Pride of Patchogue: Long Island native shines in 'American Idol' Top 10

PATCHOGUE, Long Island (WABC) -- "American Idol" continues to celebrate its historic 20th season, and folks at home will have a chance to vote for their favorites Sunday night from among the Top 10 remaining finalists.

One of them is a young man from our area who has overcome a major challenge to compete.

Christian Guardino is the pride of Patchogue, and each week, hundreds gather at his uncle's restaurant on Main Street to cheer him on -- so don't be surprised if it's a rowdy scene at PeraBell this weekend.

"They've been doing viewing parties, and the turnout has been insane," Guardino said.

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Speaking from Los Angeles where he's preparing for the big show, Guardino said that win or lose, he's already learned so much.

"As a musician and performance wise," he said. "When it comes to singing and working a stage and connecting with a song."

This is not his first TV show, but when Guardino appeared on "America's Got Talent," the teenager had already faced a challenge that would've intimidated just about anyone.

"When I was born, I was diagnosed with a very rare retinal disorder called leber congenital amaurosis," he said. "And that's caused by a gene that's missing in your eye."

At the age of 12, he was rapidly going completely blind.

"That's something that messed me up for a little while," he said.

Guardino and his family took a chance on an experimental form of gene therapy that restored his sight, and in fact, the treatment proved so successful that he testified about its effectiveness to government regulators.

"They wanted to hear what it was like going from nothing to seeing all of these new, incredible things for the first time," he said. "It's been a blessing."

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So now, others faced with his rare condition won't have to go blind.

"I feel like that built me up with my confidence to do what I'm doing today," he said.

Whatever happens on Sunday night, this young man is already a winner.

Thanks in part to his testimony, the Food and Drug Administration unanimously approved the treatment that saved his sight, so it is no longer an experimental procedure.

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