Signs throughout the Maurice W. Downing Primary School’s library read, “You are our heroes and sheroes,” and the smell of bacon and scrambled eggs filled the room last Friday. Members of the Malverne school’s Student Council wore red and pink to spread some Valentine’s Day love, and honored local heroes at the school’s 10th annual Community Heroes Breakfast.
More than 30 people were recognized as heroes by Downing’s Student Council. The honorees included members of Malverne’s Police Department, police reserves, the Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Department of Public Works, village board members, the Lakeview Youth Federation, the Lakeview NAACP, State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin and principals and administrators from around the district.
“When we started this 10 years ago, I never imagined that it would one day grow into this community-wide celebration,” said former Student Council adviser Marguerite Robles, who retired at the end of the 2018-19 school year. “They say it takes a village, and what a showing we have today to see the many villages and people that make up our community.”
The Student Council started the breakfast, originally known as the First Responders Breakfast, as part of the Downing Cares initiative, a program that offers students the chance to take part in local charitable activities throughout the year. Downing School Principal Ed Tallon quoted Davison Avenue School administrator Stephen Benfante, saying that it is important to “break bread” and come together to promote student growth.
“All of our heroes and sheroes don’t wear capes,” Tallon said, “but the day-to-day activities that bring us together and support us here as a school is tremendous.”
One of the heroes, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, said that it is community leaders’ duty to make an effort to give back whenever they can. “That’s a part of our responsibility,” Ryder told the Herald. “We have to do anything we can do to support the [children], because they’re the future.”
Downing teacher and Student Council adviser Katie Smyth said that part of the school’s mission is to teach children to set goals, to dream big and to think about what they want to be when they grow up. “We invited you all here today because you really are shining examples of following your dreams and people who give back to the community,” Smyth told the honorees. “We chose to hold this on Valentine’s Day because we wanted to say that we love you, we thank you and we appreciate you for doing what you do every day.”
The Student Council hosted a hurricane relief fundraiser in September, wore yellow to raise awareness of childhood cancer in October, collected canned goods for their “Yes We Can” food drive in November and collected coats, hats and gloves for their Coats for Kids drive in December.
Last Friday also marked the start of the council’s Ronald McDonald House fundraiser to aid families with children battling cancer. “We try to teach our kids the importance of community service,” Robles said, “and there’s nothing more important than this showing right here.”