Category Archives: Customer Stories

One Bussani Customer Gives a Van to Another This Holiday Season

During this season of giving, a beautiful thing happened at Bussani Mobility. One customer gifted another with an accessible vehicle. And a Merry Christmas it will be!
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The first customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, walked in Bussani’s Smithtown location one day, in the market for a new wheelchair accessible van. He generously told Mobility Specialist Michael Garramone that he wanted to donate his current van to someone who needed it.
Long-time customer, Anthony Di Blanda, immediately popped into Mike’s mind. Tony had been in an accident over the summer on the way to church, at one of those Long Island intersections that truly needs a stop light. He made it through the accident with only some bumps and bruises, but his converted, 12-year-old Dodge with fold-out ramp was totaled. The family didn’t have collision insurance.
For six months, he and his family struggled with his transportation needs. His wife, AnnMarie, and his son had to lift him and his scooter in and out of their other SUV whenever they wanted to go anywhere. They often asked others for help.
handicap accessible van
“Tony has always been a person of positivity, radiating happiness. But that accident really got him down,” Bussani Mobility’s Michael Garramone said. “He was not happy because that vehicle was his independence. It was his way to drive and get out.”
Recounting the day Tony got the call from Bussani offering the vehicle, he said, “I remember that day. I said ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ The way they looked out for me was like family. It was truly amazing!”
The team at Bussani Mobility got to work fitting the donated 2007 Honda Odyssey with push-pull hand controls for Tony. It already had an in-floor, automatic power ramp installed. Don’s Hand Carwash of Smithtown also provided a free detail. And Branch Auto Care of Smithtown donated a free NY State inspection.
On Friday, December 8, the vehicle was ready and Mike handed the keys over to Tony and AnnMarie. When we asked where they’ll go first, Tony said with a beaming smile, “I’m going to wheel up the ramp in my scooter, sit in the back, and let my wife drive us to lunch!”
He went on to say, “She’s the real hero, the way she helps me, takes care of the kids, puts up the Christmas lights with a drill.”
The love between these two incredible people is palpable. Married for 25 years, they have three kids, now ages 13, 17 and 19. Just seven months after getting married, Tony was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 30. As the disease progressed, Tony began using a cane, then crutches, and then a scooter.
“In the beginning, I was so down about what happened to me,” Tony said. “I didn’t even want to bother trying to do things. But now there’s so much technology. At one time, it looked like I couldn’t even get into a vehicle. But now I can even drive. A life that looked closed is now open again.”
handicap accessible van
When Tony drives, he parks his scooter in the passenger seat area and transfers over. “It gives freedom to me and my family. It allows me to be there for them. It makes you feel better that you can take other people places. I can go to Costco, you can go to Costco, we can go to Costco together.”
Before life with MS, Tony was a chiropractor and a biochemist. He then started teaching science. Now he helps out with the school’s alumni outreach program. He said, “Now, I’ll be able to get back to the school and see all the alumni faces again.”
AnnMarie added, “The vehicle makes life doable. It opens up the opportunity to continue to live a normal life together.”

Life Rolls On: Jesse Billauer's MXV

jesse billauer mxvJesse Billauer is a well-known surfer from Pacific Palisades, California.  Jesse suffered an accident at the age of 17 in 1996, hitting his head on a shallow sandbar after being knocked off his surfboard by a wave. The force broke his neck, severing his spinal cord at the C6 level and instantly rendered him a quadriplegic. Just three years later, Jesse designed a surf board equipped with a bar to hold on to, allowing paralyzed individuals like him to get back to surfing. He took his passion one step further starting the life Rolls On Foundation, an organization dedicated to introducing wheelchair users to skating and surfing.
WATCH THE VIDEO! Jesse explains how the Ford MXV has changed his life. You will feel his excitement.
Jesse Billauer was never interested in owning a wheelchair accessible vehicle because he cared too much about style to settle for a minivan until he was introduced to the BraunAbility MXV. When the BraunAbility MXV came along, he quickly changed his mind about accessible vehicles. He drives an MXV equipped with a B&D 6-way transfer seat, a push-button gear shifter and dealer – equipped hand controls, allowing him to transfer from his chair and drive. Now the Life Rolls On founder drives completely independently without sacrificing space or style. SEE MORE DETAILS

