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Levittown natives' longboard helps pediatric cancer survivors

Skateboarders Devin Votta, left, and brothers James and

Skateboarders Devin Votta, left, and brothers James and Sean Reilly at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park on Friday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

As middle schoolers, Devin Votta and the Reilly brothers loved longboarding to Jones Beach for fun — but this time, the team of four went cruising for a cause. 

The Levittown natives took their longest ride ever this weekend, from New Hyde Park to Montauk, in hopes of raising $5,000 for Survivors Facing Forward, a program at Cohen Children's Medical Center that helps survivors of childhood cancer with health problems experienced after they complete chemotherapy treatments.

Their team, named Ride 4 Life: Carving 4 A Cause, started their journey at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. Saturday in hopes of reaching the Montauk lighthouse at 2 p.m. on Sunday. They ended up there at 1:15 p.m.

"We've always been passionate about longboarding, but Ride 4 Life is giving us purpose for that passion," said Votta, 24, who participated in a similar event last summer to honor his grandfather, who died of leukemia. The Reilly brothers — Sean, James and Steven — also lost their grandfathers and an uncle to cancer.

"It's humbling to be able to give back," said Sean Reilly, 27, the oldest of the three.

On Saturday, the team skateboarded 67 miles along Sunrise Highway, ending the first leg of their trip in Quogue, where they spent the night at the Residence Inn. On Sunday, after getting a preplanned lift to Riverhead to avoid a route issue, they went another 53 miles on Montauk Highway, from Riverhead to Montauk, Votta said. 

The 120-mile ride, planned entirely through Google Maps, took a little over 19 hours, said Votta, who thinks of the trip as a symbolic representation of the struggles cancer survivors face.

"No matter how many miles we put in, it doesn't compare to the fight that people with cancer go through," he said.

The group of former athletes agreed that preparing for a feat of this magnitude wasn't easy, but surprisingly the one thing getting ready didn't involve was the kick and push of a board. Military workouts, 5- to 6-mile runs and hiking were just a few of the activities they did to make sure their legs could keep up, said Votta. 

"It's more endurance than anything," he said, and when it comes to packing, "less is more."

The crew hit the streets Saturday with helmets, two GoPro cameras to capture footage, knee pads and of course, plenty of water. In fact, they each wore hydration backpacks with tubes that funneled water to their mouths.

Following not too far behind in a car was Votta's cousin, Trevor Huggard, who video recorded the trip.

Sean Reilly said the Ride 4 Life team is looking forward to turning their love for longboarding into "something more people can be involved in," something with a lasting impact — a nonprofit. 

"This is bigger than ourselves," said Votta, referring to the crew's adventure. 

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