Two years ago, Mary Ellen Cirrito’s life changed forever after she was bitten by a tick. She contracted Lyme disease from the incident, and said it seemed as if her career as a practicing attorney had ended.
Now she’s looking to do her part to educate others about the disease and raise money to combat it.
Her personal experience prompted Ms. Cirrito and her husband, Michael, to organize the first ever Peconic Fishing Tournament, held this past weekend at Strong’s Marina in Mattituck, which brought 160 fishermen out to the water and raised $20,000 for Lyme disease research.
The winners of the competition were Otto Ordermann, who caught a 5.31-pound fluke; Jason Papa, who reeled in a 9.7-pound bluefish; and John Knoud, who landed a 29.8-pound striped bass. Each received a 22-inch flat screen TV from P.C. Richard and an original Gyotaku, a Japanese fish painting created by local artist Jaxsfish.
Steve Rosin brought in a combined 26.3 pounds of bluefish, fluke and striped bass to win the Peconic Grand Slam. He went home with a trophy and a check for $1,000.
In the junior division, the DeAngelis family had a wonderful day. Anthony had the winning fluke at 3.64 pounds. Joey caught a blue weighing 2.23 and Nicky reeled in an 11.25-pound striped bass that was almost as tall as he was. They went home with plaques and new rods and reels.
More importantly for Ms. Cirrito, the event helped educate her North Fork neighbors on the dangers of a devastating disease that’s more prevalent in New York than anywhere else in the country.
“It’s a reality that it is going to be with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “It sets in and it lives in your body and attacks you in different ways … I have a lot of neuropathy, numbness in my face and legs. But the cognitive effects are terrible … I’ve been tested and I’ve lost tremendous faculty powers.”