Last March, Dennis Mulloy suited up as Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame for the annual Saturday night banquet dinner at the HPS Network Conference in Uniondale. One year, he maneuvered his 6-foot-2 frame into a leprechaun outfit to fit the Pot of Gold theme. This year? Who knows.
The theme for the 22nd conference in March 2015 is "Around the World," but "Dennis never knows what he's going to be until Donna makes a decision" at the last minute, said Maryann Mulloy, referring to Donna Appell, founder of the nonprofit HPS Network, based in Oyster Bay.
"Every time she tells me I'm going to be something, I always complain," said Dennis Mulloy, a retired NYPD detective. "I think I've handed her my retirement papers."
But every year, Mulloy, 72, dons whatever getup the theme commands. "You do everything for [Donna] because she's doing so much for everybody else," he said. And the kids, he added, "you see their faces light up and it's worth everything."
The Mulloys, who live in Massapequa, have volunteered with the HPS Network since the early 1990s. Maryann, 68, met Appell's sister Sue Koehn, 68, of East Setauket, when the two were water girls at a Rockville Centre restaurant during high school, and they've been best friends ever since, working together again at American Airlines before they both retired.
Sue brought Maryann Mulloy to one of the first conferences held at the Appells' former home in Malverne, where they looked after the children. The best friends continued running child care as the conference grew, until the first generation of children got old enough to take over.
Maryann Mulloy would go to Appell's home to help with mailings and flight reservations for the conference. Every year she helps prepare the programs, handouts, menus, VIP folders and "reams" of other paperwork, in addition to handling registration during the event. Dennis Mulloy and some of the other husbands provide transportation, driving members to and from the airports and train station.
"It's just amazing what [Donna] has done in the 27 years since Ashley was born," said Maryann Mulloy, who also helps out at the annual HPS Network Christmas Benefit Concert in December. "She brings these people together every year so they do not feel alone in the quest. . . . They get there not knowing anybody and they leave with an entirely new family."
VOLUNTEER WITH HPS NETWORK
The international reach of the HPS Network starts at 1 South Rd. in Oyster Bay. The address is command central for many of the nonprofit's yearly events, including the group's annual conference at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale in March, its free Christmas concert in December and the Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay in October, where the HPS Network has a booth offering chicken and ribs and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Monetary donations to help fuel research and bolster the nonprofit's activities are always welcome. Donna Appell, founder of the HPS Network, said the group needs volunteers to pick up conference attendees from area airports, provide child care during the event and more. Volunteers can also help throughout the year with mailings and other office tasks.
To learn more about how to donate, volunteer or attend an event, contact the HPS Network at 800-789-9477 or visit hpsnetwork.org.
OTHER VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
The Lustgarten Foundation in Bethpage works to advance research for prevention and treatment of and a cure for pancreatic cancer as well as increasing awareness and providing support to patients and their families. Its annual fundraiser, the multistate Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk, comes to Long Island on Oct. 12 and will be held at Jones Beach, Field 5, at 9:30 a.m. Contact: 516-803-2304; lustgarten.org.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is dedicated to the search for a cure and improved quality of life for those affected. The foundation has an office in Huntington, which plans fundraising events in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Contact: 516-827-1290; cff.org.
For more volunteer information and opportunities, contact the Long Island Volunteer Center at 516-564-5482; longislandvolunteercenter.org.