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West Harrison Teenagers Step Up To Support Loved Ones In Time Of Tragedy

Junior members of the West Harrison Fire Department raised money Tuesday for the families of two classmates who lost loved ones in recent tragedies.
Junior members of the West Harrison Fire Department raised money Tuesday for the families of two classmates who lost loved ones in recent tragedies. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

WEST HARRISON, N.Y. -- Students at Harrison High School found themselves having to cope with two tragedies this past week.

So 19 of the high school's volunteer firefighters hit the streets of West Harrison on Tuesday, with boots in hand, to raise money for two of their classmates. A high school sophomore's mother was killed by a drunken driver on Nov. 3 and an HHS junior died of a stroke on Saturday.

"We asked each other, 'What can we do for the family?' " said Mike Pellegrino, a senior who is captain of the junior firefighters. "We did it because we're a community coming together."

Pellegrino remembered his former neighbor, Andrew Gurgitano, playing wiffle ball in the street. "Baseball was his passion,'' he said.

Gurgitano, 16, died of a stroke in his sleep at home Saturday. The Westchester County Medical's Office called it a natural but rare death.

"The whole school was incredibly shocked,'' said Doug Harrison, a junior.

"You could hear a pin drop in the hallway'' at school Monday as word spread of Andrew's sudden death, according to Ross Cowan, a senior.

Gurgitano, a high school junior, was a left-handed pitcher on the varsity baseball team.

"He always had a smile on his face,'' Pellegrino said. "I never saw him sad."

Last week, the high school was trying to cope with the death of sophomore Joseph Lopez' mother, Reyda LaMadrid, who was killed in a crash with a drunken driver in White Plains. LaMadrid, who owned a restaurant in Port Chester, was delivering newspapers when the fatal accident occurred. The driver of the other vehicle, an off-duty White Plains firefighter, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Money is being raised for LaMadrid's funeral expenses as well. A fundraising page was set up for the Lopez family at www.gofundme.com/gtw5lc .

Nearly $40,000 had been donated by 555 people through Tuesday.

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