Life Rolls On: Jesse Billauer’s MXV

jesse billauer mxvJesse Billauer is a well-known surfer from Pacific Palisades, California.  Jesse suffered an accident at the age of 17 in 1996, hitting his head on a shallow sandbar after being knocked off his surfboard by a wave. The force broke his neck, severing his spinal cord at the C6 level and instantly rendered him a quadriplegic. Just three years later, Jesse designed a surf board equipped with a bar to hold on to, allowing paralyzed individuals like him to get back to surfing. He took his passion one step further starting the life Rolls On Foundation, an organization dedicated to introducing wheelchair users to skating and surfing.

WATCH THE VIDEO! Jesse explains how the Ford MXV has changed his life. You will feel his excitement.

Jesse Billauer was never interested in owning a wheelchair accessible vehicle because he cared too much about style to settle for a minivan until he was introduced to the BraunAbility MXV. When the BraunAbility MXV came along, he quickly changed his mind about accessible vehicles. He drives an MXV equipped with a B&D 6-way transfer seat, a push-button gear shifter and dealer – equipped hand controls, allowing him to transfer from his chair and drive. Now the Life Rolls On founder drives completely independently without sacrificing space or style. SEE MORE DETAILS

Behind The Wheel With… Luigi, Connecticut Uberx Partner

Luigi Girotto #1Luigi waits for no one. Instead, he’s in the driver’s seat — and he’s helping others. The Bussani Mobility team in Mamaroneck, NY, customized his 2010 VW Routan with EMC driving aids, so Luigi drives from his wheelchair using an electronic brake and throttle operated by hand and an electronic remote steering wheel. His story (below) was originally posted on the Uber blog on May 27, 2015 by Mikaela.
 
Today, we’re going Behind the Wheel with Luigi, one of our top-rated uberX partners here in Connecticut. Luigi was born and raised in Italy outside of Venice. His 2 oldest children spent most of their childhood there until Luigi and his wife decided to move to the US. He now lives with his family in Rye, NY.
Luigi first learned about Uber from his 18-year old son. Currently enrolled at the University of Miami, his son uses Uber to get around. Though Luigi had already built a career in the jewelry industry (he still commutes into Manhattan’s diamond district during the week), he was looking to supplement his income with part-time work. After hearing about the Uber platform, he decided to sign up and give it a try. He’s now been driving for 3 months in Connecticut.
When you ask Luigi what his favorite sport is, his answer is immediate: Skiing. His face lights up if you bring it up in conversation. It’s surprising to learn, then, that it was in fact a skiing accident 8 years ago that left him a quadriplegic. Luigi didn’t think he would drive again, but a friend (also a quadriplegic) said to him, “If you can touch your nose, you can drive a car.” Four years after his accident, Luigi was driving independently.
Though Luigi is in a wheelchair with limited upper body mobility, he has been driving for the last 4 years. He had to wait over a year for his car to get equipped with the appropriate ramp and steering capabilities—but the wait was well worth it. Luigi now drives using a touch screen and an arm rest that acts like a joy stick.
He loves getting out of the house and hates staying inactive for too long. (His 8-year old helps keep him busy.) Driving with Uber on the weekends offers him not only the opportunity to make extra money, but to also explore his surrounding neighborhoods and meet new people.
When he’s not at work or driving with Uber, you may find Luigi at Burke Hospital counseling people who have recently suffered traumatic accidents like his own. By sharing his own story with patients, he hopes to show them the many opportunities they still have as quadriplegics. Luigi’s ultimate goal is to, “Bring more wheelchair accessible options with Uber to Fairfield County.” As we work toward growing and expanding service options in Connecticut, we look forward to seeing Luigi’s goal achieved.

