12/17/12 11:07am
12/17/2012 11:07 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Billy’s by the Bay owner Billy Gremler gives 8-year-old Hannah Prokop a T-shirt Thursday at the Southold Town Police Department. Hannah also presented him with a plaque for supporting her family’s ‘Hannah’s Cans for Cancer’ program.

Twelve-year-old Hannah Prokop of Mattituck is excited today because her braces are coming off. But it will only be a short while until those metal wires are wrapped around her teeth again.

Her braces are being temporarily removed because she needs to have an MRI, which isn’t an uncommon procedure for this Mattituck-Cutchogue 8th grader to undergo. Since 2007, Hannah has endured surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, physical therapy, tests, pokes and prods after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

When she was 7 years old, Hannah was first hospitalized to undergo cancer treatment. After becoming an oncology outpatient, Hannah decided she wanted to do something to help other sick children in hospitals. Soon after she and her mother, Kim, came up with the idea of recycling cans to help children cancer patients after reading about how a local woman raised money for charities from recycling.

Hannah’s Cans for Cancer was then born and it has already raised about $25,000 through the collection of cans and private donations.

Ms. Prokop said the community’s support has been tremendous, because everyday she finds a new bag of cans in front of her house.

As a way of saying “thank you” to local businesses for their support, Ms. Prokop and her daughter handed out plaques Thursday during a ceremony at the Southold Town Police Department. Among the honorees were members of the police department, Billy’s by the Bay, Riverhead Beverage and Friar’s Head.

“Hannah is no longer in the hospital, but her life and our lives have been changed forever by her cancer diagnosis,” Ms. Prokop said during the presentation. “We have been inspired to help others, especially the children suffering with this disease. This is our small way of giving back and, hopefully, brightening the life of a child with cancer.”

Hannah said she’s grateful for the community’s support and is especially thankful for her mom always being by her side.

“She helps me with a lot,” Hannah said. “She always finds a way to help me.”

Riverhead Beverage owner Kevin McKillop said he first got involved with the fundraising efforts after bumping into Hannah and her father, Dave, at Walbaum’s in Mattituck as sorted cans and bottles to recycle — one by one.

Mr. McKillop said he offered to take that daunting task off their hands since he also operates a state licensed redemption center in Riverhead.

“We have full time employees that are separating empties all day,” he said. “I told them they could just drop the empties off because the time it was taking to separate them was a lot of work.”

Billy’s by the Bay owner Billy Gremler said he heard about the Hannah’s Cans for Cancer from Mr. McKillop and said he was happy to donate the cans his business accumulates.

“Every Monday we put the cans on their driveway,” he said. “The community has been good to us and we want to give something back.”

For more information about the program, visit www.hannahpro.blogspot.com.

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06/28/11 1:24pm
06/28/2011 1:24 PM

At the beginning of the week, Billy’s By the Bay sat atop the Greenport Men’s Softball League standings at 8-0 with Southold Fish Market hot on its tail at 8-1. While these two teams have similar records, the makeup of each team is quite different. In fact, they may be viewed as a generation apart.

When Southold Fish Market left-center-fielder Warren Bondarchuk, 23, began his involvement with the Greenport league, he was a 14-year-old bat boy for a team that had the same core group of players that are with today’s Billy’s By the Bay. “Being the bat boy, I always looked up to them and liked how they played as a team,” he said. “When I got the chance to play with them they all gave me tips to help my game.”

Bondarchuk remembers eight of the team’s current players (John Brush Sr., Mark Berry, Matt Verity, John Brush Jr., Ev Corwin, Pat Gagen, Bob Neese and Chris Lucarelli) playing for that team, which at the time was sponsored, ironically, by Southold Fish Market.

Currently, Bondarchuk’s version of Southold Fish Market carries an average age of 28 years old, but eight of its 13 players are between the ages of 21 and 25. In contrast, John Brush Sr.’s Billy’s By the Bay team carries an average age just over 34, with six out of its 15 players being 35 or older. While both teams have a mix of veterans and youth, the way each team was designed and put together couldn’t be any more different.

Billy’s By the Bay has taken its core group that has played together for over 10 years (the average player age is 40.6 years) and added some youth by acquiring players in their mid-20s like Chris Macomber, Mo Aguilera, and Keith Sweat, and bringing in 21-year-old utility infielder Joe Miranda.

“You can’t help but respect the tradition that these guys carry,” Miranda said. “When they were Skippers and I was on the opposite side, I always liked their style of play and the respect they had for other teams.”

Being the youngest player on a team is something Miranda is used to. “They help me keep my feet on the ground with the way they give me tips,” he said. “I’m a more confident hitter when they talk to me about every pitcher.”

Bondarchuk considers Brush Sr. his softball mentor. “Brush taught me everything I know about softball,” he said.

Yet, when he was 18, Bondarchuk split from the group to join a team that carried a roster nearly full of players who at the time were still in high school. While many of the faces have changed, the youth theme has remained constant. The additions over the years of Dave Angevine and Chris Doucett, Bondarchuk’s father-in-law and brother-in-law, respectively, helped bring veteran leadership and knowledge to a team filled with a good deal of young talent.

Doucett, 35, was once a part of Brush’s core group, playing with that team for five seasons before moving on. “You have to have a lot of respect for a team that stays together and is still as competitive [as they are], plus they have a good mix of older veterans and younger players,” he said.

Only five players are still with Southold Fish Market that were on the team back when Bondarchuk joined it as an 18-year-old. The average age of those five is 25.8 years. In contrast to taking a veteran squad and adding young talent, like Billy’s By the Bay has, Southold Fish Market has taken a small group of young players and brought in veterans to help learn and develop along the way.

In their only meeting this year to date, the game was decided in the third inning. Sound strange?

It was.

With Billy’s By the Bay leading, 8-7, Southold Fish Market’s Andres Puerta attempted to score the tying run and was called out at the plate. Not agreeing with the home-plate umpire, Puerta argued and was ejected. Because it had no bench player to replace Puerta, Southold Fish Market had to forfeit the game. League rules state that a team cannot finish a game with fewer players than it began a game with. The next matchup between the teams is scheduled for Tuesday, July 5.

While they are competing for league supremacy, similar sentiments are shared by both teams that, while very different in nature, have so much in common.

Doucett, who has been on both sides, summed it up best. “It’s great knowing those guys and competing with them,” he said. “It makes the thrill even better.”