by Monica Cristina Pastores, special to WTOP.com
WASHINGTON - In less than two days, a Catholic University student has raised more than $140,000 for his neighbors devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Born and raised in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, Matthew Petronis was stunned to see the countless photos of the destroyed homes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. So he decided to do something about it. In just three weeks, he's raised thousands of dollars for storm victims.
Petronis, 19, is a sophomore Business Management student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is an avid baseball fan and a pitcher on the university baseball team. Petronis was in Washington when Hurricane Sandy hit.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Petronis started up two donation websites dedicated to assisting the residents of the Breezy Point and Rockaway neighborhoods.
In just 24 hours, the Breezy Point website raised over $10,000. Within two weeks, both websites raised over $140,000 of their targeted $1 million goal. They have now officially received non-profit status.
Donations to the Rockaway website are going to a local non-profit organization, the Graybeards, which was created after the September 11th attacks to promote diversity, community building and patriotism within the Rockaway community.
Petronis is thrilled about the recent success of the two fundraisers dedicated to rebuild the place he calls "home."
"Breezy Point is a little piece of paradise. Everyone has each other's backs. It's one big family," he says.
In fact, the donation websites have even caught the attention of some local Queens celebrities, such as actor and director Edward Burns, New York Mets second-basemen Justin Turner and relief pitcher Jon Rauch.
The cause is personal for Petronis as his family and home were directly affected by Hurricane Sandy.
"My family was kicked out of a hotel in Breezy Point because of the marathon runners, back when everyone thought that it was still going to happen," he says.
Petronis' family has since moved in with other relatives in Queens.
Friends and family of Petronis continue to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word.
"Breezy Point isn't the same town it was when I came back to Catholic. It's gone, but that doesn't mean it can't come back and be better than ever," Petronis says.
"My goal with these fundraisers is to do just that. We will rebuild and we will continue to remain strong."
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