204 Amazing People



Wilton resident Greg Jacobson is a dad, step-dad and husband. A former pro-golfer, he’s got the can-do enthusiasm and driven spirit of the professional athlete he once was.

He also has multiple sclerosis, something he was diagnosed with four years ago at the age of 50, just after he married Alison Jacobson. It has impacted his daily ability to do everything, and rapidly. Recently, he took a realistic look at his situation and recognized that a mobility van–one equipped to accommodate his wheelchair and his own lack of mobility–would make a world of difference. But such a vehicle would be exorbitantly expensive. That’s where the wider community, Wilton and beyond, stepped in to help.
We asked Greg to share the story of how he was able to get his much needed van, something he took possession of only one week ago. He also unexpectedly was able to obtain a motorized wheelchair. In such a short time, both have already made a huge difference in his life. We could tell you about it, but his words are the most powerful to explain just how much his life has been impacted by his new set of wheels, so we asked him to tell GMW.com readers himself.
My symptoms began in 2008. I went to my doctor and said, ‘Something’s wrong.’ I was extremely tired for no apparent reason. And I had a little bit of dropfoot–only a hint. My Lyme test came back almost positive, a false positive probably. I was seeing Lyme specialists, no one said it could be neurological. I didn’t know any better.
A golf friend thought maybe it was vascular and suggested I see a vascular surgeon. The vascular doctor ran a test and said, ‘Your circulation is perfect. But I think you’ve got something neurological going on.’ He gave me the number of a neurologist. That was 2010. I met with that neurologist and after he did all this observational testing over a number of appointments, I sat down with him.
‘What do you think you have?’ he asked.
I said, ‘I think I have MS.’
He said, ‘That’s what you have. What do you think about that?’
I left that appointment and got in the car, got on the phone with Alison, and I was a wreck. A wreck. As I was going through all of the tests and evaluations, my condition was getting worse. It was a relief to get a final diagnosis but it was hard to look at my future.
This is a long process and it’s expensive. I have primary progressive MS. As my neurologist says, ‘You got the bad one.’ We have nothing to treat you, your future is going to be challenging, prepare yourself and your family. I know what I’m having every day I wake up–it’s not different, just different degrees of disability.
It’s the weakness that’s the most challenging and troubling. I don’t suffer from the fatigue that most MS sufferers have where it just stops them dead in their tracks. I occasionally get it but not a regularly basis. I’m trying to make plans for what’s coming at me.
Over the last two years, Greg’s abilities deteriorated rapidly, leaving him unable to walk much at all. As a result, he says, he left home less and less.
I know I was frustrated, but how much I missed! I couldn’t do anything spontaneously. I was no candidate to run out and get a gallon of milk. I was no candidate to do anything quickly. Everything required planning and foresight, and I knew whatever destination, if I had to get out of the vehicle, I’d have to assemble a 150-pound mobility scooter out of four very heavy pieces. As I became weaker and weaker, it became more and more risky for me to do that.
It was parking, getting to the door behind me to get my walker, to get to the back of the minivan, then I started pulling the pieces out and putting it together. That’s a 10-minute process right there. Of course getting back in would involve the same difficult process, just in reverse.
It came to the point where I just said, I don’t want to do that. If somebody asked me to do something, I was like, ‘No! I can’t! I want to, I’d love to, but I can’t.’
Unless Alison or the kids were around, I’d stay home. I was a shut-in.
Back in April or May, I said, ‘I can’t live like this. I’m of no use to my family.’ It became even difficult for me to get into a vehicle to begin with. Climbing into a vehicle with only your arm strength is no way to start any kind of journey, even if it’s a quick pick up or drop off at school. I can’t only do things where I’m only the designated driver.
I’ve got three step kids and two kids of my own who live in 20 minutes away in Ridgefield. They’re all active, and I want to participate in everything everyone does. I missed a lot, because I couldn’t do it, or I chose not to do it. I know it was upsetting to people in my family when I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that.’
It’s amazing how much mobility everybody needs. You want to do something, it takes mobility to get somewhere. Mobility provides relevancy. I was afraid I’d become simply irrelevant. With my new mobility, it’s first and foremost critical to me and my family. If I’m no use to my family, that’s irrelevancy. But secondarily, it’s the only way I can continue to raise money to fight the disease for everyone with MS. I have four fundraisers a year.  I want this disease to go away for everybody. I want to be out there making it happen, that something is discovered that will make a difference in all these lives–not just the patients but the families. This is a disease that affects the entire family. I always refer to families with MS, because they’re all living with it.
