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Roller Derby Skates to Benefit Retired Smithtown Police Officer this Saturday

All proceeds from Jan. 18 match to benefit Leonard Crawford and his family.

Strong Island Derby Revolution will skate a charity match at 7 p.m. Saturday to benefit Smithtown resident Leonard Crawford, above on right, and his family pictured here in an undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Strong Island Derby Revolution will skate a charity match at 7 p.m. Saturday to benefit Smithtown resident Leonard Crawford, above on right, and his family pictured here in an undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Two roller derby teams are preparing to lace up their skates this Saturday night for friendly competition to benefit a Smithtown man and his family. 

Strong Island Derby Revolution is playing a co-ed match against the Man’s Ruin Roller Derby of Chester, NY at 7 p.m. Saturday at World Gym Racquet & Sports Arena in East Setauket. Both teams skate to benefit a mutual friend, retired NYPD officer Leonard Crawford. 

"I’d like to see if we can raise some funds to help Lenny and his family with his care and also raise awareness of ALS itself. It’s a disease there’s no rhyme or reason to who it inflicts," said Dr. John Yelle, a childhood friend of Lenny.

Crawford has been recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It is a terminal disease with no known cure and an average life expectancy of 2-5 years after the date of diagnosis. 

Yelle, a member of Man’s Ruin Roller Derby of Chester, said he heard about Strong Island's derby skaters helped scoop ice cream at New York Stuffed Cone Co. in St. James last year to benefit Crawford.

Inspired, he reached out to see what more could be done and met Strong Derby skater Kristi Smith, who had recently met the Crawford family at New York Stuffed Cone. 

"After meeting Leonard, I felt like I wish I could do more for this family, not sure what we could do," Smith said. 

Yelle told Smith that he and Crawford had grown up rollerskating and playing roller hockey together in Queens. 

"Lenny was always the strongest, tallest, fastest and best-looking guys," Yelle said. "[ALS] one of those things that can hit anyone at any time." 

The two roller derby teams quickly came together to set up a charity match for their mutual friend, despite their difference in playing style. 

Saturday's match will feature co-ed teams, as Strong Island's all women team and Man’s Ruin Roller Derby of Chester, combining and splitting their teams so both have male skaters. 

"It’s a bit of a faster game and playing with men, but we’re doing it all for charity," Smith said. 

The two roller derby teams have spent several weekends traveling back and forth, scrimmaging to feel comfortable with the rules and getting to know each other.

"It’s very competitive sport that’s vary family-friendly, very fast-paced game with no ball," Smith said. 

Those new to roller derby, Saturday's match will be played circular rink with full-contact competition. Both teams will mark one player as their jammer by placing a star on their helmet, according to Smith. Each team's jammer will attempt to pass through their opponents as many times as possible, while teammates simultaneously play offense and defense. 

Tickets to Saturday's match are $10 per person in advance when purchased online, click here, or will cost $15 at the door. Children under age 8 are free. All profits will go directly to the Crawford family for medical expenses. 

Seating is first-come, first-serve at World Gym located at 384 Mark Tree Road in East Setauket. Smith said there will be a limited number of chairs available, but encouraged spectators to bring their own folding chairs or lawn chairs for the best view. 

In addition to the match, there will be raffle tickets sold for Chinese auction. 

To learn more about Strong Island Derby Revolution and their events, visit their website here.

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