Life's Angels Board Member Bruce Irom hugs a recipient for one of this year's beneficiaries from their annual charity poker tournament. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

Lillian Torres was given away to her aunt and uncle when she was three days old.

As a child, she was molested and attempted suicide before living through a domestic violence situation as an adult, according to the nonprofit organization Life’s Angels.

Now a single mother of two, Torres, a medical assistant, recently had to take time off from work for surgery to remove precancerous cells.

Torres’ story of survival against the odds and the stories of nine others touched the poker-loving men of Life’s Angels, founded last year to help make a difference in the lives of people who have been dealt a tough hand in life, board member Jeff Schwartz said.

Life’s Angels beneficiary Rob Roy, center, shakes hands with the organization’s board members. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

After raising more than $45,000 in their second annual charity poker tournament, held every April, the group gave $10,000 checks to three beneficiaries, including Torres, Rob Roy and Chris Benedetto, as well as donating funds to send seven special needs children to summer camp this year through the Mid Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview and the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead.

Benedetto was diagnosed with tri lateral retinal blastoma in 2002 and after multiple rounds of chemotherapy relapsed in 2017 and was diagnosed with a tumor in his left femur.

In the middle of the night a few years ago, Roy woke up and fell to the floor, paralyzed from the waist down. After learning to walk again, Roy discovered a small cut on his foot had become infected and his leg was amputated below the knee.

Chris Benedetto, center, poses with his family and the Life’s Angels board members during the check presentation ceremony at 388 Restaurant in Roslyn Heights. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

“Our Life’s Angels board consists of established and successful professionals, but the greatest success we achieve is giving back to those in our community to set them on their personal path to success,” Life’s Angels Chairman Bradley Siegel said.

The inaugural tournament in 2017 raised more than $20,000, Schwartz said, and the group was able to give $10,000 each to two beneficiaries — a college student with cancer and a high school coach who was hospitalized for 15 months.

Schwartz said next year’s tournament, set for April 29, is open to poker players across the area. The winner of the charity tournament is sent to the Las Vegas World Series of Poker for the $10,000 buy-in game.

Richard Evans of Roslyn Heights said the Life’s Angels name was chosen because the group wanted to be angels in people’s lives, and the recipients Wednesday at 388 Restaurant in Roslyn Heights were outwardly grateful during their acceptances.

After Torres posed for photos with the board, she asked if she could hug everyone.

Melissa Falcone said her 15-year-old son, Anthony, who has Asperger syndrome, was bullied for years but made his first friends last year at summer camp. Now, Falcone’s mother has stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and as her mother’s primary caregiver, Falcone said she didn’t know if she could afford to send Anthony to camp again.

“We didn’t think he’d be able to be able to go again to have the wonderful experience, and thanks to you all, he’s able to do this again,” Falcone said.


Dear Life's Angels Board - We have a wonderful update from the Malley Family! We should all be very proud of the good work. This family & Mr. Malley never gave up & our support helped put wind beneath his wings. This is a true example of courage , grit and helping someone who never gave upWe look to do the same for this year's beneficiaries. Please read the update below. At the time of our event, Matt had been hospitalized for 5 months. He remained hospitalized for 10 months after our event. We should post this success story on our FB page & website!

Portfolio Image

As the avid sport enthusiasts we are and in the spirit of the Winter Olympics...we’ll start with “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?”

It took 473 days but we finally did it...Matt is in acute rehab!! The next phase of our journey has begun as we continue to have faith in the positive progress ahead.

Matt was discharged and we said thank you as best we could to the wonderful people at North Shore Manhasset. They have worked tirelessly to help get Matt and our family to this point, caring for him as if he were their own. It was such a blessing to be cared for by them. This is how amazing they are...on the day we left, a day filled with countless emotions, many of them—doctors, nurses, support staff, administrators—lined the hall as the EMTs wheeled Matt out. There were many tears. The EMT commented “Matt, I’ve been transferring patients from this hospital for two decades and beside police and fire, I’ve never seen such a touching send off.” The people are our family for life!

It’s quite the adjustment and the days have and will be hard. Matt’s schedule is packed full of therapies...and he is quite tired at the end of the day. But it will all be worth it when he finally comes home again. We’ve met some amazing new people who’s concern and kindness and caring picks up right where we left off. Again, we are blessed to have such great people taking care of Matt.

We’ll share one more story with you, on Valentine’s Day we had our first family dinner—the four of us—in 15.5 months! With the help of the great staff, we organized and decorated and alcove off the dining room and the four of us said family grace and had a meal...together. It was precious! All of our moments now are just that ❤️.

Thank you for the continued support and thoughts and prayers! We will continue to update you on our journey. God bless you and your families!