By Sarah Kate Lynch
Nestled behind Pierson High School now sits “The Mike Semkus Memorial Workout Area,” which has officially been opened to the public after temporary postponement of construction.
After some rearrangement, the area has now started to be utilized by those wanting to do isolated workouts as summer draws closer.
Mike Semkus was an avid surfer and triathlete who devoted his time to coaching soccer and lifeguarding at Sagg Main Beach.
His love for working with children pushed him to pursue a career in teaching. As well as coaching high school soccer, he worked as a leave replacement and substitute teacher.
Mr. Semkus died on March 21, 2016, due to respiratory failure caused by overdosing on prescription pain medication.
Mr. Semkus shared his love for fitness and the outdoors with his community, but especially with his friends. One such friend, Drew Harvey, along with fellow members of his non-profit organization “The Dawgpatch Bandits” spearheaded the construction of the workout area in Mr. Semkus’s honor.
“Mike was always about getting outdoors and working with what you had, so building the outdoor working area was really reflective of that lifestyle that he lived.” Mr. Harvey said.
Sag Harbor Schools Superintendent Jeff Nichols echoed the sentiment.
“It’s great that Drew Harvey and a few others in the community really stepped up to make this happen,” he said, “and knowing Mike and his enthusiasm for fitness, health and sports, especially when he was a student here — it was a fitting endeavor.”
Mr. Semkus graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and special education with a concentration in earth science as well as a master’s degree in literacy education from Long Island University.
To raise awareness of opioid addiction Mr. Harvey and fellow graduate of the University of San Diego, Payton Dwight, biked from San Diego to Sag Harbor in 37 days in the summer of 2018 and managed to raise $6,628 for the Mike Semkus Memorial and Anthony Grasso Foundation. Anthony Grasso was a fellow student at the University of San Diego with Mr. Harvey and Mr. Dwight, who died from an opioid overdose in 2017, further spurring Mr. Harvey into action.
This was the first project completed by The Dawgpatch Bandits, as well as members of the community who donated their time and services to the creation of the memorial, including the Sag Harbor School Board, East Hampton Masonry, Glen Ficarelli, Southampton Excavation, James Stones, and D&D Harvey Architects.
It should be noted that The Dawgpatch Bandits are nowhere near finished, Mr. Harvey said, setting their sites on their next project: preserving Cilli Farm, a 9-acre parcel of land in Sag Harbor by creating natural hiking trails for members of the community to enjoy.
Although the memorial has been finalized, sadly, due to COVID-19, a small ceremony commemorating Mr. Senkus’s memory and all those who worked to build the workout station has yet to transpire. But, Mr. Harvey is hopeful that can happen soon.
“When things calm down in the beginning of June,” he said, “we can have a proper ceremony for it where we can get people in the same area safely.”
Although no ceremony has taken place, Mr. Harvey said he finds solace in getting the job done, providing a space for the community to come together in an active and healthy way that Mr. Semkus always promoted.
A memorial stone displays an engraving of one of Mr. Semkus’s quotes: “To be a positive role model, have a loving family, and affect people the way I have been affected by the people I love. To be remembered.”