Bee Charmer, Wildlife Rehabber and an Unsung Hero: A Life Dedicated to Preserving Long Island’s Ecosystem

By Amy Nicole Tangel

It takes all kinds to make the world go round.  By committing her life to helping animals and keeping the environment thriving, keeping the world going has been an ever-growing demand for one Long Island woman.

Samantha Boyd said she has been an animal lover her whole life and knew from early on this was her calling.  Certified dually as a New York State (NYS) Wildlife Rehabber and a NYS Veterinarian Technician, the lifelong Northport, N.Y., resident has saved countless wildlife creatures over the years and continues to grow new life through her mission to help save the endangered bee population. 

“I’ve been rescuing animals since I was 6-years-old; all kinds,” she said.

All kinds seemingly is a vast understatement, but her current life surrounded by bees stemmed initially from her passion for gardening and the shared interest with 21-year-long life partner, Neal Wechsler.  Samantha said it was about 15-20 years ago when she said they started noticing there were not many bees in the garden anymore.  After having huge vegetable gardens for years and seeing fewer and fewer bees, Samantha said Neal suggested they think about raising bees themselves.

In 2010, Samantha and Neal decided to forge ahead and took their first bee keeping classes with a Master Beekeeper on Long Island to learn all about them.

“In 2011, we got our first hive and we just fell in love with it,” she said.

Soon enough, Samantha said it got to be they had more and more hives and had so much excess honey they decided to start selling it at local farmer’s markets.

With the profits from the honey sales the couple decided to put it towards the wildlife rehabilitation facility Samantha founded and the exceeding costs that Samantha said comes along with the ever-growing demand of her rescue.

“Basically, all the profits (from the honey) get funneled into the animals, because there are just so many and it is just so costly, so that enables me to do all the wildlife work,” she said.

People donate occasionally which Samantha said helps immensely and a lot of times those who drop off babies will give whatever they can even if it’s just a few dollars, but it doesn’t go very far when hundreds of babies are being cared for throughout the year.

In 2020, Samantha’s Safe Haven Wildlife Rehab Facility rescued 183 babies, and this year she said she has already rescued more than 300 in the first half of 2021 alone.  Samantha rescues wildlife such as squirrels, opossums, rabbits, chipmunks, and little baby birds such as pigeons to name a short-list of her most common rescues.  What would seem to be a daunting task for anyone, is simply a life that Samantha said she wouldn’t have any other way.

In addition to her rescue and beekeeping, Samantha is a veterinarian technician by profession and said she has 30 pet rescues of her own; taking in any pets she can in need of a home.

“Basically, anything that needs help comes my way,” she said.

Samantha said Northport was much more rural when she was growing up with bigger animals such as horses and goats, but even though it is very developed now a lot of wildlife still exists in the area. Living with close access to a very wooded area near the Makamah Nature Preserve in Fort Salonga, Samantha said provides her a perfect location with deer, fox, and opossums to release most of her wildlife rescues.

If raising bees, rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife on top of caring for family pets is not enough for one, Samantha also works full-time at the Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of Westbury as an oncology technician who gives chemotherapy to dogs and cats.

Samantha said the people she works with are simply wonderful and very kind in allowing her to bring her babies to work with her, even helping her carry them in and out of the car. Just last week, she said she had 45 babies with her at work, and even though it’s a 24-hour a day job, she loves it with all her heart and wouldn’t change anything.

“It’s a project.  It takes an hour to just get them all loaded into the car,” she said.

When Samantha rehabilitates and releases an animal she rescues, she said it means just as much to her every single time, because every little one is different with their own personalities and traits, so she gets to know them all specifically.  Whether they want a worm or a seed, she said she knows and loves them all.

“I love it.  I love being able to save them.  They’re all little souls,” she said.

Educating the public is just as important to Samantha and Neal respectively to spread awareness and knowledge to others across Long Island about the importance of not only bees, beekeeping, and the health benefits of honey, but what people can do themselves to help the wildlife ecosystem. 

The couple offers simple tips in their lectures such as putting a dish of water out when it is hot for squirrels to drink and having a bird house up in your yard, to knowing if a baby opossum falls off its mom it will always need a rehab; all differences Samantha said people can make that go a long way. 

“They (mother opossums) have so many, they can’t count and if one tumbles down…mom leaves and she’s never going to come back,” she said.

As many people would feel, the first time Samantha encountered her bees she said she was scared to death.  For Samantha, who has come to love beekeeping, the first few times she put the suit on and opened the hive to pull out almost 50,000 bees swarming, her heart raced to say the least.  Samantha said she quickly got over her fear though and the bees are actually gentle and calming even though they try to intimidate you.

