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Late Wanaque Friend Inspires Festival To Help Kids With Heart Problems

Rich and Lauren Lopez of Hawthorne are throwing a fundraiser in honor of their late friend, Nick Gretina, middle. Photo Credit: Rich Lopez
Rich Lopez and Nick Gretina were counselors at Hope with Heart. Photo Credit: Rich Lopez

HAWTHORNE, N.J. – Rich and Lauren Lopez of Hawthorne are paying it forward, and they want others to join them.

The couple, who launched ART x SOUL NJ in 2015 to bring an urban art vibe to the suburbs , is hosting a music and art festival at Sticks & Stones, an underground event space at Artisan Kitchen in Hawthorne, to raise funds for a cause close to their hearts.

Funds will be donated to Hope with Heart, a non-profit camp for children with heart problems. Rich Lopez was a counselor at the camp with his friend Nick Gretina, of Wanaque, who died of a congenital heart defect in 2005 at just 24 years old.

The campers “appreciate the lease on life they have … they treat every day like it’s their last,” Lopez said.

Held for a week each summer in Warwick, N.Y., the camp draws many kids from Bergen and Passaic Counties, and some from as far away as Vermont and North Carolina. Fundraising ensures that families do not have to pay for their children to attend.

Lopez said working at the camp, “you just feel so good about what you are doing.” And although he is no longer a counselor, he’s determined to still be a part of helping the kids, and to inspire others to do the same.

For the festival -- dubbed #HeartxSoulNJ -- artists are donating their work to the cause, musicians are donating stage time, and the venue is donating a portion of the till, he said. The $5 fee to enter will also be donated, there will be some art auctions, donation buckets will be passed around, and artwork will remain displayed throughout September, with the sales going to the camp, he said.

“Everyone is just giving,” Lopez said.

The festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m. Sticks & Stones is located at 142 Goffle Road in Hawthorne.

For more information on ART x SOUL NJ, click here . Click the attachment below for more information on the event.

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