Tragedy Breeds Brooklyn Foundation To Help Children Exposed To Violence


By Jerry Del Priore

Sometimes, good things come out of tragic situations.

Such is the case for Maxine E. Lewis and the Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation (CLBF), a Canarsie, Brooklyn-based, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization established to benefit disadvantaged youth subjected to firearm and urban violence.

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Carlton Locksley Bennett during his days with the Canarsie High School soccer team.

Over 22 years ago, Maxine E. Lewis received horrific news when she learned her 16-year-old son, Carlton Locksley Bennett, a Canarsie High School soccer star at the time, was robbed, shot and killed in the Bronx because he refused to surrender his gold chain.

From that point on, the tragedy altered her life forever.

“I just wanted to die when my son was murdered,” Lewis said. “That was the beginning of the change of my entire life. The pain was unbearable. I honestly don’t think you can experience that pain unless you have a child who was murdered. I didn’t want to feel anymore.”

Lewis began a path of self-destruction, engaging in atypical drinking for her, just to dull the pain of losing her child. Her doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medication, which, she said, put her in deep fogs at times.

After years of soul searching, Lewis enrolled in college, and earned a B.A. degree in Human Services from Audrey Cohen College in 1997 and a Master’s in Social Work from Hunter College in 2000, in order to better help people with various needs.

She started to feel better, but the 9/11 attacks set her back. In 2004, Lewis said she regrouped, and slowly began to pull herself out of her funk. A few years later, the Canarsie resident got involved in a foundation that benefits children in Jamaica.

But Lewis’ defining moment came in 2008, when she approached the guidance counselor at Canarsie High School to talk about doing something to honor her son’s memory. He suggested starting a memorial fund scholarship in the former promising student-athlete’s name.

Lewis began asking people for donations, and collected $400 for a student in need. It fueled her desire to give back to more underprivileged students, thus giving way to the CLBF in 2009.

The foundation provides money for tuition, books, clothing, school uniforms, school supplies and food vouchers for students who’ve been exposed to all kinds of violence, especially the henious type that took her son’s life.

It has since expanded its scope of services to mentoring, tutoring, leadership training, spiritual guidance and therapeutic services. Lewis hopes to create a multi-purpose resource center in the future.

“In a sense, we adopt these children,” the 58-year-old Lewis explained. “We help prevent them from dropping out of school, provide life building skills, and love them like they are our own children.”

Last year, the foundation — funded mostly by donations — was awarded a $1,100 grant, which was used to purchase 50 backpacks for various underserved students in the community.

Lewis started the charity because, she said, “I wanted to make a difference in many people’s lives that have gone through what I have.”

And she has done exactly that, while staying true to Carlton’s memory.

For more information on the foundation, visit CLBFinc.org.

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Cyclones Entertainer Guy Zoda Talks Baseball, Clowning & His Lovable ‘King Henry’ Character


By Jerry Del Priore

It’s good to be the king.

Just ask Guy Zoda, 47, who has been performing his character “King Henry” at Brooklyn Cyclones games since the 2003 season, entertaining fans with an undeniable, affable style all of his own.

Zoda, who grew up in Bensonhurst and graduated from FDR High School, has been in the entertainment business since 1989, specializing in family entertainment, business promotion and marketing. He also manages promotions and outreach for the Cyclones, talking about the history of baseball at school assemblies, and helping schools fundraise through the Cyclones tickets sales program.

In addition, Zoda’s “King Henry” character is one of the most requested children’s performers in the New York area, plying his trade at comedy magic shows at Luna Park on Coney Island, Victorian Gardens in Manhattan, and at Radio Disney promotional events. Plus, Zoda often plays Santa Claus during the holiday season, visiting sick children at hospitals all over the New York area.

Despite Zoda’s busy schedule, he agreed to sit down with me to chat about King Henry, Cyclones, and his love for entertainment.

How did your career in entertainment business begin?King-Henry

I was going to college, and I needed a job. One of my buddies was working for a company that hired entertainers. I also worked for Zach’s Funhouse on 86th Street in Bensonhurst. When they shut down, I opened up my company, King Henry Entertainment.

