. She is also a mama cat. She gave birth to four kittens. She is the love of my life. She is so in tune with me, and is the happiest little kitty. And, we have Pebble. She had one eye removed from an infection. She is eight months now. She is so bad. The worst little kitten in the world [she laughs]. She jumps on my poor senior older cats. I love her madly. She is definitely making things interesting in our household.

What are some of the routines at home? They are part of every single day. Howard and I wake up in the morning with our cats. It is such a bonding time. When we go to sleep at night, they are around us. When Howard is having a stressful day the cats come downstairs, and they all run over to him and all of a sudden smiles are there, and we are talking to them. It is such a beautiful part of our life.

Is it true that the cats are obsessed with Howard’s hair? Yes, [she laughs]. Our blind cat crawls in his hair. It’s the funniest thing. She’s nestling in his hair, and he’s reading the newspaper.

The last time we spoke you had mentioned how much Howard enjoys playing chess. Is Walter his new chess partner? It’s funny, Howard doesn’t play chess as much as he used to. He now paints watercolors. A lot of the time the cats are his inspiration.

Beth, with love also comes loss — the human or furry kind — that we all experience at some time in our lives. The hardest part of having an animal is when you lose one. I lose a part of me too. I have gone through so much pain over the past year and a half. I lost three of my resident cats. The depression and what anyone goes through is not anything I wish on anybody, but the love they brought into our lives is worth it.

I’m intrigued and want to hear more about this “foster room.” I call it the “foster room” because we have rooms in our home designated for the fosters that come into our house. We have an apartment in Manhattan with a foster room. Our house in Palm Beach has a foster room and our house in the Hamptons. I think [the cats] are pretty lucky when they get through my door.

What was the largest number of fosters you had at one time? Last summer during kitten season we had 25 fosters. We had a pregnant mama, a nursing mama, a litter of kittens, and a couple of teenagers.

Your children’s books are so sweet. Can you tell me the inspiration behind them? I have been fostering kittens for the past six years. We adopted this Persian cat named Yoda knowing that he had a heart condition and had only three months to live. He started hanging out outside the foster room. I let him in one day, and he started taking care of the kittens. That was the moment his life changed and it was the most incredible thing I ever witnessed. I watched Yoda getting healthier. I took him back to the vet and they could not even detect anything wrong with his heart. I thought, “Oh, my god, love and purpose has truly healed him.” That may sound ridiculous, but I witnessed it. It’s been five years now. He’s doing amazing. I thought, “I have to share this with children,” so that was the story of Yoda: The Story of a Cat and his Kittens.

Sharing Yoda’s story and meeting all these little people when visiting schools must be so fun. I’ve been reading to schools, and I love it. The kids love the stories. More magic was happening in the foster room, so I decided I needed to continue Yoda’s story. I had a kitten named Buddy, both his eyes were removed. Yoda was in the foster room with Buddy. They became a little tag team taking care of the fosters together, so that was my inspiration for Yoda Gets a Buddy. Kids come up to me asking about Yoda and Buddy. I love it, and all the proceeds go to NSAL America.

You just came off the promotion of the Cat Bowl and Kitten Bowl for the Super Bowl. How was that? I can’t believe I get to do this every year. It is such an honor to be the host. The past six years, we have been showcasing adoptable adult cats and kittens. We had our first Cat Bowl, which aired the night before the Super Bowl. We were able to showcase adult cats and special needs cats. That is what I love to focus on, the ones that are sitting in shelters for so long people walk right by them not realizing how incredible they are. We do the adoption at the end of the show, and we found the family of one of my fosters that was featured in the Cat Bowl. It was very emotional. We also have these cat and kitten Super Bowl parties where all of our partner shelters hold specials. Right now — not including this year — more than 25,000 cats and kittens have been adopted as a result of the Kitten Bowl.

