Relay For Life or Community for Life?
Friends of Zachary,
Yesterday, my family and I were fortunate enough to be introduced to some of the most courageous individuals I have ever met. My family was invited to participate in this year’s Lynbrook / East Rockaway Relay For Life where Zachary was recognized for his amazing courage and fortitude as he battled pediatric brain cancer.
Relay For Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise funds and raise cancer awareness through the Relay For Life movement. During a Relay event, participants and survivors celebrate what they’ve overcome. Participants remember those lost to the disease and honor those who have fought or are fighting cancer. The event inspires people to take action against a disease that has taken so much.
I was humbled to be in the company of so many heroic survivors and the families and loved ones honoring courageous individuals who have fought so hard. My family and I were honored to be among these amazing group of individuals living right here in our community. These individuals are neighbors, teachers, administrators, retail owners, doctors, lawyers, coaches and politicians. We listened to stories of survivorship and tails of heroic journeys.
I was invited to share Zachary’s story with the participants. I spoke after Mr. Billy Belmont gave a heartfelt account of his past year with Zachary while honoring my wife Deena, myself and our son Matthew for our tireless search for medical treatment and our continued commitment to help eradicate pediatric brain cancers. Many of you know Mr. Belmont as a School Board member, coach, community activist, devoted husband to Ally, and father to Jake and Rachel. You also may know about the unique side of Billy that is opinioned, direct (blunt), quick-witted, sarcastic and basically full of shit. I fortunately know a different side of Billy. He was Zachary’s best friend (over the age of 40). Billy was a constant guardian who spent time with Zachary on both good days and bad. Never a day that went by when those two didn’t communicate. Billy treated Zachary like a son and was there for us every day. When I reflect on what we did wrong or right with Zachary’s care, I can honestly say having Billy spend time with Zachary each and every day was the best therapy over all the trials and progressive medications. Billy gave Zachary (and our family) hope when things seemed bleak. In Zachary’s final days, when he had little to no function, I ask Zachary…”who do want to come hang with you”. He responded “Billy” in his broken handwriting.
This is not to say, my family is not blessed with an amazing community of friends, but when I think about the direct affect someone had on my little boy, Billy’s name continues to come up. If you get the chance to know Mr. Belmont the way my family does, you will be inspired and in awe of his commitment to do good and the pride and care he has for his community. I rarely recognize a single individual or family as the entire community has touched our lives and provided continued comfort and support but I felt almost a year of friendship, it was worth mentioning.
I would also like to reveal some details about two amazing memorials being undertaken under the care of Ms. Lucille McAssey, Principal of Waverly Park and the Sal & Annette Cimato family, local resident and family friends.
Under the direction of Ms. Lucille McAssey (Principal), Ms. Amy Garfinkel (5th Grade Teacher) and Ms. Carol Henderson (Art Teacher), we are working to create an art memorial at Waverly Park Elementary. The memorial will be a permanent fixture that will showcase some of Zachary’s artwork and relate his inspiring story. We will use this location to acknowledge local students for their outstanding achievement in the arts and display their pieces adjacent to Zachary’s. My family and I will create an annual award in Zachary’s name that will honor an individual student for their outstanding achievement in the arts as well as displaying courage, fortitude, commitment and compassion. These are characteristics Zachary displayed and it would only be fitting to award someone with similar traits.
The second memorial is being created by Sal and Annette Cimato. The family has generously agreed to create a garden in front of Lynbrook South Middle School. The garden will be a beautiful haven for people to remember Zachary in a location that was so important to his wellbeing during his illness.
It is hard to find the words to express our thanks for the support of Waverly Park School, South Middle School, the entire school board and the Cimato family for all their commitment and devotion.
We will continue to think of ways to work with community officials to make sure Zachary never leaves our hearts and remains in our thoughts daily. I honor all the families who have lost their loved ones to cancer and share Zachary’s memorials with each and every one of you. As promised, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Yesterday is gone, live for today, let tomorrow be your inspiration and future.
Our sincerest appreciation,
Deena, David, Matthew, (Zachary), Molly.
“It Takes A Village”