What other characters have you played?

I was a pro clown for many years. I wanted to do a character, so I picked Facci the Clown. Facci is face in Italian, as face of the clown. It just came to me. I was Facci for many years—eight or nine years. I (even) did four different spots on Conan O’Brien as Facci.

How did your King Henry character come about?

I asked my friends and family (for suggestions), and most people came back to me with King Henry. Three to one, everyone picked King Henry.

How did you get started with the Brooklyn Cyclones?

I showed up as King Henry a couple of times during the Cyclones’ seasons in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, the Cyclones wanted to hire some face painters, and I asked them to include me in around them.

Frank Morano, the cameraman would point the camera at me while I ate a hotdog, and hotdog sales when up after that. Whatever I ate, people were buying. I eventually asked them to hire me fulltime, and they did.

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King Henry during an in-between-innings contest at a Cyclones game.

The big thing is I wasn’t a huge baseball fan when I first started. Now, I love it. I understand the science behind it.

Who are some of your favorite former Cyclone players/managers?

Darrell Ceciliani, Brad Holt, Ike Davis (former Met), Lucas Duda (current Met) and Michael Conforto (2014 first round draft round pick and another current Met). Wally Backman (former Mets player and current coach for AAA Las Vegas 51s) was one of my favorite managers, and so I was Edgar Alfonzo and Mookie Wilson (both former popular player for the 1986 World Series Championship team).

What do you do to rouse the crowd?

It’s not so much what I do, it’s when I do it. I can get them more revved up when the Cyclones are trailing, more when they’re ahead. The game dictates the circumstances. What I find works is the slow “Let’s Go Cyclones” chant, building up to a crescendo.

I get revved up so much I can’t sleep at night if they win. If they lose, I can sleep better.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the people I work with, I love the fans. Put it this way: if you’re an entertainer, and people give you a stage, you take advantage of it. I can’t complain. I love my job, and I’m treated with respect.

There are parts of my job that are good to me such as a special gift that money can’t buy, especially seeing the smiles on kids’ faces. The stuff I do, it has given me gifts.

Last question, what was your favorite thing about growing up in Brooklyn?

The feeling of community. It was a time when everyone knew their neighbors and the kids played outside all day until 6pm, when it was dinner time.

Local Figthers Highlight Brooklyn Brawl: Boxing at the Beach in Coney Island


By Jerry Del Priore

World-renowned boxer Dmitriy Salita and his Brooklyn Brawl series electrified Coney Island’s MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team, Tuesday night.

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Bakhtiyar “Baka” Eyubov, who picked up a TKO win at MCU Park in Coney Island, posses with ring girls.

The action-packed “Boxing at the Beach” fight card featured several talented Brooklyn pugilist, including Bakhtiyar “Baka” Eyubov (8-0, 8 KOs), a Marine Park resident, and Cornelius “Lighting” Lock, a Flatbush native and former North American Boxing Organization (NABO) champion.

The undefeated Eyubov, a Kazakhstan-born boxer known for his fierce punching power, didn’t disappoint, scoring a TKO win over Cory Vom Baur (2-4) 1:08 into the second round of the scheduled six-round welterweight bout.

Lock (23-7-2, 15 KOs) looked impressive in the 10-round main event featherweight fight against former world title challenger Alex Miskirtchian (25-4-1, 9 KOs), as he knocked out his adversary 2:10 into the third round.

Lock’s victory was considered an upset by most in attendance, including the promoter of the event, Salita, who owns and operates Salita Promotions.

“It was a great show, with an upset in the main event, which happens in boxing,” said Salita, who moved to Flatbush from the Ukraine as a youth. “We gave the fans a great experience.”

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Cornelius “Lighting” Lock takes a moment to reflect after KOing Alex Miskirtchian in the third round.

