By Janee Law
Former Northport residents John and Michele Bongiorno are known as the kind of people that put others before themselves. After both were diagnosed with cancer six weeks apart from one another, the Northport community is returning the favor by throwing a fundraiser on Jan. 16 to help pay for the family’s medical expenses.
John, 50, and Michele, 53, moved to Fairhope, Alabama, four years ago with their three children as part of a job transfer for John, who is a sales manager in the dental field at Ivoclar Vivadent.
When they lived in Northport, John and Michele were active members of the community and developed strong bonds with members of the Northport Yacht Club, which they had joined in joined in 2005.
Terry Breen, 52, of Northport, said John and Michele always jumped on board to help anybody in need, whether it was creating local fundraisers for a family in need or attending fundraisers and motivating others to keep up the donations.
“They’re fun to be with, they’re funny, they’re friend magnets and they are salt of the Earth,” said Breen. “I’ve known them 16 years and they affect positive change in other people’s lives. They are always proactive to be there for other people.”
This time, others are coming to their aid. After hearing the news of the Bongiornos’ diagnoses, members of the yacht club scheduled to host a fundraiser, called the “Bongiorno Blast,” at St. Philip Neri Parish Center, located at 15 Prospect Ave. in Northport, from 7-11 p.m.
After word spread about the “Bongiorno Blast,” Breen said, members of the community jumped at the opportunity to join in and help ease their financial burden.
“It was like one big family and we have a dozen yacht club members that are helping out and getting this going,” said Bob Doherty, 57, of Northport, who met the couple through their children and became close as members of the club.
Breen, who met the couple through a friend, thought of Michele as a sister. The news of their diagnoses was devastating, Breen said.
Currently seeking treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, Michele, was diagnosed in September with Stage 4 colorectal cancer, which has metastasized to her lungs. In early November, John was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Since they started treatment, which is at least a six-month process, their children Olivia, 17, John, 15, and Sophia, 12, are being looked after by family and friends in Alabama. The kids visit their parents whenever possible.
Due to their treatment schedule, the Bongiornos were unavailable for a comment.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will help cover living expenses and medical bills, which cost more than $4,000 a month, Doherty said.
“We’re going to have great raffle prizes, baskets and we’re going to try our best to raise as much money as we can,” Doherty said, adding that their goal is to have 300 people at the event and raise $50,000 for the couple. “Right now we have between 175-200 people and I’m sure next week we’re going to get more.”
“The outpouring of support, it’s unbelievable, because it’s all for them,” Breen said.
With admission $100 per person, prizes include a four-night stay at a ski house at Mount Snow, Vermont, a sunset cruise around Northport Bay on a 45-foot Power Catamaran and dinner for four at Maroni’s Cuisine in Northport.
“We’re trying to make this a top-shelf fundraiser for a great couple and family,” Doherty said. “We love them to pieces and they always have been part of our family.”
For more information, contact Terry Breen at 631-405-8754.