FOXBOROUGH- The moment I walked off the escalators at Gillette Stadium for the 12th annual Joe Andruzzi Foundation Gala, there were two beacons of light waiting to greet me: champagne, and Lite-Brite. Yes, you read that correctly-the childhood toys many of us played with growing up had been stacked to create an impressive light-up photo backdrop, encouraging you to contribute by adding in your very own Lite-Brite from a pile conveniently waiting nearby.
It didn’t take long to learn why the well-known charity had chosen to partner with the childhood favorite. The theme of the evening was “Illuminate”, shedding light on the true cost of cancer-something the Andruzzi family knows all too well can be staggering for most patients.
Jen Andruzzi, CEO & Founder of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (shining bright in a GORGEOUS glittery dress, I may add) described her experience as she and her husband, a former New England Patriots player, navigated his devastating diagnosis. “Joe was hospitalized for 50+ days, and every day I was there probably once or twice, and you’re in and out of that parking garage. You’re paying to go in, you’re paying to go out. You’re paying for all of these extra expenses and at the same time you have all of your expenses that you are accustomed to,” she explains. “We were fortunate that we are in a position where we can afford it, but many of our friends we grew up with could not.” This experience lead Jen to create a foundation that donated directly to those suffering from cancer to help them pay for everyday expenses while managing the unexpected cost of their diagnosis, understanding that in Joe’s own words, “Nobody plans for cancer”.
Yet the couple didn’t just share their own story: they also invited several of those who have directly been able to benefit from the foundation’s mission to share their personal journeys as well. One man, whose wife was suffering from cancer, shared how his family went from stable to struggling in a matter of months. “My beautiful wife is Tracy. 5 years ago and seven months into our marriage, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer. As her caregiver, I now had to juggle high-running emotions as well as a 50% reduction in family income,” he said, not a dry eye in the room as he described her heartbreak in leaving the job that she loved as a teacher to focus on her recovery. “This is the true cost of cancer,” he said in closing, only to be honored by an outpouring of applause.
“Cancer finds you,” Joe said in a one-on-one interview speaking directly to his experience fighting the terrible disease. “It finds anybody. We’re there to step in to help pay for those home bills that sometimes are forgotten about-mortgage, rent, utilities still need to be paid and the people that are putting money aside just not to pay for their medication but food on the table. We want to step in there to help them pay for that food so they can get their medication.”
To learn more about the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, visit their website: https://joeandruzzifoundation.org/