Other Brooklyn boxers featured on the excited card included NYPD officer Dimash Niyazov (8-0-3, 5 KOs). Living in Bensonhurst by way of Kazakhstan, the junior welterweight picked up a unanimous six-round decision over Ariel “Fuego” Duran (8-8-1, 5 KOs).

In addition, undefeated Crown Heights junior middleweight Gary Beriguette (7-0, 4 KOs) kept his record unblemished with an undisputed six-round victory over Anton Williamson (1-5).

Ecstatic with the way the night played out, Salita is already eyeing a return trip to beach for his promotion next year.

“I would love to come back next year,” Salita said. “I think this is a great venue. It’s beautiful, and the fans had a great time. Plus, the fighters got to a chance to showcase their skills on ESPN3, and it’s going to be on MSG.”

Brooklyn Brawl returns to action on Saturday, October 24 at a yet to be determined location. For more information on the promotion and schedule of upcoming events, log onto SalitaPromotions.com.

Canarsie 2015 Football Season Preview: Chiefs Strive To Be Hated


By Jerry Del Priore

No one can blame Canarsie head varsity football coach Kyle Allen for wanting to be hated by other PSAL teams. Most top squads aren’t liked because of their consistent winning ways.

“If people don’t hate you, something is wrong,” Allen explained. “There are a lot of people that hate E Hall and Lincoln. There are obvious reasons why. They’re hated because they win. Nobody hates us. At the end of this year, I want people to hate us. If you’re hated at the end of the year, then you know you’re doing something right.”

With approximately 25 returning seniors, a revamped coaching staff and a new, positive attitude reverberating throughout the entire program, Allen feels the Chiefs have the chance to be a force to be reckon with in 2015, despite its tough City Conference schedule.

“A feel confident that we will be over .500,” said Allen, who coached Canarsie to a 5-5 record and a first round playoff appearance last year. “I’m not going to make any predictions about how far over, but I’m sure it will be over .500.” IMG_4361

Given the Chiefs a good opportunity at success is signal caller Damario Spalding, who’s moving from receiver to quarterback. Allen is confident his football acumen will help lead the team, not to mention his strong arm.

“I’m expecting a lot big things from him,” Allen said. “We spent a lot of time in the offseason going to quarterback clinics, studying, sitting down and doing things on the board. He’s very cerebral. His football IQ is through the roof, so he’ll be able to lead this team.”

Canarsie is returning the potent one-two punch of senior running backs Palyte Stubbs and Shawn Cabbell, both of whom combined for 963 yards last season.

Stubbs, plagued by a late-season knee injury, ran for 708 yards with eight touchdowns in nine contests. The senior inside-the-tackles running back has added 20 pounds, and is completely healthy heading into the season.

“We have our tailback back, Palyte Stubbs, who was one of the better backs in the city last year. He should be one of the top two or three backs this year,” Allen predicted. “He put on a lot of weight, and he’s real healthy. He’s over 200 now. He’s another kid who did a lot of good things in the weight room, so we’re expecting big things from him.”

After being limited by the knee injury, Stubbs, up a solid 20 pounds, believes his knee woes are behind him, and can play up to his potential while helping the Chiefs win.

Palyte Stubbs Follows Blockers.

Palyte Stubbs Follows Blockers.

“It feels great,” Stubbs said of his knee. “I was working out throughout the whole summer. I feel stronger, and faster. I think I can have a 1000-yard season, and help my team win.”

Cabbell will offer the Chiefs a different look in the back field because of his game-breaking running abilities, but he’s added an inside running component to his arsenal.

“He’s comfortable running between the tackles now,” the fourth-year coach said. “Everybody knows he’s an outside runner, but now he can mix it up inside, too.”

Another strong offensive weapon returning to the fold is receiver Darius Lancaster, who caught 11 passes for 298 yards and three scores in 2014. Allen said that Lancaster’s sleeper status will bode well for him and the team early in the season before other squads become more aware of his great hands.

“Darius Lancaster is back, who led us in receiving last year. He made a lot of big plays,” Allen recalled. “His confidence is up a lot. He had a tremendous spring, and is having a great camp. A lot of people don’t know a lot about him, so they’re not going to roll coverage to him early in the season. That’s going to be a mistake for people.”

