Zach Kardisch didn’t know Sean Riley very well. Both attended Schechter Upper School in Williston Park, but Kardisch, 19, was only in the seventh grade when Riley, a junior, died in December 2007 from cancer. Still, for the past five years, Kardisch has been committed to keeping his schoolmate’s memory alive.
Kardisch and two of his friends — Schechter seniors Jeff Richards and Phil Roth — are hosting the second annual “Sean Lives On” benefit on Thursday at Warehouse 5 in Island Park to honor Riley and raise funds to fight pediatric cancer.
From 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., three different DJs will be spinning at the club, located at 80 Waterfront Blvd. Tickets to the event, which is open to anyone 16 and up, are $25 and can be purchased at the door. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Cancer Center for Kids at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, where Riley, an Island Park resident, was a patient.
In its inaugural year, “Sean Lives On” attracted more than 400 teenagers to Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Kardisch’s hometown, and raised $10,000. This year, with the help of concert promoter Mike Margolis — who is volunteering his services and has booked DJs Kap-Slap and Nammo! — Kardisch hopes to raise twice as much.
Although Kardisch was not close with Riley, he was inspired to honor his legacy after meeting his father, Peter Riley, at a memorial service held at the school following his death.
“His father is an upbeat, high energy, glass-is-half-full person,” said Kardisch. “My friends and I couldn’t believe how someone could be like that after losing a son.”
Kardisch and his pals then learned that Peter Riley, 52, copes with the loss of his son by raising money in his name, and they wanted to help. They started off organizing mini-basketball tournaments at their school, raising $600 one year and $1,000 the following one, before deciding to host an event that would draw more people.
The one memory that Kardisch has of Sean Riley took place on a basketball court during recess, about three weeks before his cancer relapse.
“People have described him [Sean] as being loving, caring and so friendly,” said Kardisch. “I remember seeing all of that in him during that 10-20 minute basketball game .?.?. He got along with everyone.”
Peter Riley said it’s fitting other people will be helped through his son’s memory.
“Sean was always concerned about other people,” Riley said, “… even throughout his sickness, even in his worst of times.”