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Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Legislator Mazi Pilip (R-Great Neck) honored Giselle Branchinelli and Allie Acera, of Manhasset, and their parents for the two students’ trip to Hawaii to help rebuild from the wildfires. (Photo by Craig Low)

Manhasset Students Honored For Going To Hawaii To Help Rebuild From Wildfires

By Michael Malaszczyk

Saving lives might not be what comes to mind when one thinks of teenage summer activities, but two 16-year-olds from Manhasset beg to differ.

Giselle Branchinelli and Allie Acera have both volunteered their time to go on a three week trip to Hawaii to assist with the recovery efforts following the blaze that occurred in Maui in 2023.

Allie Acera and Giselle Branchinelli. (Photo by Craig Low)

A total of 102 people were killed by the wildfires, and the U.S. Fire Administration estimated that the damage cost more than $5 billion.Branchinelli and Acera are two out of 20 teenagers from the whole country going to Maui, and are the only ones from New York State. The pair were honored by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and County Legislator Mazi Pilip (R-Great Neck) on Wednesday for their efforts.

“We’re going to the Island of Maui for about two weeks,” Branchinelli told reporters. “This trip is basically just going to help out with smaller organizations around Hawaii. And we’re getting out supplies, helping with invasive species. We’re also rebuilding local businesses. And yeah, we’re also just trying to help all the people that lost their homes and want to get back to them. Because as a community, we believe that it’s just important to help others out and everything has been lost.”

Branchinelli speaks from personal experience, as her grandparents’ house was destroyed by a fire; she saw firsthand the devastating effects.

“We always believe it’s a good idea to give back to people,” Acera said. “So that’s why this trip is important to us. We think that helping people rebuild things in Hawaii is a great opportunity to learn new experiences.”

Pilip specifically emphasized the selflessness of two teenagers spending several weeks of their summer helping others.

“This is a really special moment,” Pilip said. “To see two young ladies going all the way to Hawaii to help others is just beautiful. It’s all about leadership. These two girls can have a fun summer, enjoy summer here, and they decided to go all the way up to help.”

Michael Malaszczyk is the Digital Editor of the Long Island Press.

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