The six-foot-four Marcus Louis, a backup last year, will complement Lancaster, with a host of other capable receivers given Spalding additional viable options.

A solid, experienced offensive line rounds out the offense.

Defensively, with monster sack machine Kamari Jones now at Monroe College, Allen still feels the Chiefs are loaded with star returnees. For instance, there’s nose tackle Shawn Fredrick, a physically strong player mentored by Jones, and Devonte Malone, one of the top pass rushers in the PSAL in 2014 with nine sacks.

Canarsie Head Football Coach Addresses Team at Practice.

Canarsie Head Football Coach Addresses Team at Practice.

The prospects are even higher for Malone this season, according to Allen, who, along with his coaching staff, prides himself on producing players who make it a habit of harassing quarterbacks.

“I am expecting him to lead the city in sacks,” he said. “We had the sack leader in the city (in just about) every year since I’ve been head coach, so I want that trend to continue.”

Jesse Rivera, who led the league with five interceptions, will anchor Canarsie’s secondary. Darnell Alexander, third on the team in tackles with 50, is back, along with a group of hungry defenders.

The Chiefs will kick off the season on the road against Brooklyn Tech Friday, September 4th at 1:00 p.m.

Former Madison Baseball Star Chris Karnbach Looks Forward to College After Successful HS Career


By Jerry Del Priore

Pitcher Chris Karnbach was a big reason why Madison High School baseball enjoyed a tremendous season, exceeding exceptions by going 14-2 during the regular season. The Knights followed up the success by making it all the way to AAA semifinals, where the team lost, 3-2, to Staten Island powerhouse, Tottenville.

“It was great. It was my senior year, and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Karnbach, 18, said of the way the season turned out for him and the Knights. “We went all the way into the semifinals, and no one expected it from us. We had a great team, I made a lot of friends, and had a lot of fun.”

Karnbach, a Mill Basin, Brooklyn native, recorded a 5-1 record with 1.35 ERA during the regular season. He continued to excel in the postseason, posting a 2-0 mark with a minuscule 0.47 ERA in 15 innings of work.

Chris Karnbach at the NYC Mayor’s Cup at MCU Park on Coney Island in June.

Chris Karnbach at the NYC Mayor’s Cup at MCU Park on Coney Island in June.

Come September, Karnbach will be crossing the Verrazano to attend the College of Staten Island to study physical therapy and play America’s past time for the Dolphins. While it’s obvious he loves the game, he’s already eyeing life after baseball.

“Actually, it’s the academic program in physical therapy that they have there, but the coach (Michael Mauro) saw me here (MCU Park) at the senior showcase, and wanted me come down,” he explained of the main reason why he’s headed to CSI.

“I want to stay around athletes and sports because I love it,” he continued. “So I want to be around it my whole life.”

In June Karnbach displayed why he was a fierce high school pitching threat by starting and tossing two scoreless innings in the NYC Mayor’s Cup at MCU Park on Coney Island, which the CHSAA (Catholic High School Athletic Association) won, 7-2.

The Gravesend resident believed it was his strong work ethic that helped him become a success in High School, while his young teammates followed suit, and went all out in order to prove the naysayers wrong.

“Personally, I always work hard, and I always make sure I give 110 percent,” Karnbach said of his overall effort. “I think because we had a lot of young guys on the team this year, they did the same thing. They were all hungry; they were young. They were all trying to prove that they were supposed to be there. So it really helped us to work hard, fighting in these close games to win and go far.”

Karnbach said he played for multiple youth leagues on Long Island and in Brooklyn growing up, including Joe Torre, Bergen Beach, Amity and Good Shepard.

Not playing in one particular league for a long time, it forced Karnbach to hit the diamond with a vengeance as the new kid on the block.

“I always had to prove myself,” he said. “I was always the new guy on the team. I always had to keep working to show I was the best on the field, and I did belong in the spot I was in.”

