Anthony Laurino, owner of Phil’s Pizzeria in Syosset, dropped his son Francesco Laurino off at Farmingdale High School on Sept. 21 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 effected by the tragedy as a member of the Farmingdale community.
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. And three North Shore pizzerias, Vito’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Glen Cove, Tre Sorelle Ristorante in Sea Cliff and Mama Mia’s Pizzeria in Oyster Bay, joined in to support the effort.
Vito Marchese, owner of Vito’s, said his restaurant has done similar charity events in the past, and during the coronavirus pandemic they donated pizzas to the employees of Glen Cove Hospital, also writing uplifting and inspirational messages on the boxes to help keep their spirits up.
“The community was really affected by it, and we felt bad for the families that were involved in the accident,” Marchese said. “We try to help everybody, that’s why we’re here.”
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 and Suffolk counties participated in the efforts to support families 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.
Lia Jorquera, one of the co-owners of Tre Sorelle, said that she and her two sisters had heard about the event through Facebook, and instantly knew that they wanted to help. Lia said that she and her two sisters, who have owned and operated Tre Sorelle for the last 11 years, thought that this cause was one worth supporting.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer,” Jorquera said. “You feel for the families, you feel for what happened, and its so close to home so we wanted to do anything we could to help out.”
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.
Serpico said the goal is to raise $100,000 with this fundraiser. The donation total will not be tallied up for weeks as the fundraiser organizers work to collect the donation checks made out to the 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.
“I think it was a win-win for most of the pizzerias,” Serpico said.