“If you move slowly, you have a rapport with them,” she said.

When describing the experience in the hives once acclimated, Samantha said, it is beautiful and the only time they really get upset is when the honey is taken, which usually only happens once a year.  What started out as one hive quickly grew to countless hives, mostly due to separating and moving hives to prevent swarms, said Neal, but at the end of the year they are typically left with 70-90 pounds of honey on each hive.

Neal, who became a Master Beekeeper through Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said they started out thinking one hive would make a difference and realized after the first year it really didn’t make a difference having just one, so they continued to grow in numbers.  With a calling to help the declining bee population and the knowledge that everything humans consume foodwise needs to be pollenated, Neal said bees really need our help in order to survive.

“They are vitally important and that’s why we do this,” he said.

Throughout the summer, Samantha said they will be selling their BeeWitched Bee honey products at local farmers’ markets across Suffolk County.  BeeWitched Bee can be found at Northport Farmers’ Market and Tanger Outlets on Saturdays, and on Sundays at the Patchogue Outdoor Market and Smith Haven Mall’s farmers’ market.  BeeWitched Bee can also be purchased at Stony Brook Farmers’ Market inside the hospital, as well as the Farmingville Historical Society Market.

For more information on Samantha’s Safe Haven Wildlife Rehab Facility and BeeWitched Bee, visit www.beewitchedbee.com or call 631-606-3330.

A Heart Called to Help

By Amy Nicole Tangel

With the resurgence of live entertainment upon us, people everywhere are ready to get back out and come together with a newfound appreciation, but for one man who has dedicated his life to entertaining while helping others, it is now a time to give back more than ever.

John “SohoJohnny” Pasquale, has a spark in his smile and a compassion in his heart that seemingly shines through in everything he does.  An entertainer, philanthropist and commercial real estate company owner, John describes himself as “somewhat of a mad scientist” when it comes to the missions his heart is called to.  Through producing live events and a passion for bringing people together with music, John said his real work is simply to spread joy to others.

“We need this stuff. We need content.  We need people to be uplifted,” he said.

To understand the philanthropy of John and the platform of SohoJohnny, John said the root of who he is lies in the positive influences his parents imparted on him from childhood.  His mom was a music and arts advocate who John said performed some Off-Broadway plays here and there, but the foundation really came from her always playing music in the household.

His dad grew up in the Great Depression, and John said because of his father’s humble upbringing he seemed to always have had the ability to make people feel good.  It didn’t matter to him what people had or what people didn’t have.

“He had that sense of humility and humanity.  That’s part of what I picked up from my dad,” he said.

When he was growing up, John said he had a studder and from that he subconsciously evolved into a class clown; a shield of nerves filling his heart with the need to entertain and relate to people.  With a lifelong passion for bringing people together through music, John said it all started in his garage during high school days having friends over and playing DJ. It became the place to be, and he said parents were just happy their kids weren’t roaming the streets.

Home to John is within four generations of family in Manhattan’s historical district of SoHo.  John started working for the family trucking business alongside his dad in the 60’s and 70’s and he said growing up and working in a city that is probably the biggest melting pot in the world helped define the man he is today.

“For me, I consider that a second education, a valuable education; how you see people from all walks of life and adversity,” he said.

In the 80’s, John said is when he went into commercial real estate and began planning and putting on events purely based on an ever-growing passion.   For a number of years John said he would DJ various events and put on small family-style parties, until 1994 when his father passed away from cancer.

In that moment in time as John reflected on the fleeting nature of life and wanting to live life to the fullest, he said he decided to take his event and party planning to the next level.  John said he wanted to take a step up and channel his grief to do something good for others to honor his father’s life through celebration.

“It’s my privilege to be able to lead the charge in my own little way for that upheaval of good-nature, love and celebration of life; appreciation of what life has to offer,” he said.

John is the co-owner of PEP (Property Enhancement Programs) Real Estate based in Soho, a full-service real estate management company which separates itself from the rest by offering event planning and management for clients to their list of services.  John said it is everything he has done with his work in real estate that has enabled him to be able to pay forward in such impactful ways.

The first organization John began working with was the American Cancer Society.  For John, he said hosting events for such a cause to benefit the fight against cancer with the American Cancer Society was like the “trifecta” of helping people; and being able to work with so many “like-minded” people opened so many other doors.

“It was such a feel-good thing to do, and I chugged from there, and slowly but surely…the entertainment organically grew more and more and more,” he said.

