On Sept. 21, Anthony Laurino dropped his son Francesco Laurino off at Farmingdale High School for a trip to a band camp in Pennsylvania.
While his son was not on the bus that crashed later that day — one that resulted in the death of 43-year-old Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old retired social studies teacher Beatrice Ferarri— Laurino remains deeply touched by the tragedy as a member of the Farmingdale community.
As owner of Phil’s Pizzeria in Syosset, Laurino thought there must be something he could do to help the families of those who were affected by the tragedy. He got together with Alyssa Guidice of LI Dine and Jim Serpico, owner of Side Hustle Bread, to create a fundraiser to help these families out.
Originally, the fundraiser was a one-night-only plan set for Oct. 25 — but as more communities heard about the mission, more restaurants wanted to get involved. Laurino, Guidice and Serpico set out to get 20 pizzerias involved with the fundraiser. By the end of October, more than 140 pizzerias across Nassau County and Suffolk County participated in the efforts to support families who have been affected by the tragedy.
The fundraiser spanned three days, from Oct. 25-27 allowing more businesses to get involved.
For every pie purchased at a participating pizzeria or restaurant during the fundraiser, $5 of the proceeds will be distributed to families affected by the tragedy.
The distribution for the fundraiser will be split across four sectors, according to Guidice. Most of the money will go to the critically injured, other portions will go to the non-critically injured, the marching band and to the families of Pellettiere and Ferarri.
Some band members lost their equipment on that bus, and Guidice said that the fundraiser hopes to be able to replace it. This was brought to Guidice’s attention by a mother of one of the students who was on the bus during the crash. The student was not critically injured, but his instrument was damaged that day.
Guidice, Laurino and Serpico worked together with Farmingdale High School to ensure they went through the right channels to get the money back to the families affected by the tragedy.
“We wanted to make sure they were happy with how, and who, we were giving the money to,” Serpico said.
The donation total will not be tallied up for weeks to come as the fundraiser organizers work to collect the donation checks made out to Farmingdale school district. The response from residents across Long Island was overwhelmingly supportive. The donations will be dropped off with a letter explaining specifically where every dollar will be distributed throughout those affected.
Serpico said the goal is to raise $100,000 with this fundraiser.
For every pie ordered using Slice, donations were matched to result in a $10 donation. Anna Cortesiano, owner of Salvatore’s of Elmont, helped facilitate Slice’s participation with Long Island Pizza Strong after weeks of reaching out to the company. Premier Payroll Solutions helped out and said the company would donate a dollar for every pie sold up to $5,000.
In Franklin Square, Cinellis Pizza, Chef Gigi’s Place and Prince Umberto participated in the fundraiser. In Elmont, King Umberto’s and Salvatore’s of Elmont participated. Pizzerias in other Nassau towns, such as East Meadow, Merrick, West Hempstead, Wantagh and more took part in the fundraiser.
“I think it was a win-win for most of the pizzerias,” Serpico said.