By Bill Parry and Christian Murray
Sunnysiders turned out in big numbers for a local fundraiser Sunday and raised about $20,000 for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The event formally called Restaurants United for Sandy Help—was put together in less than two weeks– by many local residents and restaurant owners. More than 500 adults, many with children, attended the heavily-publicized fundraiser.
Attendees paid $25, which went to Sandy victims, for a wristband that provided them with quality food and drink between 4pm and 8pm. About 20 restaurants and bars participated in the event, which was similar to Taste of Sunnyside. It was held at the Sunnyside Community Services Center which donated the space.
There were several live bands, raffles and auctions. As the evening progressed, attendees began singing Karaoke. Meanwhile, there were plenty of children’s activities in an adjoining room, from music to face painting.
Ty Sullivan, the main organizer, was considered to be the uniting force behind the effort. “I call the organizing group The Magnificent Seven. Seven people with seven different super powers.” Sullivan’s special powers were in the field of social media & marketing.
Mickey McCreesh, a co-owner of Bar 43 and a member of the ‘magnificent seven’, said: “It’s been a very busy 10 days getting this all organized.”
McCreesh has also been leading an operation out of his restaurant to get essential supplies, such as food and clothing, to the Rockaways and Breezy Point. “We’ve had supply convoys out seven times already,” he said, “and we’ll be keeping this up for the foreseeable future.”
Gina Rattan, who founded the popular “Sunnyside Cares” Facebook page, joined forces with McCreesh in getting the supplies out to the needy and was also an event organizer. Her Facebook page generated a great deal of interest in the event – along with Bar 43’s and Sullivan’s.
In terms of Sunday’s fundraiser, she was very pleased with the turnout. “It just tells you what a fantastic neighborhood we have.”
Nick Murphy, a co-owner at Bar 43, was also active in publicizing the event through social media and was left in charge of supplying the beverages. The other organizers were Trevor Bowen, Stephanie Klein, Melissa Orlando, Dave Barckow and Terry Clarke.
Bowen was put in charge of the musical acts. “I figured that once we got the musicians on board everything else would fall into place,” Bowen said.
Klein and Orlando focused on recruiting the restaurants.
However, there was one man who came from the Rockaways who attended the event.
Michael Benn spoke to some of the attendees about how his house on Beach 112th St. was nearly wiped out by a six foot wave. He has been surviving with two generators.
“People just can’t understand how bad it is down there–until they have been there,” he said. “People there will accept any help you can give,” Benn added.
Benn is the Chairman of the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “The Rockaways were always known as The Irish Riviera,” he said, “I don’t know where we’d be without the Irish connection. That’s how we came to know Mickey McCreesh.”
One of McCreesh’s volunteers is Eddie Gismero, a resident of 43rd Ave. and a native of Argentina, proving you don’t have to be Irish to have an impact. “It’s complete devastation there,” said Gismero, “and everyone is so grateful.”