What’s interesting about a hurricane, or any natural disaster in general, is the amount of inhumanity that comes forth. After Sandy, people were stealing gasoline out of their neighbors’ tanks like ruthless villains of the night; organizations smiled promises, but only for the news cameras that rolled ahead. And then there were the opportunists who came in and tried to make a quick buck on people who lost their homes, let alone a wallet to pay for a gallon of milk. But then there are those born with “thick skin and big hearts,” as Ron Perlman put it, who would give the coats of their backs to help neighbors in need. With non-profit organization, Staten Strong, teamed with Boot Campaign, humanity is represented in its most altruistic form. Founded by a group of Staten Island natives, including Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy), Staten Strong continues to work “…day in and day out to help our neighbors rebuild their lives.” At the Excelsior Grand on Staten Island, friends and family gathered, from Twisted Sister to The Sons of Anarchy, for a night of social awareness in the most entertaining of ways.
Downstairs in a separate hall, those willing to go under the needle could get inked up by Under My Skin tattoo artist “Tattoo Tony,” who helped raise $1,200 for the night’s benefit. Similarly, a local artist took the stage and dazzled onlookers by bringing to life a simple canvas. Almost instantly, and effortlessly, he painted a vivid American flag with a cutout of Staten Island which was auctioned on the spot, and quickly reached several thousand dollars as happily willing beneficiaries reached for their checkbooks. An endless buffet, including meat carving stations and an eggplant rollatini that gave my Italian grandmother a run for her money, brought this event to a higher standard. Additional entertainment came in the form of preteen rock and roll prodigies, Giffords Lane. From the nuances of Axl Rose’s vocals in “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to the cascading hills and valleys of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” these grade school rockers performed years—make that decades—ahead of their time. They aren’t the type of kids you’d be surprised to see ten years from now, in some nationally touring band; they are the type of kids you expect to see. Thankfully, America’s roots are sure to not fade away.
At the Staten Strong Gala, it was difficult to not feel the love this group of people shared for one another. All it takes is a simple act of kindness; a helping hand to a neighbor, a stranger. Harmony does exist after desolation and it starts with positivity. Staten Strong possesses every bit of activist philanthropy and it’s because of organizations like this that residents of Staten Island now have a place to call home. “Were not just going to fix Staten Island,” said Theo Rossi, “We’re going to make it better, because we’re on the map now. And we’re not going anywhere. I spent my whole life trying to get out of here. When people asked where I was from in NY, I’d say Brooklyn. And then Wu Tang happened and I’d say I was from Staten Island. But after Sandy, the rest of the world should watch this town to see how they handle a situation. I’m proud to be from here. We collect money and we give it out. Our team gets gift cards and gives them out. That’s what this town is. We help people.” So far, $38,452.00 has been raised.
Linked with Crowdrise, donations are still graciously welcomed here, and they couldn’t make it easier for you. Simply sign in with either an Amazon or a Facebook account and you can donate starting at $10. That’s less than a pack of cigarettes here in NY. Pay it forward, or as Crowdrise says, “If you don’t give back, no one will like you.”
– Melissa Caruso