Editor's Note: This article was written by Nicole Murphy.
Rich McElligott of Merrick watched his family, friends and neighbors forced out of their homes after Superstorm Sandy and felt he needed to do something to help.
McElligott joined forces with longtime friends Kerrin Shearin and Joanne Colamartino to host a relief benefit at Mulcahy's Pub & Concert Hall this past Saturday. From working with founder John Theissen on past events, McElligott knew the Wantagh-based John Theissen Children's Foundation would be the perfect recipient of the day's earnings.
"We were thinking about all of our families and our friends who were affected by Sandy and this is just a little something we all wanted to do to give back to those who have been jammed up from the storm," McElligott said. "Without John's help, none of this would have been possible, and the work he does is fantastic."
Since Sandy hit, Theissen said the foundation has given out nearly $25,000 in donations to storm victims alone with more and more requests coming in. Theissen and his family were displaced from their own Seaford home, but he said the stories he heard from others were much more pressing.
"My kids lost a lot - their toys, their clothes, everything - but I can buy them new stuff," he explained. "There's more than a dozen families on the south shore who have kids with cancer. They lost their homes, their medicine, everything. It's just brutal."
As Theissen and his family were finally able to move back into their home this month, flooding from a massive snowstorm caused his extensive damage to the foundation's fun center.
"We lost almost $10,000 in toys and electronics and I had to cancel parties that we had scheduled for March," Theissen said. "We're trying to see what insurance is going to cover, but I have to think about the future and what could happen down there. Do I try and fix it up?"
Wantagh resident Pete Brasile saw the fun center's damage first hand and recruited the Wantagh High School football team to help clean up.
"We threw out two or three 20-yard dumpsters filled to capacity with toys," said Brasile. "If you've ever been in John's wish room, it's huge, and it was filled with toys, and now half of them are gone."
In light of the recent hit to the foundation, Brasile and a group of volunteers will be hosting a fundraiser to benefit the foundation directly on June 1 at Mulcahy's.