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Oceanside musical theater group performs in Singing for Sandy – A Holiday Benefit

Christian Savarese, 15, of Oceanside performs holiday tunes

Christian Savarese, 15, of Oceanside performs holiday tunes at Singing for Sandy — A Holiday Benefit at the Hub Billiard Club in Island Park. (Dec. 22, 2012) (Credit: Ursula Moore)

Sabrina Franza, 16, of Oceanside, knows firsthand that life can be painful.

Superstorm Sandy destroyed the first floor of the Colonial-style home Franza lives in with her family.

But even more tragic, she said, was learning about the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where her cousins Anthony and Daniella Crisci were students. Both of her cousins — in the third grade and kindergarten, respectively — survived the attack.

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“Even though what happened here with hurricane Sandy is tragic, Sandy Hook is much worse,” Franza said.

Thinking of everything her family has experienced recently, Franza sang from the heart Saturday night at Singing for Sandy — A Holiday Benefit, where she performed with fellow students from the To The Stage Musical Theater Playhouse, based in Oceanside.

The event, held at the Hub Billiard Club in Island Park, raised $1,770 to benefit Oceanside, Long Beach and Island Park school districts. The money will go toward rebuilding classrooms, and getting new school supplies, musical instruments, athletic equipment and textbooks.

They sang holiday tunes including “White Christmas,” “Let It Snow” and “O Holy Night.”

“I am so happy about all the work they put into it,” said Courtney Pincus, 23, producer of the benefit and founder of To The Stage. “They are so passionate about helping people who were affected by Sandy.”

The students, between ages 5 and 20, were eager to sing to the crowd of about 150, and to be able to help with the Sandy recovery effort.

Pincus was one of those hit by Sandy’s wrath. Pincus lives with her parents, Pam and Rick Pincus, and her brothers, Joe, 20 and Brian, 15. Flooding destroyed all four of the family’s cars and they spent 2 1/2 weeks without power.

Pincus discussed the experience with family and friends through Facebook and it motivated her to create the benefit.

“A few of my students are just moving back into their homes,” she said.

As the benefit’s show pianist, Glenn Weiss, 55, of Island Park, said that while Sandy destroyed homes and lives, it also brought families and friends closer together.

He and his wife, Barbara, their daughter, Elisa, 24, and their two dogs lived with his sister-in-law in Rockville Centre for a few weeks after the storm.

“My house in Island Park was without heat and electricity for 17 days, and there was three feet of water,” he said.

Weiss, who is the choral director at Oceanside Middle School, said Oceanside holds a special place in his heart. It motivated him to write one of the evening’s songs, “Good Ol’ Oceanside.”

“Oceanside is a close-knit community,” he said. “When Sandy happened, people helped their neighbors and it inspired me to write the song.”

Franza said the benefit gave her a positive way to respond to a difficult time for her family and the community.

“I am dealing with all these negative things happening by helping in my community,” she said.

Above: Christian Savarese, 15, of Oceanside performs holiday tunes at Singing for Sandy — A Holiday Benefit at the Hub Billiard Club in Island Park. (Dec. 22, 2012)

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