Suffolk County high school lands new funding to help save sports program

WYANDANCH, Long Island (WABC) -- A high school in Suffolk County thought it would lose its entire sports program this year due to budget issues, but that crisis may have been averted.

Creative maneuvering by the police department in Wyandanch helped save the day, but school leaders are still cautiously optimistic after the bumpy road it took to get there.

It looked like the field of broken dreams in town Thursday, with this fiscally challenged district's sports program underfunded and in jeopardy with a Monday deadline fast approaching.

"If we didn't have sports, the school would be nothing because a lot of kids like sports and it keeps them together," Wyandanch basketball team member Treyona Mayhew said.

The future of school athletes teetering on the success of a GoFundMe campaign and video shot by a volunteer, with the district having only raised $50,000 of the $350,000 needed.

"I played football at Hofstra University, there are friends of mine, my teammates who have money," Wyandanch High School Principal Paul Sibblies said.

In a hastily arranged meeting with reporters before noon, Wyandanch school officials hinted they had secured more funding, but they weren't exactly convincing.

"We don't have it in hand," interim Wyandanch Superintendent Dr. Gina Talbert said. "Do we believe in good faith in earnest that they are intending to make those donations? Yes."

But by late Thursday afternoon, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it was safe to say that the sports program could move forward -- thanks to extraordinary efforts from the Suffolk County Police Department as they secured $150,000 in state money allocated for fighting gangs.

"Because you're a victim of gangs when you don't have opportunities," Suffolk County Police Department Deputy Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis said.

The budget problems in Wyandanch have been throwing this district into turmoil for months, as it's been the only Long Island district that failed to win voter approval for its budget back in June.

Philanthropist Steve Castleton, of West Islip, will also be donating $10,000.

"If there's financial problems in the district, the ones who shouldn't suffer are the kids," Castleton said.

While $90,000 in funding is still needed, Suffolk County officials are assuring students they will reach their goal in time.

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