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Amputee vets raise more than $50G in Wounded Warrior tourney

Lilianna Bonacasa, 5, daughter of fallen Air National

Lilianna Bonacasa, 5, daughter of fallen Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Medford Athletic Complex in Medford on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, the second day of the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team's two-day charity tournament in Suffolk County. Her mother, Dee, and cousin Jayla, 8, both look on. Louis Bonacasa, 31, a Coram native, was killed Dec. 21, 2015, by a suicide attack while serving in Afghanistan. The two-day tournament raised more than $50,000, organizers said. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team finished a two-day charity tournament in Suffolk County this weekend and raised more than $50,000.

The team of veterans competes across the country to help spread a message of hope to veterans injured in combat.

They participated in events, including a home-run derby and a game against Suffolk County police officers, in Patchogue, Moriches and Medford. The money raised goes to the softball team and helps defray expenses for the nonprofit, and is also used to support medical research, programs for children’s camps and education costs for the children of fallen soldiers.

The team on Sunday honored the family of Louis Bonacasa, a Coram native and staff sergeant with the New York Air National Guard, who was killed last year in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. His daughter, Liliana, 5, threw out the first pitch at the game. Her mother, Dee, accompanied her to the game, along with other members of Bonacasa’s family.

Dee Bonacasa said she was filled with “a mix of emotions just seeing them” and that she was flattered to “honor my husband and share his experiences with other heroes.”

Organizers recognized Purple Heart Day and said seven players on the field Sunday had received the military designation awarded to men and women who have been wounded or killed in combat.

Dennis Wince, executive director of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team’s national team, said the organization’s third trip to Long Island resulted in “a huge outpouring of love and appreciation.” He expected the fundraising tally to exceed $50,000 for the weekend’s events.

Wince, of Manassas, Virginia, said he hears from a number of veterans across the country and listens to their issues. His response is that “whatever they’re facing, they can get through it,” Wince said.

Matias Ferreira, 27, of Merrick, was playing second base Sunday, and was wearing custom prosthetic legs. The Marine Corps veteran was injured in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011 and lost both legs below the knee.

Ferreira, who works as a steamfitter, said that on each trip he strives to show other veterans that “no matter what obstacle you have, you can overcome it.”

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