News Stories

  • Recipe for success: 2 Army vets, 1 part fitness, 1 part passion

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com

    NEW YORK, NY — Two brothers – both Army veterans – are expanding their unique meal plan company called Kettlebell Kitchen, which incorporates the fitness and nutritional routines they mastered in the service.

    “It came from a class of mine at HBS (Harvard Business School) where I thought deeply about what I’m passionate about,” said Joe Lopez-Gallego who graduated Harvard after his time as an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot where he managed three airfields and 80 soldiers, and led a platoon that flied VIP’s such as General Ricardo Sanchez.

    “[The class] tells you to think about what you are passionate about and try to build a career around that, and for me, it’s about helping people and I have a particular passion for fitness.”  Joe was a certified fitness instructor in the Army and he played water polo at West Point.

    He put his class syllabus into practice. He combined his love for fitness and food, which he and his younger brother Andy inherited from his parents.

    “It started by helping my mom manage her weight, putting her on an exercise and nutrition program that gave her significant results – both in her weight and in her energy level,” Joe said.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    He called Andy and they both agreed there was a need for a personalized meal plan program that they felt no company on the market did successfully. Andy hopped on a plane from California to New York and started the business with Joe in 2013.

    “[We] researched recipes, weights, portions and looked at the really quality match of nutrients that matter in a meal, how they affect the body, how they do their training and what different timing windows that work,” said Andy, a retired Army platoon leader and combat engineer.

    Joe and Andy felt they could fill a void by developing personalized products for specific goals of strength, endurance and cardio – skills they developed in the military.

    “We look to formulate specific meals around those fitness elements,” Andy said, adding, “We’re a brand that’s performance-driven and fitness-based.”

    With the consultation of dietitians, they tested their products in a small rental kitchen in the Bronx. Now, along with Chef and Culinary Expert Greg Grossman, they deliver tens and thousands of heathy, customized meal plans nationally each week.

    Kettlebell Kitchen is expanding to Los Angeles where they will deliver meal kits to trendy fitness gyms for people to coordinate their nutrition and exercise. They found a niche in sending their meals to gyms where trainers can coach their clients on the most effective timing for diet and exercise.

    The mantra that they work by is “Feed the Champion in You” – a motto that motivates and inspires the co-founders and their customers to meet their fitness goals.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    Kettlebell Kitchen landed on the Inc. 5000 issue of Inc. Magazine of the fastest growing and innovative companies in the United States, earning $12.5 million in revenue last year. Joe and Andy employ about 300 people.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    Joe said the leadership positions that he held in the service were invaluable experience for his career.

    “They put you as second lieutenant in charge of a group of folks who have much more experience, much more knowledge than you and you learn to lead them and you learn to work with them,” said Joe, continuing, “That taught me how I can leverage the expertise of all the people on the team to build a cohesive unit together and to get results and I think that was a very valuable piece of training that still serves me today.”

    Joe and Andy look back on the birth of Kettlebell Kitchen, when they crafted a diet and exercise framework for their mother, and see their role today as delivering those personalized plans to one client at a time.

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  • Anthony Scaramucci on Brett Kavanaugh Allegations, Confirmation Process

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    By Neil A. Carousso, “Mooch and the Mrs.” Producer

    NEW YORK, NY — Anthony Scaramucci and his wife, Deidre, say the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, dating back to high school, have gone too far.

    “Suppose you’re 17 years old and you made this absolutely regrettable mistake,” said Scaramucci, the former White House communications director who was fired after 11 days in the position when he made profanity-laced comments about former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, on the latest episode of Mooch and the Mrs., an exclusive podcast available via Radio.com.

    “I think it’s a shame because I know I did that for sure,” added Deidre. “I wouldn’t want to be talking about anything I did in high school or college, so I think it’s bad.”

    Anthony and Deidre, who sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum, just launched their podcast, Mooch and the Mrs.only on Radio.com and the Radio.com app. New episodes appear every Tuesday, where the couple discusses the struggles they face as a couple who do not see eye-to-eye politically (Scaramucci’s job in President Donald J. Trump’s White House almost cost them their marriage). Anthony has five children — including two with Deidre, his second wife.

    “My message to the older kids is, ‘Hey, you have to be super careful now because we now decided everybody’s game and everybody can get their reputation eviscerated in five minutes,” said Anthony.

    His wife agreed and sees social media as a culprit for stifling social growth and putting innocent and maturing children’s lives in the spotlight.

    “It’s just a terrible way to live,” she said.

    Judge Kavanagh has been accused by three women of sexual assault, with the allegations dating back to his high school and college years. Democrats have called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withheld or delayed until after the November midterms. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have scheduled a hearing for Thursday for both Kavanaugh and one of his accusers to testify under oath, and a vote on his nomination on Friday morning.

    Judge Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations in several written statements and in an emotional interview beside his wife, Ashley, with Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum on Monday night. He asked for a “fair process” to be heard by the Committee. President Trump has stood by his Supreme Court nominee with increasing assertiveness.

    Kavanaugh is the president’s pick to fill the empty Supreme Court chair left by Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retired in June.

