By MIKE SMITH
Harrison is reeling this week after another tragic death hit the community hard.
Harrison High School junior Andrew Gurgitano, 16, died in his home on Saturday, Nov. 8, after suffering what the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined to be a rare spontaneous stroke.
On Saturday and Sunday, Harrison High School again opened its doors to a community that has twice been hit by tragic deaths in the last two weeks. Social workers, grief counselors, administrators, teachers and coaches were all on hand to offer support to the student body.
“We were there on Saturday and Sunday if the kids wanted to come in,” said Varsity Baseball coach Marco DiRuocco, who coached Gurgitano last year. “It was a place they could come together and talk with their peers and friends alike, it provided some comfort, a safe place, someone to talk to.”
According to DiRuocco, the well-liked Gurgitano had a true passion for baseball. As a sophomore, Gurgitano shined on the mound, and earned the right to start Harrison’s sectional playoff game against Tappan Zee. In addition to his on-field achievements, DiRuocco said Gurgitano served as an inspiration to teammates through the force of his enthusiasm for the game.
“We had a number of sophomores come out for the varsity team, but he really impressed us overall,” the coach said. “He had such a positive attitude. He was always working on his game. He really came into his own and I was looking forward to getting the chance to work with him for the next two years.”
The Harrison community’s quick response to the tragedy is a testament to the impact that Andrew had on the lives of his classmates, said DiRuocco. On Monday, a Gofundme page hoping to raise $15,000 to help the Gurgitano family with funeral costs was set up. By Tuesday morning, the page had raised $57,760.
According to a Monday update on the website, all excess funds will be used towards creating a scholarship fund in Andrew’s name.
On Thursday, Nov. 13, the baseball team will take part in a candlelight vigil at Harrison High School to support the Gurgitano family. The following day, on Nov. 14, Harrison’s soccer team will hold a charity game to raise money for the family of junior varsity player Joseph Lopez, whose mother, Reyda LaMadrid, 47 was killed by a drunk driver
on Nov. 3.
DiRuocco added that the baseball team will also look for a way to honor Gurgitano’s legacy when the spring season starts up.
“We definitely want to do something, there’s just so much going on right now,” said the head coach. “We met with the team on Monday [Nov. 10], and I think we needed it, we needed each other. There’s really no way to prepare for something like this.”