Philanthropist Steve Castleton, left, announces he will personally donate $10,000...

Philanthropist Steve Castleton, left, announces he will personally donate $10,000 to the Wyandanch High School athletic program. This is in addition to the $150,000 of county funding also announced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Wyandanch acting Superintendent Gina Talbert said Friday the district has raised enough money to begin the school’s fall sports programs, which include football, boys and girls soccer, and girls junior varsity volleyball.

The district has been trying to raise $350,000 to save the school’s sports teams after all after-school programs were cut from the $69 million contingency budget plan adopted in June. Voters twice rejected proposals that would have raised taxes 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Talbert said the school board will meet Wednesday to vote on formally accepting the donations, which would allow the teams to begin practicing.

The district said it had received $128,118 in donations as of Friday. The Suffolk County Police Department announced last week that it was giving the school $150,000 as part of a grant intended to help fight gangs. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday he is “confident” the county has enough pledges to cover the remaining $72,000. Winter sports begin in November, and Bellone expects to have the remaining donations available to the school “pretty quickly. That won’t be an issue at all.” 

"Of course we wanted to have it all in so we could announce to the students when they return to school that we have enough, but we don't want to penalize the fall," Talbert said. "We’ll just continue moving forward and hope the remainder comes in."

The Wyandanch football team is scheduled to play its first game Sept. 13 at Greenport High School. A state rule requires players to practice a minimum of 10 times before a team can play a game. Even if the board votes Wednesday to accept the donations, the Warriors will not have enough practice time and may be forced to forfeit their first game.

Talbert said she plans to call Section XI, which oversees public high school sports in Suffolk County, to lobby for a waiver to the 10-day practice rule “because our students have been on the field doing conditioning drills to make sure they’re fit and ready to go when the word comes forth.”

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, said, “I really can’t comment until I hear from them.” He said the state mandates the practice rule — 10 days' worth for football and six for all other sports — for safety purposes to ensure players are prepared for games.

Bellone told Newsday he has worked with Island Outreach, a Blue Point-based nonprofit, and former Suffolk Presiding Officer Paul Tonna on raising funds from donors and organizations, many of whom he said wish to remain anonymous.

“I think you had so many people step forward because everybody understands the importance that high school sports can have on a kid’s life,” Bellone said.

Wyandanch physical education teacher Angelique Shannon, who was involved in the fundraising efforts, said: “Our children deserve everything the other districts have, and the thought of them not having sports, I just couldn’t even imagine.”

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