Seaford student builds bridges

Cited for connecting special needs and sports

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Seaford High School sophomore Sarah Keane remembers watching her grandmother, Laurel

Nigro, when she volunteered at Ronald McDonald House in Queens. “She always used to take me there when I was little,” Keane recalled, “and we’d bake for the people.”

Inspired by that example, Keane, 16, spends much of her time doing community service in Seaford and the surrounding towns. Now she has been honored by the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation for her work as a member of the foundation’s Young Ambassadors program.

“The overall goal of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation is to raise money for children for health and educational needs,” Keane said.

The initiative was created by New York Rangers star Henrik Lunqvist and his wife, Therese, in 2015, because of their belief in “the incredible power of young people to make a difference in the world.”

Keane was recently honored as well by the Islanders’ Ladd’s Leaders program for her volunteer work in the community — specifically with Shooting Stars, a track club for 4- to 18-year-olds with special needs at Mepham High School in Bellmore; Sensory Beans, a children’s gym in Wantagh; and the Crayon Initiative, an organization that, according to its website, collects crayons from across the U.S. to melt down, remanufacture and distribute to art programs at children’s hospitals.

Ladd’s Leaders, started by Islanders star Andrew Ladd, recognizes young people who make contributions to local communities. Keane attended the March 1 Islanders’ game at Nassau Coliseum, where she had the chance to meet Ladd. “He’s very nice and very easy to talk to,” she said, “and it’s great that he honors kids like this.”

Keane was nominated for recognition by Ladd’s Leaders by Team Up 4 Community, after sharing her community service work with the organization in January, according to Executive Director Teresa Webb. Team Up promotes community givebacks and social responsibility through athletics, according to its website.

As a Lundqvist Foundation Young Ambassador, Keane must complete four projects before she can graduate from the program and have the opportunity to become a mentor. She got involved in the program in January and began her first project that month, when she and roughly 15 other participants were asked by a program adviser, Meredith Wolff, to collect crayons for the Crayon Initiative. Keane organized a crayon drive at Seaford High, and students and administrators donated crayons. She collected roughly 40 pounds.

Young Ambassadors are also required to complete 15 hours of community service. For the past three years, Keane has volunteered every Sunday, almost year-round (with a break during the winter) with Shooting Stars, working with 4- to 8-year-olds. Since January she has completed around 50 hours. “It’s the perfect connection. I also run for Seaford, so I’m on the cross-country and track teams,” she said. “Both things are two things I’m very passionate about, so it’s amazing to be able to connect both at one time.”

She is working on an independent service project involving Shooting Stars — Seaford Board of Education requirements prevented her from talking about it — and she will also be required to make a presentation about the Lundqvist Foundation, most likely to students at her school.

She first heard about the foundation, and the Young Ambassadors program, at a New York Rangers RangersTown 5K run in Flushing Meadows Park last November. “Two girls came up to me, and they were like, ‘You look about the age to do this,’” she recounted.

“I looked online, and I saw the program requirements for it, and I realized I’d already completed most of them,” Keane said.

At Seaford High, she is a member of the Best Buddies club, a chapter of Best Buddies International, an organization with the mission to create one-on-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and more for those with special needs, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“I think it’s an amazing program that educates people my age, who may not necessarily be so willing and open to being friends with someone who might be a little bit different,” she said. “It puts me in such a good mood. It makes me so happy.”

Keane is also a member of the Key Club, a service-oriented club affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, and takes part in community and school service activities like beach cleanups and fundraisers. She is vice president of both the Science Club and the Science Olympiad, and won two medals at a competition in February. She also helps organize the school’s pep squad, which cheers on the special-needs kids involved in the Career Development Program at their basketball games.

“I think it’s important that people are respectful and mindful of others and understand perspectives from others’ shoes,” Keane said, “which is why helping disabled people is so important to me.”