When the college baseball season rolls around, Karnbach will get the opportunity to do it all over again—this time as a collegiate hurler determined to make his mark.

Family, Football Love Propels Former Canarsie Chief Standout To Next Level


By Jerry Del Priore

When Kamari Jones-Hunter takes the field with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Monroe College football team on Saturday, September 5th, it will bring the former Canarsie Chiefs star one step closer to fulfilling his dream of playing at the top level of the sport. IMG_4312

But getting to this point in Jones-Hunter’s life required overcoming a great deal of adversity for him and his family.

Approximately eight years ago, his mother, Nicole Jones, was hit by a car in Crown Heights, almost taking her life. The accident caused her to code three times. It also resulted in above-the-knee amputation of both of her legs, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, followed by years of physical and occupational therapy, she said.

A young Jones-Hunter saw the entire accident unfold before his incredulous eyes. Today, the Starrett City native can barely talk about it. But the 6-foot, 263-pound nose guard uses the tragic memory and love of his mother to inspire him on and off the gridiron.

Jones-Hunter started playing the game at five years old. Football became his life. He would toss a pigskin in the air for hours at a time and tell his mother that one day he would make it to the NFL and take care of her.K Jones-Hunter

“That’s just my fire for football,” Jones-Hunter, 18, said of his mother. “When I make it to the NFL, I’m going to take care of her and then take care of myself.”

The two have an unbreakable bond. So it’s no wonder that her accident has affected Jones-Hunter the way it has.

“It was very difficult, because him and my niece actually witnessed every-thing,” Jones said. “He had to go to counseling.”

But Jones said football has been her son’s saving grace, helping him get through the ordeal and keeping him out of trouble throughout his childhood.

Without his mother and grandfather, Charles Jones, who attended most of his games, Jones- Hunter said his success “wouldn’t be the same without family.”

Moreover, take away the unyielding love, guidance and support of his strong family and his passion for football, his mother said Jones-Hunter might not have the same opportunities that he has today.

“I didn’t want him to end up with the wrong crowd and on the street,” she said. “Football helped him to stay focused and on the right track. I think he would’ve fallen by the wayside, an-other statistic. I didn’t want him to be another statistic.”IMG_3017

Jones made sure of that. While motivation for football rarely lacked, getting her son pumped for the academic piece needed more relentless poking and prodding, even as she endured pain throughout her recovery process.

“I use to say sometimes (to him), when he was a little bit lazy, ‘The same drive and force on the field, you need to carry that over into your academics.’ I think eventually he got it.”

Jones-Hunter’s immediate family didn’t do it alone. Jones’ sister’s brothers-in-law are the Schulters – brothers who starred as Chiefs and had tremendous success in other competitive football levels.

Lance enjoyed a 10-year NFL career; Dwayne stared at the University of Pittsburgh; and Jamal plays professionally in Poland.

However, much of Jones-Hunter’s success can be also attributed to his former coach at Canarsie High School, Kyle Allen, who took the time to help him develop into an All-Star player and made sure he kept up the academic end of high school.

After he played his first year of high school football at Xaverian in Bay Ridge, Jones-Hunter — who recorded 67 tackles, an astounding 21 sacks, an interception, three fumble recoveries, a touchdown and a safety in his senior year as a Chief — wanted to transfer closer to home.IMG_2699

It was the words Allen used, and the care he displayed, that helped the family finally decide on Canarsie.

“Coach Allen said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to take care of him, and we’ll get him into college.’ That was the first two things I liked to hear: School, as well as be able to still play the sports that he loves, which is football,” Jones explained.

As far how proud his family is of him, Jones- Hunter’s mother lights up at just the mention of him going to college.

“I am beyond proud,” she said. “I am at a loss for words. I’m very proud of his accomplishments, on and off the field.

“He’s so proud of him. My father is on cloud nine,” she added.

And why not? Jones-Hunter, whose dream school is Miami University, is getting a shot at playing at the next level – all because of family and love of football, not to mention years of hard work and dedication in the classroom, weight room and gridiron.