Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Who knew that one ordinary show-and-tell would ignite my fire for lacrosse…’

Vito DeMola, Holbrook

“Playing lacrosse has been a passion for me since I was in fourth grade. I was introduced to it by my friend Maddie during show-and-tell. I was fascinated by the lacrosse stick she showed off, and I knew I had to try it out. Luckily, the next day I was able to get ahold of a lacrosse stick and play with some friends during recess. After that, I was hooked and replaced my baseball glove with a lacrosse stick.

“Who knew that one ordinary show-and-tell would ignite my fire for lacrosse, driving me to play my heart out in high school, college and even for the legendary New York Lizards! Throughout high school, I played varsity lacrosse and enjoyed every moment of it. But it was my seventh-grade coach, the legendary coach Doug Pandolf, who truly inspired me to give back to the community. This guy was the epitome of cool, with his shaved head and sick blue Jeep.

The Sachem community holds a special place in my heart.

“I wanted to be like him so badly! I played for him for a few years before aging out, but his impact on me was unforgettable. So when I saw a post on Facebook looking for lacrosse coaches, I jumped at the chance. And guess who called me? Coach Doug himself! We teamed up to coach some sixth-graders, and it felt like the ultimate full-circle moment. I learned so much from him when I was younger, but coaching alongside him was the ultimate honor.

“Coach Doug has been coaching in the community for over 30 years, and I’m so grateful to be part of his legacy and to help these young players become superstars. I’m not here just for a paycheck, but to see Sachem transform into something great. I’m committed to this program and want to establish myself as one of the coaches parents and kids look forward to playing with. Building a program that we’re all proud of is my ultimate goal. I want parents to feel proud to have their kids be a part of it and for the kids to feel proud to be on the field with us.

“I hope that one day my kids will also share that same sense of pride. Because I am an alumnus and former Sachem East lacrosse player, the Sachem community holds a special place in my heart. I know first-hand the power of a strong community and the role models that helped shape me into who I am today.”

Interviewed by Starr Fuentes