When Stephen Armie Comunale Jr. died in 2006 at the age of 27 following a courageous yearlong cancer battle, those who loved him could have buried him and all of the ambitious dreams he had for his future.
However, those close to Stephen, who was president of S.A. Comunale Co., decided on a massively ambitious way to honor him, to share that his living was not in vain, as well as helping countless others in their own cancer battles.
Rennick Andreoli — a close family friend and president of RDA Hotel Management Co./co-founder of FHC Hotel Co. — shared that the nonprofit Stephen A. Comunale Jr. Family Cancer Foundation has already donated nearly $1 million to more than 1,500 families since its inception, and is poised to award $200,000 in grants for this year.
The foundation, Andreoli was proud to say, “impacts the lives of cancer patients and their families on a daily basis by easing their financial burdens. The foundation does this through its outreach program which fills the monetary ‘gaps’ that can occur in the finances of cancer patients and their families so that they never have to choose between paying for medical insurance and prescriptions and paying for other necessities such as groceries, housing payments, utility payments, car payments, day care or even food.
“What makes the foundation truly different from other nonprofit organizations is not just the financial ‘gaps’ it fills, but the expediency,” he said — the approval committee can grant money within 24 hours of receiving an application. “This is a truly unique quality for a grant-giving nonprofit organization, and it ensures that money received from donors is immediately available to those in need.”
In addition to the monetary muscle, the foundation offers other projects with a smile factor. Among them: hosting a summer horse camp for children and a holiday meals program.
“As the foundation grew, it founded Jane’s Sunshine Fund in memory of Jane Comunale,” Stephen’s mother who followed him in death, Andreoli noted. “Proceeds from Jane’s Sunshine Fund are used to make the lives of those dealing with cancer a little better by doing things that make them smile, including sending them flowers, providing them with a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, or assisting them with a child’s birthday party.”
And through the new Sunshine Bag program, “cancer patients going in chemotherapy for the first time receive a colorful, cheery tote bag from the foundation filled with, among other things, blankets, snacks, games, journals, and other items cancer patients typically need or would like to have when going through chemotherapy.”
Following is a breakdown of where the foundation’s money has gone:
• $160,000 annually for individual grants for financial assistance that are reviewed and approved by a grant committee.
• $6,500 annually so children affected by cancer can attend therapeutic riding programs through organizations like Victory Gallop or the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center.
• $27,000 annually to Jane’s Sunshine Fund for “day-brightening” grants.
• $5,000 annually to provide holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas for local individuals and families battling cancer.
• $4,000 annually to the Sunshine Bag program.
To ensure that the Stephen A. Comunale Jr. Foundation is able to continue its goodwill, it will host its third annual “Spin-for-Life” fundraiser Nov. 2 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.
To participate, to donate or to learn more, please visit www.stephencomunale.org.
Party with a purpose
Looking for a fun girlfriends outing that benefits a great cause?
Then plan to attend the American Red Cross of Medina County’s fifth annual “Power of the Purse” at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Weymouth Country Club, 3946 Weymouth Road, Medina.
This ladies’ night out event — also sponsored by Giant Eagle — features a silent auction of themed purses as well as a bling bazaar, with proceeds going to help local families prevent, prepare for and cope with emergencies.
“People have donated quite a variety of theme-filled purses each year,” said Beth Kilchenman, executive director of the American Red Cross of Medina. “An example would be an animal print theme, with an animal fur printed bag filled with leopard slippers, leopard panties, necklace and earrings with a round leopard hairbrush.”
Businesses or agencies might consider motifs that promote their interests; a spa might feature a purse filled with gift certificates for its services and related relaxation items.
Sponsorship levels are Couture, $3,000; Dooney, $2,000; Liz, $1,000; Vera, $500; or Kate, $250. Each level offers incentives for the donors.
Tickets are $50, $500 for a reserved Girlfriend Table of 10 or $400 for a Girlfriend Table of 8. The cost includes hors d’oeuvres, wine, soft drinks and dessert. Cash bar available. Reservations are an absolute must. For a reservation or more information, please contact Kilchenman at 330-723-4565 or toll-free at 877-441-4565, or visit www.redcross.org/medinacounty.
Standing up for veterans
Major kudos to the Cuyahoga-Portage chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for all that it does on behalf of our military veterans, especially collecting and making donations to the local Veterans Clinic, and its role in the annual “Stand Down” event.
This year the chapter is honoring longtime member Evajean Greenlun, who eight years ago began crusading on behalf of the Akron Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). “Through her efforts, the chapter donated a medically accurate model foot used to teach foot care to diabetic patients,” chapter spokeswoman Lora Staats wrote. “The next year, the chapter became involved in the annual Stand Down for Homeless and Displaced Veterans.”
In 2007, Evajean, a registered nurse, recruited Lora Staats, also an RN and a new member, to help in getting the Stand Down program running. Other committee members included Stephanie Whims, Mary Ellen Atwood, Ellen Daugherty, Patricia Cowgar, Angie Klatik and Judy Jennings.
This year, Staats noted, the chapter has donated 445 lip balms, 422 toothbrushes, 500-plus bars of soap, playing cards, pens, combs, shampoos/conditioners and lotions, along with 440 pairs of white socks and 465 washcloths, along with razors, shaving cream, toothpaste and mouthwash.
The chapter has also donated more than 3,500 books and magazines for the veterans at the clinic.
The 2013 Stand Down is set for Sept. 10 at the VFW Firestone Post 3383, at 690 W. Waterloo Road, Akron.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.