Samantha Specht: Co-Founder, ReesSpecht Life

first_imgOn Oct. 27, Superstorm Sandy turned toward the Florida coast. She took a breath and weakened, but soon intensified into a storm that no one in her path will ever forget. As the hurricane approached, Nassau and Suffolk county officials declared a state of emergency on Long Island.In Sound Beach on the North Shore, Rich and Samantha Specht, along with their three children—Abigail, 8, Lorelei, 6, and Richie, 22 months—were preparing for the storm. Samantha and the girls went to the store while Rich and his toddler son stayed home. Rich’s friend from childhood and godfather of Richie was also there to help Rich get the house and yard ready before the storm hit.The lawn furniture had to be stored, so Rich asked his friend to keep an eye on Richie while he moved the furniture into the garage. Rich was only gone for a few minutes, and when he went back inside the house, he asked his friend where his son was.“I thought he was with you,” he replied. Those six words immediately sank deep into Rich’s heart. Both men raced outside to look for the toddler. Richie had been told that the backyard pond was off limits, but Samantha says he was always a curious little boy.“They found him face down in the pond,” Samantha says, with tears streaming down her cheeks.Rich began performing CPR. The paramedics arrived minutes later and valiantly tried to restart Richie’s heart while they were en route to the hospital, and continued for another half hour after arrival. But it was too late.Samantha was still at the store when the hospital called. In a haze, she thought they were referring to her husband, and didn’t realize that her son had passed away until she got to the hospital.On Oct. 28, with Sandy barreling up the East Coast, people in parts of New York City were evacuated and transportation in the region ground to a halt.Still in shock, the Spechts had to begin preparations for their son’s funeral. By the next afternoon they were without electrical power or telephone service, and didn’t get it restored until 11 days later.“We had to drive to the post office and sit in the parking lot to get a signal to make phone calls,” Samantha says. “People couldn’t contact us or fly into New York.”On Nov. 1, Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht was laid to rest. He was named after his father, his great-uncle Edwin, and Samantha’s maiden name, Ehmer.“I didn’t want him to be known as Little Richie,” Samantha says, “so my mother suggested that we call him Rees, and we did, just her and I.”Richie would soon become known as ReesSpecht. Rich found solace in putting his thoughts about his son’s death into words. Then, Samantha says, the idea of memorializing their son took root.“Rees always wanted to make people happy,” she says.Rallying around the family were their friends, family and the faculty and students at the Smithtown schools where the Specht’s work. Samantha teaches German at Smithtown East High School and Rich is a science teacher at Great Hollow Middle School.The outpouring of love and support helped get them through each day.A local company, Kelly Brothers Landscaping of Coram, was working in the area and contacted the Spechts after learning of the tragedy.“We didn’t know them but they heard about what happened and said they would like to do something for us,” she says. “They removed the pond. It was a constant reminder of what happened, and they just kept coming back.They planted thousands of plants in our entire yard, and they wouldn’t take anything in return.”Meals, movie tickets and gift certificates were given to the family by well-meaning friends and strangers.“Everyone was so unbelievably kind,” Samantha says. “There was no way we could repay them and the community.”To show their gratitude, they founded ReesSpecht Life in their son’s memory as a way to pay it forward.The night before Rees died, he was photographed wearing a Superman costume.“It’s our last good memory of him,” Samantha says.Adam Smith, a graphic designer and friend of the family, created a logo for the foundation using Rees’ Superman picture.ReesSpecht cards were printed and used for handouts, asking the recipient to “Help us help each other…. We all possess the ability to do something Super. Possession of this card is a solemn promise to pay it forward and perform random acts of kindness and be one of Rees’ Pieces.”“It’s therapeutic just to know that people are doing something in Rees’ name. That makes us so proud,” Samantha explains.“You might not know that a person is going through a hard time,” she adds. “If someone doesn’t know my story, they don’t know that I was hurt. People can mask their emotions, and paying it forward can make a tremendous difference. It doesn’t have to be monetary. The point is that you’re helping someone else.”Rich and Samantha recently began to fundraise for two scholarships that will be awarded to a Smithtown East and West High School senior. The Smithtown Teachers Association is holding the funds until the ReesSpecht Life organization gets its 501c3 designation approved.Meanwhile, Samantha says, they are doing their best to move forward.“We’re finding some peace,” she says. “We can’t just sit and wallow. The reality of it is we have two little girls [to raise]. We are grieving as a family, but we have to do something for them.”Remembering their little boy as someone who liked to make others happy is a way for the Spechts to perpetuate their son’s memory and ReesSpecht Life.[colored_box color=”blue”]For more information or to contact the Spechts, email: reesspechtlife@yahoo.com or visit www.facebook.com/reesspechtlife.[/colored_box][colored_box color=”grey”]In every issue of the Long Island Press and our sister publication, Milieu Magazine, the Fortune 52 column brings you stories of dynamic women who have made a significant and unique contribution to Long Island. To acknowledge their success, Beverly hosts tri-annual networking events that are attended by hundreds of LI business professionals, non- profit leaders and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in knowing more about the Fortune 52, or know a super woman who deserves good Fortune – and a profile – email Beverly at bfortune@longislandpress.com.[/colored_box] Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York last_img read more