You must be thrilled that Bianca’s Furry Friends Adoption Shelter, an adoption and wellness center, will be opening this summer in memory of your beloved bulldog, Bianca. Everything I do is for Bianca. She is my inspiration. I was so excited when Joanne Yohannan and I came up with this idea. It started as a vision to save more lives of dogs and cats. It is happening, and it just gives me chills. The 14,000-square-foot space is going to be designated a cage-free cat habitat adoption center and feline wellness center. We are freeing up the entire bottom floor for more adult and puppy mill rescues. I feel the mission of North Shore Animal League America is going to expand because we can save more lives.

What is next for you? I think I am going to keep doing what I am doing because life is pretty great. I love saving lives, so I don’t see any end in sight with my foster work and my participation and dedication with North Shore Animal League America.

How do you like living on Long Island? It is the best. It’s my favorite place to be. We have a place in the city. We end up spending most of our time out here. I love this time of year when it is off-season and I have all this beauty surrounding me. It is quiet and magical and then the summer is incredible too. Howard and I are happiest when we are at our home in Southampton. We spend most of our time on Long Island and travel back and forth to the city when Howard works. Most of my cats are in my home here.

How can a potential adoptee get in touch with you? There is an email address on my Instagram.

Howard Stern with his wife, Beth, and their cat, Yoda.

NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE AMERICA EXPANDS, PROVIDING EVEN BETTER CARE FOR PETS

This year marks the 75th anniversary of North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, and there is plenty to celebrate.

Since 1944, more than 1 million animals’ lives have been saved, and that number is growing, with nearly 18,000 pets placed successfully into loving homes each year, according to the nonprofit. Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America, who has been involved with animal welfare for decades, remembers a time when hundreds of thousands of animals in New York City alone and millions across the country were being euthanized every year as a means of population control. But since 2011, the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters nationwide annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million to 1.5 million, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

“Today we have advanced,” Yohannan says. “Last year, fewer than 6,000 animals were euthanized in New York City and between two and three million across the country. We’ve really come a long way but still have work to do.”

One of the ways that the nonprofit will continue its mission to save pets’ lives is with Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will include exam rooms, a feline behavior department, grooming facilities, kitten adoption facility, 24-hour-care nursery, respiratory ward, surgical suite and a recovery room that will enable North Shore Animal League America to provide the highest quality of care.

The center, spearheaded by Howard and Beth Stern and named in honor of their beloved bulldog Bianca, who passed away in 2012, is set to open over the summer.

Mid-Island Y JCC Gives Back for MLK Day

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kosher Gospel, aka Joshua Nelson, gospel singer, and Hebrew teacher, gave a soul stomping performance at the Mid Island Y JCC on Monday as the crowd clapped and sang along as photos of the legendary civil rights activist streamed across a video screen.

“Next year we are going to work on a little rhythm,” joked Rick Lewis, CEO of the Mid Island Y JCC, who thanked everyone for their support “You were a little off today.” 

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman joined in the fun. “Raise your hand today if you are a mensch,” as his voice grew louder. “Let’s do good stuff today.” 

And so they did.

Four hundred volunteers and staff members wearing matching blue shirts with the words “Official Mensch” gathered to pack up 1,200 packed bags full of food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products that were being sent out to 4,000 Long Islanders in need. The recipients are FQHC the S.H.O.P at the Gural JCC; the Huntington Interface Homeless Initiative; the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center; Birthday Wishes and the Hatzilu Rescue Organization. 

 The donation bags even contained a vegetarian chili recipe with all the ingredients.

“We are helping people with food insecurity and food poverty,” said Gail Warrack, Director of Volunteer Services at Mid Island Y JCC, whose donations came in from UJA Federation of NY, Henry Schein Cares Foundation and members of the community. “Rather then random products in a bag we wanted to give them specific items to help them make a warm meal for the family.”

Rabbi Jenn Weinstein of Congregation Simchat Ha Lev of Syosset who came with some members of her synagogue was in awe by all the kindness.  

