Grieving family wins $40G in Sandy repairs

The Walsh family of Lindenhurst - Tom Walsh,

The Walsh family of Lindenhurst - Tom Walsh, son Sean and wife Cheryl - received some good news when they were chosen in a drawing to receive kitchen, bathroom and other home renovations. (Dec. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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First, an unspeakable tragedy. Then, Sandy. And now, a spark of hope.

Two months after the superstorm hit, rendering their Lindenhurst home unlivable, the Walsh family is bracing for their first Christmas without their daughter.

But amid all the grief, they were given a helping hand Saturday by some of their neighbors. The family won the grassroots Adopt-A-Family prize: $40,000 worth of home repairs.

They were chosen from about a dozen families living in hard-hit south Lindenhurst who submitted essays to event organizers, detailing their struggles after Sandy.

Bundled against the morning cold and looking stunned, Thomas and Cheryl Walsh, joined by their 13-year-old son Sean, accepted the award at Shore Road Park.

"Somebody really stepped up today," Thomas Walsh said afterward. "We didn't expect that.

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"I would have loved to have been on the giving end . . . and I can't, because I'm overwhelmed with what happened at home, with trying to keep my family normal from what happened in June," said Walsh, 40, a substitute teacher.

A star soccer player who was headed to York College in Pennsylvania in the fall, 18-year-old Brittney Walsh was driving home from work on June 24 when her vehicle was hit from behind by a drunken driver on Montauk Highway. Her white sport utility vehicle flipped several times, and she died at the scene.

Michael Grasing, 31, of Babylon, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.30 percent, almost four times the legal limit, police said. He pleaded not guilty in July to an 11-count indictment, including second-degree murder, aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated driving while intoxicated and other charges.

As the Walsh family grieved, they suffered another crushing blow in the fall. Sandy hit, bringing 3 feet of floodwaters into their canal-front home.

When they heard the superstorm was coming, Thomas Walsh said, the first thing his wife did was to box up Brittney's things and carry them to safety.

"The house thing sucks, but it's nothing compared by far to what happened in June," he said. "I'd rather be homeless with two kids walking in the streets. Now I have one."

Their home needs about $40,000 in repairs to the first floor and basement, along with the heating and electrical systems -- a seemingly serendipitous match with yesterday's award.

More than 20 local businesses contributed.

Lindenhurst resident Darlene Fantel, organizer of the Adopt-A-Family event, said the post-Sandy struggles of children was the focus.

"This little boy lost his sister, he wasn't in his home, and we knew the family was having a difficult time," she said of the Walshes.

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