SYOSSET, Long Island (PIX11) — In an unorthodox way, a great tragedy and loss transformed into hope and caring, thanks to pizza.
It is an unlikely story, ending with a community helping one another heal by giving to one another.
All Central Island was affected when a bus, chartered by the Farmingdale High School Band, ended up off the highway and flipping on its side in roadside woods in Sep. The crash, next to I-84 in Orange County, NY, killed beloved band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, and longstanding chaperone Beatrice Ferarri, 77.
On one of the other buses in the convoy headed to band camp that day was the son of Anthony Laurino.
“They were stuck there for like three hours because all the emergency vehicles were there,” Laurino said in an interview on Tuesday, “and they couldn’t move the bus. So, they pretty much saw everything that was coming up that hill, which was some bad stuff, you know.”
Laurino owns Phil’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Syosset. After the tragedy, he and his business partners started contacting other pizzerias, a lot of them 140, to be exact.
Those partnering pizzerias helped to spread the word that $5 from the sale of every pie would go to help the crash victims and the school.
The campaign, held in late October, yielded big results, according to Laurino.
“15,437 pies sold that day,” he said. He had held his event for the cause, dubbed Long Island Pizza Strong, on Oct. 25.
Some of the other restaurants participated on other days between Oct. 25, and Oct. 27.
Tuesday’s check presentation happened on the same day that a school-chartered bus in Ohio was involved in a crash, killing three people there. Sadly, this community can identify with what that one is going through.
Joseph Saladino, the supervisor of Oyster Bay, the town in which both Farmingdale and Syosset are located, presented the check showing the funds raised $100,200.
“We hope that this template on Long Island will be a template for people in Ohio,” Saladino said.
The organizer of the effort acknowledged that what his community did is a contrast to not only the tragedy that they are trying to overcome, but also to a lot of hard news in the headlines lately.
“There’s bad stuff going on in the world, really, you know?” Laurino said. “It doesn’t have to be that way, though. People should be a little bit nicer to each other.”
The proceeds of the pizza campaign will be split among the bus crash victims, the survivors, and the school.