“It’s incredible to watch these kids have hands-on experience of making a difference in the community,” the rabbi said.

Warrack adds: “It’s amazing. We started four years ago with 200 hundred volunteers, and today it’s doubled. We are growing.”

5 Must-have Products To Help You Be A Better You

Muse® 2

BE U OWN MEDITATION GURU
Muse® 2 is a personal meditation assistant that takes the guesswork out of meditation. Paired with an app, this brain-sensing headband gives real-time feedback on your meditation practice, including mental activity, body movement, heart rate and breath, allowing you to take your practice deeper, $249.99 at amazon.com

FITNESS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

Aaptiv App

                                                                                    
Aaptiv, Inc. is an audio-based app that brings the workout to you. A leading provider of digital wellness content offers members thousands of different workouts from running, strength training and yoga to indoor cycling and meditation, all taught by certified trainers. An annual membership is $99.99 that includes a seven-day free trial or pay monthly at $14.99 at Aaptiv.com.

CHILL … PEEL…STICK

PainCakes

PAINCAKES is a patented cold therapy device that sticks on the skin without tape or Velcro that that claims relief from pain, soreness, and inflammation. Each PAINCAKE is reusable and is available in different colors and sizes, $11.99-$12.99. Available at amazon.com.

GRANOLA BARS THAT DO GOODSpectrum Bakes is a social enterprise and nonprofit whose mission is to help individuals with autism lead productive and meaningful lives through the world of work. Seventy-five percent of their staff are on the autism spectrum. One of their best-selling items is their handmade granola bars that come in a variety of flavors, such as dark chocolate chunk, pumpkin & sunflower seed and sweet cranberry, $2 per bar; $34.99 custom 24 pack. Available at spectrumbakes.org or 516-888-9632.

A BLANKET THAT’S COZY AND CALMINGBaloo Living’s weighted blanket is designed to calm anxiety and help those suffering from insomnia, PTSD, cerebral palsy, restless leg syndrome, and stress while also delivering a great night’s sleep. Made from Oeko-Tex Standard 100-certified materials, and lead-free glass microbeads and breathable cotton. Available in 15-pound and 20-pound options $169-189 at balooliving.com.

 

A Space That Kids And Parents Will Love

Baby, it’s cold outside. Well, not quite as cold as it will be getting — but, the outdoor playdates or hangouts for the kids are slowly moving into the house with the start of cooler temperatures and unpredictable weather.

For parents, that means finding a space in the home, free from adult intervention for the older kids, that will be a safe, comfortable and fun environment for your toddler, tween or teen.

With hopes to inspire and keep your kids moving and off the video games, the cell phone, and the television remote control, we found two creative, kid-friendly and technology-free spaces that will keep your child active and occupied for hours.

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

This family in Roslyn wanted a playroom that was safe for their growing family. The old playroom located in the attic was messy and disorganized with toys strewn about and not safe for a toddler and infant to roam.

This all changed when they learned about The Toy Tamer, aka Evelyn Cucchiara. In only one day, Cucchiara and her husband Joe transformed the 1,200-square-foot attic into an orderly space.

Cucchiara, a mother of three, drew upon her years of experience owning a family daycare and a children’s art studio. She says the concept behind Toy Tamer is having the right tools to help frustrated parents get back control by creating a customized plan that teaches behavior modification that works.

Her system is called the SANE Organizing Process.

“S” stands for sort and get rid of anything that children have outgrown or broken.

“A” stands for arranging the right shelving and the right size bins.

“N” stands for name, which is a picture label placed on every shelving cubby.

“E” stands for getting everyone involved, which means that when the bell rings, it’s cleanup time.

Her concept, she explains, is not color coordinated, but works off of a child’s innate sense of immediate gratification.

“While a clean playroom is wonderful, that’s just the icing on the cake,” says Cucchiara. “The real benefit is that your kids learn executive functioning skills that let them take over the playroom cleanup, so that as they get older they can organize and run their own lives. It’s vital that kids learn how to be organized at a young age so that these skills travel with them throughout life.

