Three signs in Memorial Park served as a reminder of why Johnston Memorial Cancer Events and its supporters work year-round to raise money for Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Under the words “cancer survivors,” photographs of Eric O’Connor, Sydney Khoury and Caitlyn Zinni smiled back.
“We’ve got 75 memorial signs, but those three signs are terrific,” said JMCE board member Vin LaFazia. “This is what it is – and always has been since day one – to help Hasbro fight its battle to try and find a cure for cancer that kills kids. We’re hoping to get more and more of these in the coming years.”
Memorial signs are available to honor those who died from cancer to celebrate survivors or just to support the JMCE mission.
“We encourage people to join our fight and purchase signs for survivors, people who are battling cancer, relatives ... anyone. In the end, it’s all about helping the kids,” LaFazia said.
This year’s Campfires for Cancer continued its tradition of offering free children’s rides, food, face painting and more. Three-piece group Ordinary Heart and The Hitmen volunteered their time to perform at the event, providing a musical backdrop as the signature fires were lit.
“We’re doing the campfires on the island this year,” explained Chairman Dennis Quaranta. “That’s more for a safety reason than anything else.”
Rather than using 55-gallon drums to hold the fires, the organization utilized old tire rims.
“This makes it easier to start the fires and contain them as well,” said JMCE volunteer Mike Mazzulla.
The official lighting of the fires took place just after 7 p.m. on Saturday evening. Johnston Recreation staffers Kenny Paquin and Anthony “Ronnie” Macari carried out kindling wood to jumpstart the campfires, while volunteers like Quaranta, Mazzulla and John LaFazia got the flames started.
Andrew Quaranta, a 12-year-old from North Providence who already has a Black Belt and also teaches Karate, was afforded the thrill of lighting the first log at Saturday’s campfires. He is the grandson of Quaranta.
To date, the event has raised $7,500, with donations still coming in. As they began counting the money, they discovered a cardboard container labeled Pennies for Patients from an unknown donor. Inside was more than $20, which Linda LaFazia, a valuable member of the JMCE family, believes came from a child.
“If anyone knows who donated it, please let us know so we can send a thank you. I personally think it was the sweetest thing,” she said.
Overall, she was thrilled with the outpouring of support for Saturday’s event.
“Campfires are over for this year and once again they were a big hit. The weather cooperated again. People were wonderful and we learned how to make this event better,” she said.
Dennis Quaranta also echoed those sentiments.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm during this year’s Campfires,” he said. “We try our best to entertain people and the children. We learned a lot of different things this year. I can envision seeing this continue to grow in the coming years.”