Okay first of all..how has it already been one year of this Covid chaos? Somehow, it’s happened, and today I’m giving a HUGE shout out to YOU for powering through. No matter what you’ve gone through, no matter has changed (or not changed that you really wanted to), YOU are strong and brave just for surviving this year. That had to be said before anything else – but now, let’s move on to a few things that will make you smile today!
BOSTON CANNONS, LOCAL RESTAURANT GROUP OWNER SUPPORT QUINCY YOUTH SPORTS
This week in Quincy, Boston Cannons Lacrosse Executive Chris Rucker teamed up with restaurant group owner Donato Frattaroli to make a generous donation to Quincy & North Quincy High Schools coordinated thanks to some help from the Pigskin Gala Fund. The $4,000 check, presented at Frattaroli’s Boardwalk Pizza, will send funds directly to the joint Quincy-North Quincy boys’ lacrosse program, the Quincy High School girls’ soccer program, the Chris “Chief” McCallum Scholarship Fund & Stuart Slicis Memorial City of Presidents Scholarship Fund. “We’re hoping these donations will help Quincy’s student athletes and college-bound young adults achieve their goals on and off the sports field,” says Frattaroli.
TWO GRATEFUL FRIENDS SUPPORT OTHERS BATTLING CANCER
We’ve all heard of paying it forward, but two grateful friends took that mantra to the next level. When close friends Lee & Gwen learned they were each battling a different type of cancer in 2014, the pair says they felt grateful to have each other during an incredibly challenging time. As they recovered, they realized a new mission: to help others who may not be so lucky to have such support. That’s when their foundation, Two Grateful Friends, was born to donate baskets for anyone going through cancer treatment (at no cost regardless of financial need) that cater to each individual’s diagnosis. The organization also offers grants to those who are struggling financially as the staggering costs of cancer begin to add up.
The charity’s Executive Director Kim Paratore knows firsthand the devastating impact cancer can have on a family. Her own family’s heartbreaking experience and the loss of her beloved husband is what she says opened her eyes to just how costly cancer can be. “My husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 48. He was healthy, a non-smoker, went to the doctor every year and wasn’t feeling well for a couple of weeks. He died 10 weeks later after treatment at Mass General. But during that time- we had great insurance, we had friends and support -I saw firsthand the amount of bills.” Paratore recalled standing at the pharmacy counter filling prescriptions and being shocked at the cost of treatment. “There would be times when I would go to CVS and fill three prescriptions. Even with the co-pay, because of the advanced cancer drugs -they weren’t generic, you couldn’t get a $6 prescription-sometimes it would be $75 copays times three. Then they would change the medicine and say, ‘Oh next week don’t take that because that gave you a fever, take this’. Now it’s another $150.”
This experience changed her entire perspective on families battling cancer. “I used to think, ‘Why do people have fundraisers at the VFW or Gofundme pages when someone is diagnosed with cancer? Don’t they have health insurance?’ But people that have cancer have extraordinary bills, extraordinary circumstances where they don’t feel well enough to work; they don’t feel strong enough to go into an office and put in an 8 hour day. They need to take a nap, their treatment makes them sick, or they have these bills and that’s really where we come in,” she explains. “It’s not (that) people that have done anything wrong or not saved money, this can be financially devastating for someone to have a cancer diagnosis. Now to be stressed that your lights will be shut off? I can’t even imagine layering that on top of a breast cancer diagnosis.”
To make a donation or request a basket for someone you know who is battling cancer, visit www.gratefulfriends.org.
AMESBURY WOMAN REFLECTS ON HONORING LATE DAUGHTER THROUGH TAMMI’S CLOSET AS FOUNDATION CLOSES ITS DOORS
After losing her daughter Tammi in a tragic accident, Betty Vitale was determined to find a way to honor her late daughter by helping other young women. One afternoon, after donating her daughter’s prom dress that she’d struggled to part with, the grieving mother found her answer on how to do just that. “10 years after my Tammi had died, I finally decided I could let her dress go. So I brought it up to the East Boston high school, and by the time I got home which was like 10 minutes-somebody had taken the dress. It had fit somebody perfectly.”
This experience gave Betty the inspiration she needed to found an organization to help make this dream come true for other young ladies in need of a prom dress that otherwise could not afford it, and Tammi’s Closet was born. “7 weeks later, I’m open. I opened up with like maybe 70 dresses,” she recalled. “When I started it, I just wanted to keep my Tammi’s name going. She was only 19 when she died and had just gotten engaged to be married two days before. I remember the first dress I gave out, the mother was like, ‘It was either pay my rent or get my daughter a prom dress and I had to pick pay the rent.’ She said now, she got both. I can remember the fluttering I got in my heart, and I thought wow, this is going to help some girls.” For the first two years, Betty says things went very well and each night, she’d recap the day over a cup of tea on her porch telling Tammi how many girls she had been able to help.
Yet on April Fool’s Day of their third year, Betty came in to notice something was off. “I noticed some dresses were missing, and I thought the girls that volunteer for me had hid them on me. But they all said ‘No, they didn’t’. Somebody had come in and taken about 15 prom dresses,” she had learned. “I was heartbroken. They were free, why would anyone take them? I would have gave them to them, you know?” Fortunately, the theft left Betty a blessing in disguise. “I reported it to the police, and within 3 hours my phone starts ringing. There were news trucks everywhere, and I started getting dresses sent to me- 900 dresses by the end of the year! I didn’t know what I was going to do with them all!” she recalls, laughing. “I put out there on Facebook that I needed help with storage, and a couple called me up and said, ‘We’ll be there tomorrow, you can put them in our warehouse free of charge’.”
This was a major turning point for the organization, that was finally able to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony last year on her new space. Betty says she had been so excited, she’d poured her own money into furnishing the store to make it look like a real boutique-only to be forced to close weeks later due to the pandemic. “My heart broke for these girls,” says Betty, who held out hope only to be disappointed with the 2021 season. “This year, we didn’t know if there were going to be any proms.”
Sadly, disaster was about to strike again for the Vitale family. The building she has lived in for years was sold, and the new landlord went up in rent by more than she and her husband could afford. Despite her best efforts in searching for something her family could afford, the Vitales were ultimately forced to leave the state altogether and move in with family in Florida. This meant Tammi’s Closet would be no more. “I had to make the decision on closing it, and it was the hardest decision I ever made. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my Tammi all over again. There’s a lot more girls out there I wanted to help,” Betty said tearfully, reflecting on the many young women she and her husband have helped walk out of Tammi’s Closet with sparkles and a smile. Thankfully, one buyer stepped in to take most of her inventory to start a similar program for other women – and Tammi’s Closet, though not by name, will live on in spirit through the dresses given to other young women in need.
To hear more about these stories, watch this week’s episode below!