“Cleaning up for them now only results in dependent young adults in the future,” she continues.

Now, if Cucchiara could only help adults.

THE SPORTS COURT  

The homeowners of this Tudor in Rockville Centre wanted an area where their three boys — ages 9, 11 and 14 — could play basketball and spend time with their friends.

Keith Mazzei of Keith Mazzei Interiors came in and created a sports court.  The owner of the home, an alumnus of Ohio State, wanted to pay homage and replicate the court of the Buckeyes, the Ohio State men’s basketball team, from the red-and-white colors right down to the logo and college emblems. The court, explains Mazzei, was a full addition to the home and part of a home renovation project that took a year and three months to complete.

“The project was a 90 percent renovation,” he says. “Most of the old structure had to come down, but we were able to keep some of the old-world charm.”

Once the court was complete, Mazzei scored big, winning over the parents and the kids with his design sense and creative spark.

“I speak to and visit the homeowners quite often, and they’re always saying how the sports court is one of the most used rooms in the home.,” says Mazzie. “The boys are always in there playing basketball, roller hockey, baseball. It’s a multipurpose room. They’re in there spending quality time with their siblings, cousins, and friends.”

He adds, “In the computer and technical age that we live in now it’s nice to see that these kids are being active and enjoying the space and not being couch potatoes like most kids of their generation. I wish every home had a sports court for the active kid that wants to do more.”

GYMGUYZ: The Amazon of Fitness?

GYMGUYZ founder Josh York takes fitness you.

Josh York is P-U-M-P-E-D.

In 2008, the fitness entrepreneur started Long Island-based GYMGUYZ, a mobile personal training company, in his parents’ dining room and today it is one of the leading fitness brands nationwide.

“It started with a vision and a laptop,” he says. “In 15 to 20 years we will be number one. The largest fitness brand in the world. You mark my words on that. We are crushing left and right.”

In August, Inc. magazine released its list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately owned companies in the United States and GYMGUYZ was ranked No. 292. In 2014, when the company began franchising, its revenue increased by more than $3.2 million, according to the August Inc. 500. Today, the Plainview-based company has 200 locations in 32 states, has expanded to Canada and soon will be in the United Kingdom.

Listening York’s unwavering enthusiasm about his brand is like hearing a boxer talk about how he just beat out his opponent in a match. Unlike a traditional gym, GYMGUYZ brings the workout to you.

“We are all over the place,” York says. “We go to your home, your office, the pool, the park, a place of worship, assisted living facilities, even restaurants and pizzerias. We work with large corporations and small businesses. If you want us to work you out in your closet we can make that happen too.”

The GYMGUYZ van is fully loaded and equipped with all the gear needed for an hour-long workout that is based on the three “Cs”: Convenience, Customization, and Creativity, he explains. Individual sessions cost $65 to $95 an hour; group rates are $45 to $120 per hour.

York points out that although most of his clients are female and range in age from 36 to 60, that demographic is ever changing.

“We work with all different individuals regardless of age and ability,” he says. “Our youngest client is 6 years old, and our oldest client is 103.”

David Dubner, an investment banker from Roslyn, travels a lot for work and enjoys the convenience and flexibility of GYMGUYZ.

“I don’t have a predictable schedule; it changes daily,” says Dubner. “They cater a workout to my strength and weaknesses, and for me, I feel like it is a safer way to strength train and they introduce cardio in everything I do, which I enjoy.”

Rebecca Soleimani, a stay-at-home mother from Great Neck, works out with GYMGUYZ three days a week along with her mother and sister, who live nearby.

“We get a group package rate,” says Soleimani, who attributes part of her 35-pound weight loss to the workouts. “It is fun. Plus, I don’t have to worry about someone babysitting my kids.”

For more information on GYMGUYZ and for franchising opportunities visit gymguyz.com.