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Bellone to raise funds to repair 9/11 park, purchase FDNY van

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, left, Thomas Ronayne,

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, left, Thomas Ronayne, director of the county's Veterans Service Agency, and Joe Cognitore, a VFW leader from Rocky Point, talk about their trip to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Sept. 11. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Thursday announced a fundraising push to raise money for two causes related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“I’ve been in public life every year since 9/11,” said Bellone, standing in front of the Suffolk County 9/11 Memorial in Hauppauge. “I wanted to help raise funds for 9/11-related causes.”

The two he chose are the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park, the Smithtown space badly damaged in an August thunderstorm, and an FDNY family transport van to be named in honor of FDNY Capt. John Vigiano, a Deer Park man who lost both his first responder sons in the attacks. Vigiano died of cancer last year. 

 Bellone explained the reasons behind his choices. The park is “the only place dedicated to honoring those who responded and have died,” he said. More than 1,100 names are inscribed on a memorial wall at the park, and organizers are scheduled to read the names of 203 more who died in the past year, many from cancers related to their work at Ground Zero. 

Vigiano was a Marine and 36-year firefighter who, after he lost his sons, organized outings for soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who were wounded in Gulf War battles. “He was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” Bellone said.

Links to donate to both causes are on Bellone’s official Facebook page. By Thursday afternoon, donors had given $170 to 9/11 Responders Remembered Park Inc. and $2,040 for Fire Family Transport Foundation Ltd. The goal, said a Bellone spokesman, was to raise $20,000 for each cause. 

Bellone, who is running for re-election, also said Thursday that he and three other Suffolk County representatives had accepted an invitation from the Army to attend Sept. 11 ceremonies in Washington, D.C., where they will lay a wreath designed by a local florist at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

He will be joined by Thomas Ronayne, director of the county’s Veterans Service Agency, Melissa Pandolf, an agency staffer, and Joe Cognitore, a VFW leader from Rocky Point. All four are military veterans.

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