Former Manhasset Star Neil Barber to Be Honored

Upon hearing Neil's story, the students at Manhasset were so inspired that they posted Neil's pictures in five of Rule's classes. This activity allowed open discussions about mental illness, and students felt free to express their own problems. Slowly, the stigma of mental illness melted away.

Students asked if they could make cookies and cakes for Neil at Thanksgiving in 2009. In turn, Neil asked if these goodies could be redirected to homeless shelters in the Huntington area. Numerous desserts were made, and Neil was elated that homeless shelters received them. The Manhasset students did this again for the holiday season, and Rule and Greg Barber personally delivered the baked goods to the same six homeless shelters. The students continued donating food so often that Rule and Barber brought food to the homeless for dinners every Wednesday from January through March.

Eventually, Rule decided that this mission needed a name and a logo, so he inspired his kids once again with a contest. Neil's Wheels was born, Neil became the judge for the winning logo, the enterprise was rolling!

A dance in honor of Neil's Wheels took place on December 3, 2010 with middle school students' only requirement for admission being three cans of food for the homeless in honor of Neil's Wheels. The dance netted 821 cans of food, which were donated to three churches and many Ecumenical food pantries.

An organization called Our Kids in Action found out about Neil, and they and the Manhasset students decided to honor Neil's Wheels at a New York Islander hockey game. Fans are encouraged to bring nonperishable items of food to the game. Neil's Wheels projects that 18,000 cans of food could possibly be collected that day, maybe more if corporations join the drive.

Greg Barber, owner of Eco Friendly Printer, became Neil's Wheels first corporate sponsor by purchasing 90 seats at a cost of $5,000 in honor of the amazing Manhasset students who made this possible. Two other schools have decided to hold dances in Neil's name in order to raise food for the homeless. St. Peter's Elementary school in Port Washington and the Rocky Point school districts are both now on board.

And miracles keep happening. Coach Rule decided to reach out to his former lacrosse teammate at Cornell, John Hughes, with a simple request. Rule asked Hughes if his Olympic figure skating champion daughter, Sarah Hughes, might be interested in participating at the April 2 fundraiser, and she quickly agreed.

Bobby Nystrom, legendary New York Islander, will join Sarah Hughes in participating in the Our Kids in Action fundraiser honoring Neil's Wheel's to help hungry families on Long Island.

Ticket holders who purchase tickets from Our Kids in Action can also attend a Health and Wellness Fair before the game in the Expo Center and skate with Sarah and Bobby after the game. To purchase tickets at the discounted price, visit www.newyorkislanders.com/ourkidsinaction or call Our Kids in Action at 631-425-2700 for more information.

Greg Barber wants to express his deep gratitude to all members of the Manhasset lacrosse community for giving Neil a mission that life feel worth living.

Neil's Wheels encourages open communication about any teen problem, and the numerous food drives give students a way to show their love for a former student while contributing to a larger community and supporting the fight against hunger on Long Island.

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Greg Barber can be reached at greg@ecofriendlyprinter.com, and you visit the organization's web site at www.neilswheelsny.com.

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2011-02-07



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