Before I had to stop working I had a company called Accessible Home Living–we remodeled homes for accessibility. How ironic is that? One of our biggest clients had a mobility van that he purchased from Bussani Mobility in Mamaroneck, NY. We worked on his home for a year, so I saw his van all the time, and I was always impressed with it. In the back of my mind I always thought, ‘If it keeps going the way I think it’s going to go, Bussani are the people I’m going to call.’
I became very surprised at the cost of these things. [New, that’s more than $60,000] That van cost $39,000. That’s when I said, ‘I can’t afford to do this. But I need to do this.’ That’s when I went about raising money from my friends. I raised $29,000 from 204 friends via GoFundMe.com.
We ended up with the set-up now, where I drive in with the chair and get locked right in place behind the steering wheel. It’s the coolest technology there is. I worked with them for two months between raising the money and narrowing down the right van. My salesman from Bussani, Jordan Lechter, he’s a great guy. He identified a van with 35,000 miles on it.
This chair is a $25,000 chair. Another company was trying to get me a new one, covered under Medicare. With my insurance it would have still cost me $5,000 as my co-pay and that was too much. Jordan knew it was interrelated. He identified this chair, sitting in another client’s garage, barely used, and…was able to get it into my possession for $1,000.
They started marrying the chair to the van–it’s custom fit to that vehicle, in relation to me in the seat behind the wheel. It’s amazing how much this stuff needs to… we did it the right way for ease of use as well as for safety. It’s been remarkably easy.
Having these mobility devices, like this chair and the vehicle is probably 9-12 months late, but I’m grateful that I’ve got them now. Because as my symptoms progress, as it is right now, I can do a transfer from this seat to that seat, that’s all I’ve got. I want to maintain that as long as possible.
I’ve been fundraising to fight MS for now three years. As my symptoms have increased, I’ve had to do fundraising for myself. I’m not wealthy. I have a very big network of good solid friends. My college classmates and teammates; my high school classmates and teammates. I went to Milton Academy on scholarship to play hockey–we’re there for each other, for any of our classmates. The same goes for my Williams College classmates. I played four years of hockey and four years of golf. Those communities get behind the golf fundraisers, they’ve always stepped up. Over the past three years I’ve probably raised over $75,000 for the National MS Society.
But I knew this would be a big thing. I originally set out to raise $60,000 because that’s what a new one of these cost. I always said a gently used one would be just fine. But this one is better than gently used–it’s beautiful. It’s the most gorgeous vehicle…
Greg begins to cry.
Sorry.
204 people. 204 people, made that a reality. And I am beyond grateful.
I’ve always had great faith in humanity, but I have even more now. It’s people that I know and that I don’t know. A large number of the 204 I don’t know. I know them now.
He regains his composure.
Even just the good thought matters. Those good thoughts will resonate and those ripples become waves, and you never know what comes of the good waves. Even the smallest donation of help matters. I appreciate every single gift, it’s simply that–a gift.
There are hundreds of thousands of conditions out there–some life threatening, some just life altering like MS. The families never correctly anticipate what it’s going to take. I found out the hard way. I could not survive without the assistance of the community. For each individual with any of these conditions, it’s bigger than they anticipate. It’s going to take much more than they plan for. I’m on a chemotherapy medication that costs $75,000. Thank goodness the pharmaceutical company provides financial assistance. If you’re not wealthy, who do you turn to?
I never imagined that I was going to be turning to all of these communities that meant so much to me for so many years, and without hesitation, they all stepped up.
There’s still a $10,000 loan. I have to carry it, I can’t afford it. But I don’t see any other way. I’m on disability as it is. I’m grateful it exists, but it’s only a stipend. At this point, I’m not in that mode anymore–it’s one of these things that if that financial burden can be lifted, great. If it doesn’t get lifted, I can live with that too. But I achieved my goal of having that van and this chair in my life. It’s giving me life. Mobility is life.
I took it for granted. We all take it for granted. You don’t realize what a gift it is to stand up, and move from this spot to that spot. And into a vehicle to move to another spot 300 miles away. The god-given gifts that you have to do that can get lifted and taken away. Make the most of what you’ve got left, and that’s my intention–to make the most of what I’ve got. For me that means ending MS.
I am beyond joy. This is truly life changing. Yes, my life changed in a very dramatic way with this illness, but this has changed it back. It’s amazing to me, having lived with this disease, and lived with the constant declining capability, it’s amazing how much my world shrank. It wasn’t until I took delivery of this on Friday that my world opened up again.
The first thing I said was, ‘Alison, give me a honey-do list. I will go do everything and anything you want me to do. I want to do everything that I was not able to do prior to this. That’s all. So I spent this past weekend, going, from the time I woke up–just give me the list.
Greg Jacobson’s fundraising effort is ongoing. Anyone wishing to contribute can visit his gofundme.com webpage.