    Anthony Scaramucci believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed and discusses why in the second episode of the Mooch and the Mrs. on Radio.com.

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  • Horseback Ride Through NYC Heals Vets, Families

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com and WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK, NY — Sometimes horsing around is therapy.

    For Gold Star father Ken Boyd and U.S. Army veteran Mary Ballengee, equestrian therapy has been instrumental in survival.

    “When you become a Gold Star parent, it’s probably the darkest, deepest day of your life,” said Boyd whose only child C.J. served as a U.S. Marine Corps corporal. He died in Afghanistan. “We found some solace through equine therapy, working with horses. [It] truly saved my life from suicide and other bad things that go on and happen.”

    C.J. Boyd (Photo Courtesy of Ken Boyd)

    Boyd’s wife joined a Gold Star mothers retreat hosted by BraveHearts where they went horseback riding. Boyd saw progress in his wife’s spirits, but he was reluctant to join. Eventually, she encouraged him and he has never looked back.

    “In horses you have to build trust, and the horse will trust you, you trust the horse. It’s just this amazing thing that happens with a horse,” Boyd said, adding he now volunteers several days a week with BraveHearts, which is a non-profit organization that aims to reduce the veterans suicide rate of 20 deaths per day.

    “I love going there because we do retreats for veterans and you see some of these kids that come in that they don’t want to be there. They get off the bus from the VA and they don’t really care about a horse, they don’t do anything. Two hours later they have a smile on their face, there’s brightness in their eyes, they’re talking, they found something that trusts them, that they can trust. It’s just amazing to see a transformation in how they want to come back and how they want to do things,” said Boyd. “So, we’ve dedicated our lives and our future to pay it forward on our son’s behalf to help all the other veterans, to help take care of these kids when they come back.”

    Boyd will be join Ballengee and many others on BraveHearts’ “Trail to Zero” – a 20-mile horseback ride around Manhattan on Saturday, September 15 to raise awareness of the high veterans’ suicide rate. Participants will ride through the heart of New York City, including Times Square, Central Park and the World Trade Center. They both hope to bring that trail down to zero.

    BraveHearts

    Ballengee served from 1975-78. She battled with trauma from active duty for nearly two decades before she was introduced to equine therapy with a fellow veteran.

    Photo Courtesy of Mary Ballengee

    “I was really shut down and this mustang, he saved my life,” said Ballengee who now goes by the nickname “Mustang Mary.” “He actually taught me many things. He taught me how to breathe out, how to slow down, he taught me patience, he taught me not to be so hard on myself. He gave me life, itself.”

    Mustang Mary felt a bond with Pecos instantly.

    “In the process of me gentling him, and letting down my walls for the first time in 40 years and discovering myself, I also felt a responsibility that he had to be auctioned off and I could not imagine that but I had to have him believe in people,” Ballengee said of Pecos, which was initially owned by the U.S. Government.

    Mustang Mary said the night Pecos was set to be auctioned, she was planning on killing herself. But, the person who bought Pecos gave the horse to her and she was rejuvenated.

    Photo Courtesy of Mary Ballengee

    “[Pecos] just told me you have to do something. You have to do something for the other mustangs and you have to do something for the other veterans such as yourself,” Ballengee said.

    Since then, Mary helped launch an all-female veterans riding group in Texas where she lives with Pecos. She is now a PATH certified instructor through BraveHearts’ training and certification program for veterans.

    Mustang Mary will proudly ride “Mighty” around the Big Apple “Trail to Zero.”

    For her and Boyd, the task is quite mighty, but they’ve saddled in for a determined equestrian mission to help our heroes like they were healed through the power of horse.

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  • ‘It’s Not My Flag, It’s Ours’

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    An Unsung 9/11 Hero and the Journey of an American Flag

    from Ground Zero to Iraq and Afghanistan to The White House

    By Neil A. Carousso, Special to ConnectingVets.com and WCBS Newsradio 880

    PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — A hero-maker serves heroes.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, Donato Panico watched in horror as al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center.

    He felt he had to do something right away, and as the owner of a Smithtown deli for more than three decades, Panico knew he could provide a needed service.

    “(My friend) was telling me that all kinds of commanding officers were killed down there and that they had no food system and it was in total chaos,” said Panico.

    He then prepared his catering trucks with sandwiches and drove to Ground Zero the next morning. He got through most of the tight security checkpoints in Manhattan, but he was still far away from the Trade Center when commanding officer Louis Pacheco recognized Panico from his Long Island deli and ushered him into site so he could fill a void serving starving, dehydrated, weary, angry and saddened First Responders.

    “A couple months later, (Pacheco) presented me with a flag that they hung in front of the Millennium Hotel,” Panico said. The hotel, which is adjacent to One World Trade Center, suffered significant damage in the terrorist attacks.

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

     

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

    “He presented it to me and I presented it to a friend of mine in the store whose son was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. He hung it over his camp,” said Panico, continuing, “He had the flag commissioned by President (George W.) Bush and he returned it to me 4 years later.”

    Panico continued to lend the gifted flag to local police, fire and veterans organizations on Long Island.

