North Basketball Game For A Cause

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Dr. Anton Berzins (center in white Great Neck North shirt) is ready for this year’s game

The final score of tomorrow (Thursday, April 16) night’s coed basketball game at Great Neck North High School between two faculty teams won’t be the prime focus of the Thursday evening event so much as it will be on the emotional feelings it will engender among the participants and those watching from the bleachers.

With Principal Bernard Kaplan and Assistant Principal Ron Levine serving as referees and assistant principals Patricia Hugo and Daniel Krauz coaching the teams, the 6 p.m. game will be the fourth annual Aids Awareness Benefit for the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation for HIV/AIDS. Tickets are still available for $5.

Brodsky, well known to the students of North through their AIDS Awareness Club and his fundraising efforts in helping to provide meals and medical treatment for thousands of orphans in Kenya and his work on behalf of AIDS and cancer treatment, will be there along with wife, Jodi.

His connection with North students and his regular visits to the school began with an email answered by the school’s psychologist, Dr. Anton Berzins eight years ago.

“They asked me to run the AIDS Awareness Club back then,” Dr. Berzins recalled. “I had no experience with it, but I was open to helping out.”

“It’s now one of the largest clubs in the school,” he said. “Eight years ago, I had five students. Now, we have over 100.”

The Brodskys will be making their 11th trip to Kenya in the late fall. Richard is also a cosponsor there of the annual World AIDS Marathon, an event that begins each year with a ribbon cutting by President Obama’s grandmother.

Brodsky, 62, who was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1997 and diagnosed with brain cancer in 2002, is an active marathoner himself, as is his wife.  He recently ran in Hartford and finished in 3:59:56, a sub four-hour marathon that he admits he had only hoped to accomplish by the time he was 65.

“As a psychologist, as a person, a lot of my work is about accepting others,” Dr. Berzins continued. “I like that others accept Richard as a result of my accepting him. If I give him a hug when he enters the room or I give him a high five they see that just because someone has a life-threatening illness, it doesn’t mean that you can’t touch them, hug them, talk to them.”

“What I get out of working with Richard and working with the club is helping students break down barriers and overcome stereotypes.”

Richard said, “I feel very lucky that the Great Neck community and Great Neck North High is so supportive of my work. I like being around young, upbeat people. It keeps me feeling upbeat.”

Though the Brodskys live in Atlantic Beach, Richard is also a member of The Great Neck Chamber of Commerce.

Richard is excited about the basketball game. “The kids are so enthusiastic,“ he said. “It means an awful lot when you get young people believing in the work that I’m doing. The teachers who are playing don’t even know me, and they’re doing this for free. It makes me feel very special.”

Brodsky also expects a large Great Neck North turnout for his eighth annual 5K AIDS/Cancer Run/Walk on June 7 in Baldwin Park. He fondly remembers a similar event in 2009 in Oceanside. “There were more students there from North than from any other school.”

“He comes and speaks to our students, almost on a monthly basis,” Dr. Berzins adds. “He gives up his time for free and helps educate our students about AIDS awareness and all of his efforts both here in New York and his volunteer work in Africa. The impact on our students is very profound and very insightful. The kids really want to help him out when they hear of his experiences and his efforts in Africa.”

Brodsky, who was an architect before his foundation began to take up all of his time, is upbeat about his continuing health issues. “For me, at age 62, every day is a gift,” he said. “I’ve been told I run too much, and I should slow down. Besides, in the past two years, we were able to save the lives of 185 Kenyan orphans.”

For more information on Richard’s work and foundation, please go to his website, www.richardmbrodsky.org.

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