This past November, The Gargiulo Education Center lost a dear friend, donor and inspiration in Ray LaPierre. Ray was truly a bright and shining star, especially during the holidays. Most of our families struggle financially and are unable to provide their children with Christmas gifts. When Ray heard about this, he quietly made it his mission to ensure that all the kids had gifts on Christmas morning. Since 2018, Ray and his wife have championed this cause, rallying friends and neighbors. Even as his health declined, they made sure every child had presents.

To show their gratitude and celebrate Ray’s life, our students honored Ray and his legacy by performing a song at his wake. They practiced for weeks with Ms. Marilee, our Dramatic Arts teacher, learning the words and melody to Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Many of our students had not directly experienced a death in the family or attended a funeral. To help understand and cope with Ray’s death, we used the “SMART” program which helps students learn to process grief and loss.

Throughout the SMART program, students were able to express their feelings and emotions by not only understanding death and sadness, but also how small acts of kindness and coming together in song can bring joy to others.

Even though the students were nervous, their rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was sung perfectly, and most importantly, with love and gratitude. Everyone was so moved, especially Ray’s wife, Sharon who received a flower from each student. As tears flowed down the faces of Ray’s family and friends, our kids were able to provide joy and appreciation, just as Ray did for them every Christmas.

Click on any of the images below to watch the children’s performance and two news segments on ray’s legacy and the children of Gargiulo education center.