Lonzo Ball’s cleaned-up shot draws approval from Lakers brass

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO — What can Lonzo Ball do to improve his shot? If you asked 10 different people, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.But it seems Ball went in search of his own answers to that question after shooting just 36 percent from the field last year, one of the worst guard efficiencies in the league. And watching Ball lately, the powers-that-be in the Lakers’ front office seem satisfied that he’s come a long way.“Man,” said Magic Johnson, pantomiming Ball’s adjustments Thursday afternoon, “it is beautiful.”Ball’s stroke has always been unconventional, and even in recently released team footage, it’s still odd-looking: The 20-year-old holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters, and he flicks his wrist sideways from his set hand. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe new motion has traces of the old motion, but cleaned up: The Lakers like that he sets more to the center than he used to, and General Manager Rob Pelinka thinks the release is a little less clunky.Pelinka, who used to have shooting contests with former Michigan teammate and 3-point ace Glen Rice, admitted he has talked to Ball a lot about shooting. But he insisted the team hasn’t pushed him to make huge changes in mechanics, only to find a more consistent, fluid stroke.“I feel like you can boil it down to release, the spin on the ball and arch,” Pelinka said. “So I had many conversations with Zo of, just get those things right where you feel fluid about it. He would take things in. The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.“Before he was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2017, Ball had a transcendent one-and-done year at UCLA, during which he shot 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers hope he finds the touch he once had as a prospect, which could help him play more off the ball – a necessary role since he’ll be sharing the court with playmakers LeBron James and Rajon Rondo next season. Pelinka said he thinks Ball could be valuable as a catch-and-shoot player in those instances, as long as the shot continues to improve.center_img Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.It’s not the only thing Ball has worked on, of course: Johnson cited Ball’s rapt attention for film study, including a handful of sessions with Magic himself. While he spent the summer recovering from knee surgery, he was often in the team’s weight room, watching his teammates play scrimmages on the court feet away. Johnson thinks the development of other young players, especially Kyle Kuzma, could be a motivating force for Ball.Johnson, the president of basketball operations, famously said last summer he expected Ball’s jersey to hang from the rafters one day. He was more tempered Thursday when evaluating the second-year point guard, but still confident.“I am excited for Lonzo,” he said, “and he is going to be fine.”OFF-CENTERMore than a few people have noticed the Lakers seem precariously thin close to the basket.While the team’s wing options are robust, the only center with significant NBA experience on the roster is JaVale McGee, a 10-year vet who averaged less than 10 minutes per game the past two seasons for the Golden State Warriors. While Croatian big man Ivica Zubac is also a traditional center, the roster structure has fueled speculation that other forwards (including LeBron James) might play more small-ball center.Johnson and Pelinka didn’t seem to sense a weakness: In an era when the “positionless” basketball the Warriors often play is a goal for many teams, a traditional big man takes on less importance, Johnson suggested.“You know the game has gone to (smaller play),” he said. “There’s not a true center playing backup, and we’ve got one of the best going to be there.”McGee, a long-limbed shot-blocker, hasn’t averaged double-digit points since 2012. But defensively, he’s expected to make a difference, and the Lakers think he’s gained character from his runs with the Warriors.Outside of McGee, Pelinka said the front office wanted to design the roster with “thrust”: a variety of players who could attack and pounce the length of the court to pressure opponents. Just because the Lakers don’t have a ton of big man experience doesn’t mean they lack length. Pelinka also pointed out the team has seven players who are 6-foot-9 or taller (even though some of those players are guards).“As the game is moving to be more positionless, we really don’t talk about center or point guard,” he said. “It is a positionless game and we have a long roster with adequate size for sure.”ROSTER SPOT REMAINS OPENIt was notable that Pelinka said Thursday he feels the Lakers’ roster is especially deep from “one to 14.” Because there’s a 15th spot that so far is unfilled.Related Articles Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Expect that spot to remain empty for at least a little while longer. Even as training camp begins Tuesday, the Lakers want to keep a spot open. It could serve as spot help for a need identified in camp, Pelinka said, or if the team gets into a trade discussion, they could receive two players for one.The Lakers want to keep their options on the table.“We do want to have that flexibility, and we just want to keep it open because the team is so deep,” he said. “We don’t have any current needs right now.”last_img read more