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Valley Stream teacher to be honored in D.C.

Valley Stream teacher AnnMarie Castrogiovanni will be honored Thursday at the 2011 national Make A Difference Day Awards in Washington, D.C.

Castrogiovanni, 48, and nine other honorees will be recognized at a luncheon for their grassroots volunteer work. Each will also receive a $10,000 donation from Newman’s Own Inc., a food company, for the charities of their choice.

Make A Difference Day is sponsored by Newman’s Own, the Hands On Network and USA WEEKEND Magazine.

Last September, Castrogiovanni was browsing Facebook when she paused to admire a first-day-of-school photo of 5-year-old Jack Perlungher, who had just started kindergarten after having attended The Morgan Center in Hicksville, a preschool for kids with cancer. Later that week, Jack died.

Castrogiovanni realized the annual Make A Difference Day on Oct. 23 would have been Jack’s sixth birthday. So she gathered her fellow second-grade teachers at Ogden Elementary and organized a volunteer effort to honor him: The teachers asked their 93 students to perform good deeds in exchange for cash to benefit the preschool. The students visited the elderly, gardened and cat-sat, raising $1,300 to buy a laptop in memory of Jack’s love of computers.

When students learned about the award for their volunteer efforts, they screamed with joy, Castrogiovanni said.

“What they won,” she said, “was the good feeling that comes from helping others.”

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