Featured Story

Celebrating Shelter Island heroes: EMS gala awards dinner at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club

The term “life saver” is used loosely these days, describing everything from a friend finding your lost keys to a come-from-behind score in a game.

But Shelter Island first responders — the police, fire and Emergency Medical Services — live up to the term, saving actual human lives.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the EMS, along with the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation, was celebrated at a gala awards dinner at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club.

Members of the EMS, along with friends and family, the Town Board and other Town officials, came to celebrate the volunteers who respond to medical emergencies 24/7.

The country club not only hosted the gathering, but contributed a donation to the Ambulance Foundation from their golf outing fundraiser. Jim Preston, director of the Foundation, termed the donation “significant and generous.”

An aide to Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) presented service pins to all members of the EMS for their dedication and diligent efforts throughout the worst days of the pandemic. EMS Director Jack Thilberg noted the efficiency and practical measures implemented by the department during those dark days, which resulted in no volunteers contracting COVID, while continuing full services to those in need.

So far this year, the department has responded to 238 medical emergencies.

EMS Chief Mark Kanorvogel responded to an astonishing 83% of the calls: Captain Ollie Campbell responded to 57%; Annmarie Seddio, 37%; Jim Preston, 32%; Lieutenant Kate Davidson, 30%; Donald Regan, 23%; and Captain Michael Martin, 21%.

The Shelter Island EMT of the Year is Timothy (TJ)  Dalton. Heather Fundora was named Driver of the Year. Coco Lee Thurman was named Volunteer of the Year.

Supervisor Gerry Siller spoke to the gathering, thanking the EMS members for their work as first responders, and added, “Your involvement in the 10K and 5K runs, your willingness to help out at any events when asked, your stepping up to help with and guide us through the pandemic, as well as all the things I couldn’t possibly begin to list, are what make you so very special to Shelter Island.”

He noted that “everyone in this room knows the Island, understands how it works and loves being part of this community … The one thing I’ve learned while serving in office is that the disgruntled residents are usually the most vocal residents. The problem now is that, for the most part, these residents are also quite wealthy, and they have the time and the means to put out statements, true or not, to further their cause … If we want to keep the Shelter Island as the community we all know and love, we need as many people as possible to familiarize themselves with what is going on in the town, to speak up if needed, and to help spread the word of how important it is that we all work together to preserve what we have.”

Mr. Kanarvogel had singled out Marian Brownlie, a longtime member of the EMS Advisory Board, as essential to keeping the traditional awards dinner alive. “We wouldn’t have this dinner without her,” Mr. Kanarvogel said.

Chief Mark Kanarvogel with EMS Advisory Board Member Marian Brownlie, who is one of the main organizers of the annual awards dinner. (Credit: Adam Bundy)