Life’s Angels 2019 Beneficiaries

The Lombardo Family

The Lombardo Family Jennifer, 38 years old has not spoken with her dad since she was abused at age 7. Her mom is very self-centered and provides little to no support emotionally or financially. The biological dad of her first son left two years ago to Colorado and has no contact whatsoever with their son Ben.

Ben is 14 years old in 8th grade in a Special Education program. Ben just completed his 6th hospital admission. He is now in an outpatient program 5 days a week from 11am – 7pm for psychotherapy. Ben also has Pica, an eating disorder.

Jennifer and Anthony have been married for 9 years. Anthony is 10 years older than Jennifer and he is employed as the catering manager at the Long Island Aquarium. This is their sole source of income. Jennifer was a LPN for 12 years at Brookhaven Hospital, but stopped 2 years ago to take care of her children full time. Anthony’s parents are in their 70s and can’t physically help with the children.

The following are Jennifer and Anthony’s biological children:

JJ is 10 years old in 5th grade. He has ADHD and Bipolar disorder. He is enrolled in a special program called 8-1-1, eight children, one teacher one aide. JJ was admitted last year for a psychiatric hospital stay. Jennifer and Anthony have a caseworker in their house one day a week to help with JJ.

Aidan is 8 years old in 3rd grade. He is autistic with limited verbal skills and a sensory processing disorder. He has not had his hair cut in 10 months either at a barber or even in the house as it is too painful for him. Aiden needs feeding therapy for his nutrition.

Alex is 6 years old in 1st grade. He has juvenile arthritis and osteomyelitis which an uncurable, lifelong condition. Alex is always in great physical pain. He has lab work every month for bone marrow aspirations (very big needles). Alex is also anemic. He is under the care of a rheumatologist and oncologist.

Dina L.

Dina L. On September 9, 2018 Dina, age 54 fell down the stairs in her Merrick home where she has lived all her life, and suffered a massive brain injury. She also suffered a stroke. She needed to undergo emergency brain surgery, craniectomy, and then a second operation a cranioplasty. The shunt now in her brain helps with the leaking fluid. Dina, who lived with her husband now resides a Brain Rehabilitation Center in Queens. She was admitted in October and was told she will be there for minimum of six months. She still has expressive aphasia on her entire right side of her body from her face to her toes. She has improved to only 25 % of speech, but even that is jumbled.

Her 25 year old daughter visits her every day. Her husband can only visit her on the weekends as he works full time in construction, out of the house at 3:30 a.m. returning at 5:30 p.m. five days a week. Prior to her injury Dina was a pillar of her community always lending a helping hand including daily visits to a 98 year old dementia patient.

The family expects massive medical bills that are not covered by their insurance and they have just started to come in this month. They are not in a position to estimate the level of care Dina will need between therapy, in -home aide, whenever Dina is able to return home, and other associated costs given the extent of her injury.

Allyson Bryant

Allyson Bryant At age 6 Allyson was diagnosed with leukemia and had multiple chemo treatments. Unfortunately, her immune system did not regenerate after the treatments. Allyson was a dancer and had dreams of being on Broadway. She actually performed in local and regional theater . . . in either a wheelchair or a walker. In her early teens she noticed that she was tripping on her own feet and they were dragging. Her parents not only did not support her, they seemed oblivious to her situation. It was a school nurse that noticed her condition, multiple sclerosis. The early chemo prevented the “usual medications” from working so Allyson began experimental treatment. Botox and Baclofen were shot in her legs which worked, temporarily. Allyson returned to the walker.

Allyson is now 28 years old and lives alone. Her parents who are in their 70s and living in Tennessee provide neither emotional nor financial support. Allyson cannot work given her condition. She was finally approved for special housing this last October after an extremely long waitlist requiring her to live in very challenging and non-accessible residences. Her total income is limited to SSI, as well as Medicare/Medicaid and food stamps. Her current outstanding medical bills she estimates at $25,000, and growing.

Given the Medicare restrictions Allyson can only receive therapy and PT once a week. To supplement her exercise, she is part of a MS Swim Program at the JCC. To supplement that she spends each day at home stretching to the extent she can. Given the Medicare restrictions on her medication is why she is utilizing experimental alternative treatments. She is currently receiving chemo that causes her fatigue, bladder and muscle weakness, and dimming eyesight.

Allyson does have a special car that she can drive with modified controls. Given her limited income, she cannot afford new tires that she needs, and she must very carefully budget between, food, gas and medication. She is using a food pantry to supplement her nutrition. Her days are spent going to doctors, therapy, swim and reading.

Allyson has a wonderful outlook on her life. She volunteers when she can at MS support groups for young adults who can relate to her, rather than older people. She tells them what she knows “that MS will not kill you, but it will make your life a living hell”.

2018 Beneficiaries

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!

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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!