    “You can’t hold onto something if you don’t give it away,” said Panico when asked why he felt so strongly about imparting such a meaningful and emotional souvenir to patriotic organizations. “It’s not my flag, it’s ours.”

    His foundation Heros 4 Our Heroes was born from tragedy. Today, Panico aims to keep a “constant awareness” for the need to take care of police officers, firefighters and our veterans who make sacrifices to keep us safe and free. He is currently undertaking a project to re-build the patio at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northport, Long Island.

    Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) was the only local politician to show up at Donato’s fist Heros 4 Heroes Foundation event after 9/11; Panico said his first impression of Zeldin was he’s “special.”

    The Republican congressman was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently in the Army Reserves. In a sit-down interview with him, Donato and this reporter, he praised Donato as a selfless patriot while he engaged in the same type of organic camaraderie he has with fellow soldiers. Zeldin said Panico has the “type of character, values, ethics and beliefs” that guided his selfless actions on 9/11.

    “If he was on the first floor of the Trade Center that day, he would have went straight up and started rendering first-aid to people even though he wasn’t NYPD or FDNY,” Congressman Zeldin said. “That’s his character.”

    Recently, Panico had one particular person he wanted to lend “our” Old Glory that flew in front of the Millennium Hotel on September 11 to: The President of the United States.

    Congressman Zeldin invited Panico to President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union Address in January. Panico brought the flag to Washington with him in hopes to give it to the President. That’s when Rep. Zeldin learned of the sentimental history of that American Flag. Donato did not get to meet Mr. Trump that day, but Mr. Zeldin held onto the flag for the right time, and on June 20, the Congressman received a phone call from The White House for a last minute policy meeting with President Trump and several representatives.

    Zeldin recalled, “All I was thinking of was ‘where’s the flag?’”

    After the meeting, Congressman Zeldin told President Trump about the flag.

    “You could tell the story was impacting him, he was deeply moved by it, he was moved by Donato’s story, the first responders, the journey of that flag from the Trade Center, overseas being flown over a base to back home,” said Mr. Zeldin, adding that the President brought him into the Oval Office where he had an aide write down Panico’s story for a museum, and posed for a picture behind his Resolute Desk to send home to Donato.

    Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

    Congressman Zeldin says when he meets with the President like he did when he rode in his motorcade with him to a GOP fundraiser in Southampton last month, President Trump asked about Donato.

    Donato feels an unspoken bond with the current Commander-In-Chief, a man he has never met, but respects as a patriot, as he does his fellow New Yorkers and Americans who still suffer pain, sorrow, and illness from 9/11.

    Panico still shakes when the calendar turns to September. He and we will Never Forget.

     

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  • 50th U.S. Open Gets Underway in Queens

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The top tennis players in the world have descended on Queens for the 50th US Open.

    There’s been a lot of stress and anxiety, but the $500 million rebuilding of the tennis center at Flushing Meadows is finally complete.

    “This is our capstone year. We have been under construction essentially for six years, taking a break each year to stage the US Open,” said tournament director David Brewer.

    There are now two roofs on two stadia at the center, but they will only close for rain, not heat.

    “At the end of the day, this is an athletic contest and we want to make sure that we are fair to our players and that they have a level playing field,” Brewer said.

    The new 14,000 set Louis Armstrong Stadium has a retractable roof, similar to the one installed at the Arthur Ashes Stadium for the 2016 event.

    But that’s the only thing that’s different at the new stadium.

    US Open Day 1

    ‪Fans from around the world come to the US Open Tennis Championships. Peter Haskell caught up with Tim from Brooklyn and Amy from Scottsdale, AZ who are soaking in day 1 in Queens. Tune in to WCBS Newsradio 880 on-air and on the Radio.com app for more live from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Read more: https://bit.ly/2Nnz4rx

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Monday, August 27, 2018

    “What you see when you first walk in here is nothing but concession stands and restrooms — the two things that every stadium needs to have and we have those in abundance now at both levels,” Brewer said.

    There are also new flowers and more trees to provide extra shade at the grounds.

    We are live from the US Open Tennis Championships⁠! Peter Haskell is talking to fans at the USTA Billie Jean King…

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Monday, August 27, 2018

    On day one of the U.S. Open, there has already been an upset. Simona Halep, who won the French Open in June, was beaten by 44th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, becoming the first No. 1-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the tournament.

    “It was amazing,” said Rebecca Franson of Idaho, who watched as a top seed was knocked out in the opening round for the first time.

    Tim Mercado of Brooklyn Heights likes to root for the underdogs.

    “These people out there are just really busting it to get it done, and they’re doing it – they’re not making it billions and millions; they don’t have a million sponsors like wanting them to do this, and you know, being able to come and go out on the courts and just go from court to court to support them, I think that’s important,” Mercado said.

    Mercado thinks this is the best day of the tournament, when you can see top players on every court.

    It was the first match to be held at the newly rebuilt Louis Armstrong Stadium.

     

    Neil A. Carousso is producing multi-media content from the U.S. Open Grand Slam Tennis Tournament for WCBS Newsradio 880.

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Neil A. Carousso is the producer in charge of content for the "Mooch and the Mrs. with Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci" podcast, exclusively via the Radio.com platform.
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