Yes We Can!

by guest blogger Liz Treston
Liz Treston & Finney
My name is Liz. Of all the things I did not plan on was becoming an expert in spinal cord injury and diseases. I am an expert through life not books.  My methods of teaching vary dependent upon my audience. If you’re in an elementary class at Career Day, I’m not going to go into details about proper bowel evacuation. I will, however, always be honest.
Honesty can be brutal at times. Depending on how long you’ve been in the exclusive club of SCI/D might also effect whether you read my article further. How did you get here? Did you fall out of a tree, miss a turn, smack a shoreline, a gene screwed with your body’s makeup, or you slid on silk sheets out of bed?
It doesn’t really matter. You are here. In that sense, that’s the first step on any journey. Being here. I can either be your mentor or the crazy lady with the dog. It’s perception. Isn’t that what we deal with every day? Society’s perception of our abilities? Our strengths and weaknesses? It can get exhausting being judged all the time. I should know. It’s one of my faults, judging people. I’m working on it.
After a SCI/D, we all go through our own personal journeys. It’s complicated. That’s a weak word. It’s beyond complicated, but you already know that. Eventually we figure out how to maneuver through the hallway again. We adapt to a life that was not planned.
Frankly, nobody’s life is set out on an agenda. We ride along with varying hills and mountains. Sometimes we come across a crevice and just want to fall in, but we don’t. We adapt.
We return to work, school. We return to our prior roles of mother, wife, husband, student, athlete, friend, employee, employer, artist or lawyer. Eventually we begin to transition to a new normal. One of the things about being human is our desire to be close to another human. It’s something about biology.
There have been a number of studies on sex and disabilities; not surprisingly, most involve men. Not that I have anything against men but, I want my body studied too!
In my workshops and presentations, I try to break stereotypes. Stereotypes you may have had before you found yourself in our little exclusive club. One of the biggest misperceptions is sex.
Yes, I can.
Yes, he can.
Yes, she can too.
Yes we do.
Together, we can help dispel the myths that a piece of fancy titanium attached to us makes us asexual.
Liz Treston a mentor with NYSCIA. She and her Canine Companion for Independence service dog, Finney, are a spokesperson team for Hearthfire (a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the role of the artist as a catalyst for personal and global evolution). She has also been very active with emergency preparedness efforts since Hurricane Sandy hit our area. Nassau County’s Executive Ed Mangano has honored her for her service to the community. Liz is available for panel discussions and conferences on a number of subjects focusing on advocacy, personal growth, and persons with disabilities in emergency and disaster preparation.

