Woodward school hoops with Freeport firefighters and police


The Woodward Children’s Center in Freeport was bustling with excitement and community fervor on June 8 as the school’s students and staff went toe-to-toe against members of the Freeport fire and police departments in a spirited game of basketball.

The event, held on school grounds at 201 West Merrick Road, aimed to strengthen community ties and provide a fun-filled day for everyone involved. The center is a K-12 school that was created in 1957 for the nurturing and development of children who face social, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Greg Ingino, Woodward’s executive director and a member of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, shared his insights about the event.

“This is the first year in history that we have a basketball team with our students, called the Woodward Wildcats,” Ingino said. “We thought it would be a great community event to have (them play against members of the fire department).”

The Wildcats team, made up of Woodward students in grades 8-12 and Woodward staff, was assembled specifically for this event

In the end, students and staff defeated the police and fire departments, 34-17, and were able to garner for themselves the victory of the day.

The afternoon’s event was meticulously planned, with a variety of activities scheduled to ensure there was something for everyone.

“The event (featured) our students playing in a basketball game with some of our staff and the Freeport Fire Department,” Danielle Barry, Woodward program coordinator and one of the event’s key organizers, said.

The afternoon’s activities also featured face painting, a raffle and a free barbecue lunch.

In addition, a concert by Mayhem Long Island, a live band comprised of special needs musicians, was a highlight, with the school’s very own Woodward band opening for the group.

The event kicked off at 1 p.m. and ran until 5 p.m., with the basketball game taking center stage. Despite initial concerns about the age groups of the students versus the firefighters, Barry said, “Our students (taking part in the basketball game) are from eighth grade through 12th grade. (It’s meant to be) a fun event, not an overly competitive event.”

Barry Vogel, school comptroller, and Nicholas Lenoci II, president of Woodward, who also helped organize the event, reflected on its success.

Principal Nicholas Lenoci II emphasized that the real focus was “the community engagement, having people available to support the school and (the students) as individuals.”

The event also saw notable guests, including Freeport mayor Robert Kennedy, who lent his support to the initiative, and Chamber of Commerce President Ken Dookram.

The students “were very excited and proud of themselves,” Vogel said. “They had a blast.”

Although there were no medals handed out, the students were treated to delicious food, ice cream, and the fun of participating in a significant community event.

All leftover food was donated to the Freeport Soup Kitchen, ensuring that the spirit of giving extended beyond the day’s festivities.

The Woodward school continues to serve students with special education needs from all five boroughs of the city and Long Island.

“We hope (that events like these) will help (the community) see what Woodward’s all about, the services that we offer for our students, (and) the way we support our students,” Barry said.