Debbie's Gibson Girl gala at Oheka Castle

Singer Debbie Gibson, who grew up in Merrick, returned to Long Island for a charity event at Oheka Castle, along with one of her charity's scholarship winners. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (May 21, 2012)

Debbie Gibson accomplished a lot on this season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."

She raised $50,000 for Children International by winning the challenge to launch the Buick Verano on the show. She argued with "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice. And she got Twisted Sister's Dee Snider to sing "Baby Love."

What the Merrick native didn't get to do during the show, though, was work on her own projects -- her music, her accessories line and her charity, the Gibson Girl Foundation, which she will raise money for with a gala at Oheka Castle Monday night with the help of "Apprentice" pals Snider, Lisa Lampanelli and Aubrey O'Day. "I was under the delusion that I could do music in between things, and I even had a piano in my room at Trump," Gibson said, calling from her home in Los Angeles. "All the girls on the show laughed at me. They said, 'You're only going to use it as a clothes hanger.' And they were right, there was no time ... I only got to use it twice."

Now with the show over, Gibson is ready to change that.

Why did you want to do your Gibson Girl Foundation gala on Long Island?

The arts started for me on Long Island. I was always in a summer theater show. I wasn't even Jewish, but I was in the Bellmore Jewish Center production of "Gypsy." Long Islanders are generous, and they understand the need for the arts. . . . We get to really take the money we make and send kids off to summer camp.

Why is the foundation's work so important to you?

I came face-to-face with parents who had these kids who are so wide-eyed and hopeful about going to summer camp, and their parents were just in tears. They couldn't make ends meet. This was an extra for them. To me, the arts are necessary, so however that has to get supplemented, it has to get done. I was one of those kids, and these camps help kids on all levels. For some, it's for self-esteem, and for others, it's for professional reasons.

And now you're ready to resume your favorite profession -- making music for a new album.

I had a great experience on the show, but I learned that the more random things take me away from music, the worse I feel. It's great to be able to shift my focus back.

WHAT Gibson Girl Foundation 2nd Annual Gala

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Monday, Oheka Castle, 135 West Gate Dr., Huntington

INFO $250; gibsongirlfoundation.org

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