Editor's Note: This article was written by Tara Conry.
Superstorm Sandy brought extreme devastation to Long Island's South Shore communities, but it also motivated local communities to band together and even inspired an American Idol reunion recently.
Season 10 alums
Caleb Hawley and
Karen Rodriguez came together on Feb. 7 in Malverne's Howard T. Herber Middle School, where they delivered a crowd-pleasing concert that raised money for local families still recovering from the brutal storm.
"It's such a horrible thing that happened, but we're here trying to support the cause and do anything we can as New Yorkers," 23-year-old Rodriguez, who lives in Washington Heights, told Patch while warming up for the show.
When the concert's original venue fell through, the Malverne School District offered to host the show free of charge, and the 40-plus student members of Herber's Community Service Club took on the project. Thursday's audience included many Malverne students, and fans, friends and family of the four Idol stars. Kids from storm-ravaged East Rockaway and Long Beach were also able to attend the show through generous sponsors.
But before the performers hit the stage, 106.1 BLI radio personality Astra introduced a video montage highlighting the devastation of superstorm Sandy and the ongoing process to rebuild the homes, schools, businesses and lives impacted on Long Island, or "Strong Island" as it was called.
Then, Rush, known as “The Singing Waitress” during Season 10, kicked off the show with a combination of original songs and covers including a mash-up of Taylor Swift's "Trouble," The Lumineer's "Hey Ho" and Perry's Wide Awake." (See clip above under "Videos.")
Rush, who is also the national spokesperson for the bully prevention organization Hey U.G.L.Y. (Unique.Gifted.Lovable.You.), also took notice of Herber's "Bully-free zone" signage, tweeting out
this Instagram photo to her followers from the Malverne middle school.
After performing a duet with Rush, Hawley then owned the spotlight, treating the audience to his version of a few well-known hits and some original songs including one he wrote about his niece ("Little Miss Sunshine") and another in response to Beyonce's "Run The World (Girls)" called "Bada Boom, Bada Bling' about finding a "sugar mama." He had the young crowd singing, clapping and even dancing along to the very first song he wrote at age 15 about baking cookies.
Following a brief intermission, Rodriquez commanded the stage with her powerful renditions of Mariah Carey's "Hero," Beyonce's "Halo" and Rihanna's "Diamonds," receiving some vocal accompaniment from many of the students in the audience.
"Can I bring you on tour with me?" she jokingly asked the young singers from onstage.
Finally, Long Island's own Robbie Rosen took to the stage. The 19-year-old Merrick native started off his performance from behind his keyboard but was soon on his feet as he delivered an energetic pop song that brought the crowd instantly to their feet.
The singer and songwriter performed some of his original songs too including a country crossover and a ballad about "hanging on" that may have resonated with Long Island's Sandy victims. Rosen also shared the stage (and his keyboard) with Rush as the two performed a duet from the musical "Once."
All four Idol alums reunited once more on the stage to close out the show and express their appreciation for everyone who attended by singing The Wanted's "Glad You Came."
"Being on stage at one time, all singing together [was] pretty special," said Rosen, who organized the reunion of his fellow Idol alums.
"It seemed like a really cool chance to see everyone and I'm always happy to do benefits," Hawley, a Minneapolis native who has called New York City home for the past six years, told Patch. "I'm just trying to use what I love to do for another reason other than myself."
The money raised from the concert will be distributed to local families impacted by Sandy through their schools, which have identified those who are in need. If you would like to donate to this cause or have questions, contact Matt Rosen at 516-887-6458.