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J.W. Dodd Middle School wrestlers receive gift from the heart

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“Freeport on three,” the J.W. Dodd School wrestling coach, Dave Gordon, yelled as 60 Dodd wrestlers huddled around Patricia Lesser in the school gym on Monday. After roaring “Freeport,” the wrestlers rolled up the mats, while Lesser, of Massapequa, started handing out 60 pairs of wrestling shoes that she and her family donated to the wrestling team.

When Dodd alumnus Anthony Nuzzi learned from Gordon that the boys needed shoes, Nuzzi turned to Facebook community groups to seek gently used or new wrestling shoes, or any support from the community. Lesser saw the post and immediately reached out to Nuzzi.

A single pair of wrestling shoes can cost up to $60. For some parents, according to Nuzzi, affording the shoes is a challenge; it is extra money that some families cannot spare. Nuzzi shared the post on Jan. 30, and within four days the boys had the shoes they needed.

“I asked how many boys were on the team and for Anthony to share any details about the team,” Lesser said. “I then told him that I wanted to donate the 60 shoes to the program.”

The gesture, Lesser said, was a way to commemorate her late husband, Ken Lesser, and his legacy of support for wrestling. The Lessers had three boys and three girls together. All of their boys wrestled in school. Patricia recalled one of her son’s matches at which a wrestler’s shoes were “blown out,” or ruined. Ken Lesser went to his car and got a pair of shoes for the wrestler so he could continue the match.

“Doing this is passing on the legacy of doing unto others that Ken and I believed in as we were raising our six children,” Patricia said.

Excited to try on the new shoes, eighth-grader Martese Davenport, 13, and seventh-graders Jameer Reeder and Matthew Addo, both 12, were the first of the athletes to receive them.

“This shows us, as a team and as kids, that people actually care,” Jameer said.

After giving the shoes to the team, Patricia was presented with a binder filled with photos and thank-you letters from the athletes.

“Seeing this and the [alumni] coming back really inspires me,” Matthew said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make it to the NBA or the NFL, but when I make it, I’ll come back to Freeport to do the same they’ve done for us today.”

Also attending the donation event were the Lesser family’s adult children and grandchildren, as well as representatives of the Freeport Board of Education.

“These kids are a great group of wrestlers who are respectful and grateful,” Lesser said of the Dodd wrestlers.