Bussani Mobility & NYDIS Partner to Relieve Lingering Issues from Super Storm Sandy

On Thursday, January 9th, the New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) held their January Board of Directors meeting.  During the meeting, three New York area families received new wheelchair accessible vans to replace vehicles lost during the devastation of 2012’s Super Storm Sandy.  All three vans were funded through a combination of federal funding and private, charitable donations made to NYDIS.  Working with Bussani Mobility, who performed modifications to meet the specific needs of each family, NYDIS was able to help these families regain the freedom that comes from having the right transportation needed for people living with disabilities.  In the video below, Peter B. Gudaitis of NYDIS announces the donations that were being made that evening.

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Click Here to read Press Release

As many still struggle to recover after more than a year, some families were affected in much more devastating ways. The three families who received the vans not only lost their previous vehicles but also their ability to get out of their houses. For the better part of the last year they have worked with NYDIS, who gathered the necessary funds to purchase these vehicles for the families. While federal funding did help towards acquiring these vans, a large part of the funding came from private charitable donations that were received by NYDIS and the many groups that work with them. Bussani Mobility, the premier provider of wheelchair accessible vans to the New York Tri-state area, sourced the vans and made necessary modifications to meet each families particular needs.

 “To play a role in helping these three families get back on the road with the freedom that a wheelchair accessible van provides to them is one of the great benefits of what we do” said Bussani Mobility Vice President Dan Bussani. “When the people at NYDIS reached out to us we knew that this was something we had to do.” Mike Lampert and Carl Surface, two of Bussani’s Mobility Specialists who worked with all three families on getting them the exact vans they needed, echoed Dan’s sentiments. “When you talked with these people and understood all that they had been dealing with since Sandy devastated the region, their plights became our top priority,” said Lampert.

Below are links to additional videos from the evening where the families received their vans.

Mr Ali receives keys to his van from Bussani’s Mike Lampert at Jan 9 2014 NYDIS Meeting. Click Here To View

Salihi Family and their new Van Jan 9 2014. Click Here To View

Mr Curry received the keys to his new van and takes the wheel. Click Here To View

Mr Curry takes the wheel and says ‘I’ll drive!’. Click Here To View

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2 People, 2 Dogs, 1 Love Story

Frank and Emily in Newsday
November 20, 2012 by JAN TYLER / Special to Newsday
Frank and Emily in NewsdayFolklore pictures Cupid as a chubby little matchmaker who shoots love arrows from a fancy bow. But for one couple, the messenger of love took the form of a bowless but savvy woman acting on instinct.
“I had a hunch that they’d hit it off,” said Judy Carey, who introduced Emily Costanza and Frank Sciaretta about a year ago.
And they did. Costanza, 37, of Bay Shore, and Sciaretta, 49, of Levittown, both of whom have spinal disorders that have confined them to wheelchairs, are engaged to be married and plan to tie the knot in September.
“There are so many details, like working out everyone’s schedules,” Costanza said, “and we’re still looking for a catering facility that’s completely handicapped-accessible where we could hold the wedding ceremony and the reception; four of our friends are also in wheelchairs. Plus, I’ll need a custom-made gown, and we’ll need both a pastor and a priest because Frank is Catholic and I’m a born-again Christian.”
They spend as much time together as they can, meeting for lunch, going to movies, shopping and to church. They often drive Sciaretta’s retrofitted Toyota Sienna minivan.
As Costanza showed off her diamond engagement ring, Sciaretta held tight to her right hand. They both beamed with joy.
“She’s a blessing,” he said. “She’s brought so much happiness into my life.”
Matched with dogs
The couple had been accepted, separately, as recipients of support dogs at Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a nationwide nonprofit with a campus in Medford. CCI donates service dogs that have been bred for intelligence and docility and are specially trained to assist disabled children and adults in their daily lives.
Dogs and their human partners are matched in terms of the recipient’s needs. CCI dogs can open drawers and doors, turn light switches off and on, retrieve and pick up fallen objects and alert caregivers to an emergency with their partners. The service is free, and candidates have to show they can care for the dogs, according to the CCI website.
Sciaretta and his black Labrador retriever, Bastien, have been together since 2007. Each day, Bastien accompanies Sciaretta to his job as a computer systems manager in Melville.
Costanza was diagnosed 10 years ago with a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which weakens connective tissue in skin, bones and other organs. She and her companion, Carmel, also a black Labrador retriever, were paired in 2010.
“My family thought I was crazy,” she said. “They said I couldn’t take care of a dog, that it would be too much for me to handle. But these dogs are so well trained, they’re so devoted and obedient, it’s like having a loving friend with you all the time.” As she caressed Carmel’s silky coat, Costanza recalled that she “had the oddest feeling that something wonderful would come from my connection with CCI, that it was absolutely the best thing for me to do, and I was so right.”
Costanza met Carey, a volunteer puppy raiser for CCI who lives in Massapequa, during orientations at the Medford campus, and they became friends. “I began visiting Emily at her home,” Carey said. “And it just broke my heart to know she was alone when she’s so pretty and full of life; I wanted to change that for her.”
Carey knew Sciaretta from events at CCI. “I knew him to be a great guy, and my matchmaking instincts started to heat up,” she said. “I admired the spunk and hopeful outlook they both have.
“I invited them to lunch, and it was really funny to see the looks on the waiters’ faces when they saw all three of our dogs, which, by the way, are very well behaved. But the restaurant was very nice about it.
“Frank came in with a rose for Emily and one for me; a very romantic gesture. I could tell they were taken with each other, and before the end of the meal they were exchanging phone numbers. I couldn’t have been more delighted.”

