Students and community members are rallying around a Hicksville teacher who became paralyzed after a biking accident.
In August, Ed Denaro, of Massapequa, flipped over the handlebars of his mountain bike after hitting a rock and suffered damage to his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, family members said.
Denaro, 46, taught physical education at Lee Avenue School in Hicksville for 22 years and is well-known throughout both communities, family and friends said. As news spread of his accident, neighbors sprang to action with donations and fundraisers to help his wife, Lisa Denaro, a stylist at Safie Salon & Day Spa, and their two daughters, Gianna, 15, and Julia, 13.
“It’s amazing how many people have said I need to help, I want to help, what can I do?” said Alexandra Alonge-Cilione, 34, a physical education teacher at Lee Avenue who has worked alongside Denaro for eight years.
After the accident on a Westchester County bike path, Denaro underwent multiple surgeries at Westchester University Hospital. He has been undergoing physical therapy and occupational therapy every day at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center in Manhattan, said his mother, Kathy Denaro, 70, who still lives in his hometown of Baldwin.
He’s also on a ventilator to help him breathe, but he’s working toward getting off it. Kathy Denaro said that because of the unique nature of spinal injuries, doctors have not said when he could regain mobility.
“He’s very positive,” Lisa Denaro, 45, said. “He always says ‘We got this.’ He says he’s going to walk one day.”
The community’s response has been just as determined. More than $100,000 has been donated through an online GoFundMe campaign, and $25,000 was raised at a fundraiser held last week at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh.
At the Mulcahy’s event, friends shouted hellos and generously offered hugs among the large crowd. A close family friend of the Denaros, Dorian Clara, sang.
Lisa Denaro, who attended the fundraiser with her daughters, said she was “overwhelmed” by the support from the community.
According to Hanson and Lisa Denaro, students from Lee Avenue have also organized a couple of fundraisers, including one at a local roller-skating rink — giving the students a way to help out a teacher they miss.
“He really had a way with the children,” Alonge-Cilione said.
The kids called Denaro, who has a doctorate in education from Dowling College, “Doctor D.” Students have sent cards to his home as well, his mother said.
Kacey Abbriano, 27, who grew up in Hicksville, was Denaro’s student when she was in elementary school. She, too, now teaches K-8 physical education, in Barre, Vermont.
Denaro was a “trendsetter” by keeping games interesting and making connections outside the classroom, she said. There are even a few games Denaro taught in his class that Abbriano now uses in hers.
“He was someone I looked up to, to make something out of nothing,” she said.
It’s no surprise Denaro wants to be active again, according to those who know him. He went to the gym every day, and mountain biking was his favorite activity — as well as driving his Porsche around, family members said. He also ran a landscaping business during the summer. He’s bringing the same enthusiasm to his recovery.
“He’s a hard worker,” Kathy Denaro said. “He gives them 150 percent every day.”