What followed were new branches in representing artists and another that got John involved in the film industry co-producing movies. Earlier this year, John once again took his passion for music to another level launching Tribeca Records and SohoJohnny Records (SohoJohnny LLC) with the assistance of entertainment executive John Velasco.

The respective modern-independent labels have most recently signed project, AniMaze X, a metal show for all ages formed by members of Walt Disney Records D-Metal Stars, renowned musician, producer and composer Randy Edelman and solo artist April Rose Gabrielli, to name a few.

Sadly, like many others effected by Covid, John lost his mother, age of 93, to the illness, and that is when John said he started to think outside the box once again; growing another branch and forming a new foundation to help various charities across the board.  Let Me Help, Inc, a foundation created to support different charities for multiple causes was founded in large part through John’s wanting to help others and a vision to continue to do more, but he said he owes most of the credit to the team that carries out the missions.

“I owe it all to the team around me and some blessed people who have supported me,” he said.

Let Me Help, Inc., was launched with a six-hour Celebrity Benefit Concert: Mandate for Humanity, an event John said included footage, shout-outs and performances from artists and celebrities all stepping up to the plate to support and contribute.  Celebrities included dozens of artists and top entertainers such as, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, Jeff Goldblum, and Cedric the Entertainer.  Causes the foundation supports presently are prostate cancer, anti-bullying through the support of Andrew Cole’s #IamNoJoke campaign, and Covid-19 Relief.

John said the commitment and charity of others is a testament toward the ethics and the spirit of humanity, and that in itself is the spirit of the SohoJohnny platform he helped build.

“It was a wonderful event.  We raised some money, and everybody that was part of it, all the celebrities; they just gave,” he said.

“Mandate for Humanity” is also the title of a yet-to-be released comic book to benefit Let Me Help, Inc., conceptualized by John with a theme he said was gestating with him right before Covid.  He said the timing became clear. It was meant to come to life during the pandemic as a way to share joy and lift people’s spirits when they needed it the most.  John said the premise of his character, “SohoJohnny” is his mission to go out and spread cheer across the world when the world is depressed in almost like a “Covid-Pandemic World.”

Friends of John’s in real life and fellow collaborators, Scott Page of Pink Floyd, DJ Monti Rock III from Saturday Night Fever, and PR agent Howard Bloom all become characters in the story who each have special powers they bestow upon “SohoJohnny” to help him help other people become happy again.  John said his character’s main goal is to get people out of the shells and ruts they have been in.

“The timing of it was almost predestined that we made the comic book during that (Covid Pandemic),” he said.

The summer season into fall is filling up rapidly for John with events across the country and with live entertainment coming back to life, people can find him presenting events from Montauk, N.Y., to Los Angeles.  In addition, Let Me Help, Inc will be sponsor to The Marshall Tucker Band in August to support renovations needed for the Montauk Lighthouse. 

As for the acting and producing branch of John’s creative tree, he is the producer of interview talk show, “Profiles,” hosted by his friend and mentor, Mickey Burns. Most recently, John has started shooting a new talk show called, “Soho at Night,” and there is no stopping there as he is also launching a new membership club for models and actors. Soho Innovative Studios, located in SoHo, is a membership modeling/acting school with a special focus on art fashion, and just one more way John is working diligently to open doors in the arts.

“Re-Light Broadway” is another upcoming project John is currently working on for the fall to help support getting Broadway back on its feet, and with the demand he said he is seeing in content entertainment as a whole he predicts the second half of the year to be one for the records.

As far as humanity as a whole coming out of Covid, when people have been isolated, homebound and who are now coming out, John said he hopes people will not make light of anybody else’s suffering and always try to help others in good faith and love.

“It doesn’t matter what you have or what you don’t have.  If you get on a bus and you see an elderly lady sitting, just say something nice to raise her spirits,” he said.

On July 24, 2021, SohoJohnny will be taking part in a VIP Art / Charity reception at Steven Calapai’s Park South Gallery on Long Island to benefit Let Me Help, Inc, with a portion of proceeds from the evening’s art sales going to support the foundation.  The night is scheduled to have live musical performances and special guest appearances. For those interested in celebrating an evening of exclusive original art and to help others through purchase, RSVP via email to calapai@gmail.com.

For all things happening with “SohoJohnny” and more information on how you can help support any of the foundation causes, visit sohojohnny.com and letmehelpinc.org.  John can also be found on Facebook @sohojohnnyLLC and Instagram @sohojohnny.  For more information about PEP Real Estate and the services provided visit, peprealestate.com.

Photos courtesy SohoJohnny