Magical’ relationship
“That night,” Costanza said, “he called, and we talked for hours. We started to date and the attraction grew; it was magical. We knew we’d found our life partner.”
There are other bright spots in the couple’s future. Costanza, a professional vocalist with a bluesy, light-contralto delivery, said, “I’m lined up with Sony Music Entertainment as backup for an album featuring Gordon Bahary, a retro-pop singer, and I’m really excited about it.”
Although Costanza is planning to stay in her Bay Shore apartment until after the wedding, the couple is looking forward to living together in the remodeled Levittown house her fiance grew up in with his four siblings. His father, Frank Sr., has died, and he shares the home with his mother, Rita.
Built at ground level, the house needed no entry ramps. With contractors making the improvements based on Sciaretta’s designs, several interior walls in the public rooms were removed, creating a spacious and barrier-free living, dining and kitchen space. Some countertops and sinks were lowered for easy access.
“Over the years we made changes that helped me get around, first on crutches and then in the wheelchair,” said Sciaretta, who was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the vertebrae aren’t fully connected. “It’s now totally handicapped-accessible, and I know Emily will be very comfortable here.”
But the couple’s happy engagement is only part of their story. Cupid’s arrows seem to have found their marks in Bastien and Carmel as well. During visits, the dogs carry on a lovefest of their own.
“They run to greet each other and rub noses and do all the usual doggy hellos,” Costanza said. “They cuddle and play together; they love to wrestle and pull each other around the floor. Sometimes it gets a little rambunctious, but it’s such fun to watch them.”
Contacting CCI
Volunteer puppy raisers are urgently needed at Canine Companions for Independence in Medford. To learn more, contact the organization at 631-561-0231 or cci.org.

Prosthetic Hands Are a Game-Changer

Our dear friend, Dan Gropper, is one of the very first recipients of a brand new technology that he calls “a game changer.”

A quadruple amputee, Dan had been using a series of hooks and appliances to do things like drive and play golf. Now he’ll be able to do those things with a pair of human-like hands called Michelangelos. The prosthetic hands are made by Ottobock, a German company, and are able to mimic seven different hand motions, Dan is the first person in the world to be fitted with them. They cost $80,000 each and were covered by his insurance.
Dan controls his new hands by contracting muscles which send an electric signal that is then converted to motion. His new hands regulate pressure, which allow him to do things like eat a grape without crushing it.
Want to know more?
Click here
(and scroll to the bottom of the article) to see a really inspiring video.