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Concert held in Manhattan to benefit LGBTQ individuals struggling with addiction

Concert held to benefit LGBTQ individuals struggling with addiction
Concert held to benefit LGBTQ individuals struggling with addiction 02:01

NEW YORK -- A local musician is turning his pain into action to tackle a growing problem: drug overdoses.

He's using his skills and connections to raise money and awareness.

Woven between measures and melodies and embedded in the beats are the memories of a grief-stricken father, Rich Pagano.

"In July of 2021, we lost our son Nic to a fentanyl poisoning," Pagano said.

Nic was a New Yorker who overdosed in Connecticut, where he'd moved for addiction treatment. Before he died, he told his parents he wanted to stay clean and become a social worker.

"With an emphasis on the LGBTQ community and sobriety. He wanted to become a welcoming element and an entity that promotes inclusion," Pagano said.

READ MORE: Report shows 14% increase in opioid overdose deaths across New York state

Studies have shown that people in the LGBTQ community suffer higher rates of substance abuse, so Pagano used his music connections to plan a benefit concert to help people in the LGBTQ community pay for treatment.

The money will go into a fund launched in Nic's name with the help of the nonprofit Release Recovery Foundation.

"All the money we raise tonight is gonna go towards that underserved population, and hopefully, we'll save one life and that life will go on to save many others," said Zac Clark, with Release Recovery Foundation.

With that goal in mind, musicians like Rachel Yamagata joined Pagano onstage before a sold-out crowd of about 400 at City Winery. The concert was both riveting and poignant, held just days after the city and state announced alarming increases in overdose deaths.

"The feeling of saving a soul is very gratifying, and it does feel wonderful that our son's name lives on," Pagano said.

Pagano asked two things of the musicians who joined him: Play songs of deep emotion, and songs of bright light. The end result was a mix of heartache and hope.

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