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Former classmates pull together to help battle cancer

Jennifer Rinaldo-Gerace and her 3-year-old son, Josh.

BY: Kori Sciandra | February 23, 2012

Well-known to her former classmates as a kind and loving women Jennifer Rinaldo-Gerace, a 1989 Tonawanda Senior High School graduate, was recently diagnosed with stage four Adenocarcinoma - cancer of the lung.

As a mother of three, (Jessica, 18; John, 14; and Josh, 3), Gerace is now faced with the daily challenges of battling cancer through chemo therapy and radiation treatments, while maintaining her job at Upstate New York Transplant Services (UNYTS).

She began her journey into combatting her cancer cells by including her friends on Facebook and allowing them into her personal struggles. When a couple of old classmates, Darrin Morehouse and Eric Hardy, got word of her diagnosis - they wanted to help.

To do so, Morehouse created a Facebook page called - Support for Jennifer - a community page on Facebook for people to post positive comments and notes of encouragement. In addition, he created a P.O. Box that people can send cards to, (P.O. Box 286, Tonawanda, NY 14151).

From there - Hardy initiated friends, family members, and students from the 1989 Tonawanda Senior High School class to pull together and arrange a benefit for Gerace.

“We wanted to help. She is just so grateful for the amount of support she is receiving from friends, people she hasn’t seen since high school, and even people out of state,” said Melissa Frawley, friend and coordinator.

A benefit for Gerace will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 31 at the American Legion, 60 Main St., City of Tonawanda.

The event will feature a DJ/sound system, a strolling magician, face and hand painting, balloon making, and a Chinese auction.

The drawing for the Chinese auction will take place at 7 p.m., with a 50/50 split at 7:30 p.m. Winners must be present at drawing or return by 9 p.m. if not present and are called.

“Any support that people show to Jennifer is a big deal. Sometimes, it’s just nice to see her smile - even just for a little while,” said Jenine Kalota-Hill, friend and coordinator.

Frawley noted Gerace is in good spirits. Her outlook on the disease is positive; she is surprised and humbled by the outpouring of support she has received.

Proceeds from the benefit will aid in payment of Gerace’s medical bills and cost of loving for her and her children.

Admission for the benefit is $12 for adults if purchased before March 31, $15 at the door. Tickets for teens ages 13 to 17 are $5, children 12 years old and under are free. Admission includes one sheet of Chinese auction tickets, slice of pizza, a baked good, and a beverage. Additional Chinese auction tickets will be available for purchase at the event.

Coordinators are still seeking donations for the event. Gift items, baskets or gift certificates, baked goods, and pizza are preferred.

To make a donation, contact Hill at 245-9908. For pre-sale tickets (admission of 50/50 split), contact Frawley at 444-4814.

For additional information or to keep up with Gerace’s progress and show support, visit the Facebook event page at “Fundraiser for Jennifer Rinaldo-Gerace.”

A PayPal account will be available in the future for any individual who wishes to make a monetary donation, but cannot make the event.

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