After the grieving, community coming together for Stephanie

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    SPARTA-Business partners Phil Peraino and George Sensale, owners of North Jersey Cycles, on Route 15 in Sparta, plan to hold a raffle with the proceeds to supplement the college education fund for Stephanie Stassi. Stassi is the lone survivor of a Christmas Eve car accident that claimed the lives of her parents Beverly and Anthony and 10-year-old sister, Samantha a fourth grade student at Helen Morgan School in Sparta. "We were so devastated by this tragedy. I could not stop thinking about it," said Sensale. Both men were out together one evening after Christmas when they decided to do something to help the Stassi's surviving daughter. "I have six kids of my own and Phil has two. This hit us both so hard, being parents and so close to our own kids. I know that if anything ever happened to either one of us that our kids would be devastated," said Sensale. Both men live in Sparta and are actively involved in their children's activities and sports. "We decided to build a bike and raffle it off. It will be a custom Vtwin chopper, a one-of-a-kind motorcycle, with a retail price of between $30,000 and $35,000," said Sensale. Their shop, North Jersey Cycles, specializes in building custom-made bikes. In addition, the shop offers bike repair, sells accessories, custom fabricate and customize motorcycles. "If someone didn't actually want the bike, for a twenty dollar winning ticket, they could turn around and sell it for over $30,000," said Sensale. Other items such as a television and restaurant gift certificates will also be available for raffle. Their goal is to raise $50,000 for Stephanie's future college tuition. Organizers expect to sell some 2,500 tickets at $20 apiece. The winner will be selected in the spring. Tickets will soon be available at various area locations. "If every Sparta resident bought a ticket we'd be set, but we hope the interest in tickets will spread into other surrounding communities," Sensale. Both Sensale and Peraino welcome and encourage area businesses to get involved in any capacityt. "We could use any kind of help, whether it's from businesses, individuals, selling or buying tickets. Any additional help can only benefit our efforts," said Sensale, also extended his invitation to motorcycle clubs and other organizations to contact them if interested in helping. Msgr. Paul Knauer of Our Lady of the Lake has agreed to support the businessmen's efforts. "Everyone was devastated by this tragedy, not just Sparta residents. Those who didn't even know the family can feel heartache for Stephanie. But, as with other tragedies, time goes on, and people naturally get back to their lives. We don't want too much time to go by, we don't want people to forget," said Sensale. "We're all so eager to send aid all over the world and now we have a situation in our own back yard, and we can help right here at home. This young girl lost her entire family and although her life right now is in turmoil we‘d like her to one day look back at Sparta and remember that the people in her old home town really cared about her." For more information or to help, contact Phil Peraino and George Sensale at 973- 383-3199.