60 Incredible Years: Peter Chieco & Frank Somma Talk About Our June 5 Gala

May 26, 2014 – This year, CAF is celebrating its 60th anniversary as the leading voice for the thalassemia community in the U.S. We will be marking this anniversary with a very special Gala dinner on June 5; click here for more details and here to download an invitation.

GalaCommitteeCAF Board members Peter Chieco and Frank Somma started working on this Gala over a year ago and have been joined in their efforts by a sterling Gala Committee (see list at the right.) As a result, this Gala will be very special indeed; among its highlights will be will feature Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta as Special Guest Speaker and “The People’s Tenor” Michael Amante as Musical Guest. In addition, CAF will recognize some of the CAF Heroes who have helped support the Foundation, including Frank Fusaro, Ronald Purpora, Frank Marzano, Louis D’Agostino, Michael Pouchie, Dr. Don Chiappetta and Thomas Donovan.

InviteDownloadWe spoke with Peter and Frank recently about this very special event.

CAF: What has excited and motivated you to put such work into making this Gala a success?

Peter Chieco: When your family is impacted by thalassemia, it doesn’t take long to realize the incredible role the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation has played in lengthening and saving patient lives. So to recognize the Foundation’s 60th year with a Gala felt right.

GiuntaFrank Somma: The prospect of curing the disease The work is advancing so quickly now none of us really knows if that is 20 or 5 years away.

What do you want people to know about the Gala?

I’d like them to pause and remember the past struggles and achievements of so many volunteers the Foundation has been blessed to know over its 60 years.

This Foundation takes your contribution very seriously. We provide great counseling, information and support to patients, doctors and researchers. When you contribute to CAF, you can be certain that your funds are going where you intended them to go when you contributed.

How do you feel this Gala honors the accomplishments of CAF and the thalassemia community over the past 60 years?

As we planned for the Gala, we always made sure to incorporate the here and now with a link to the Foundation’s legacy through meetings with patients, volunteers and their families. The Gala event itself will also give tribute to many of our past heroes.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. My angel, Alicia (Frank’s daughter), would not be here today if not for the efforts of all those parents who came before me.

OurHeroesWho do you wish to thank or acknowledge for their work on the Gala?

It is a long list, but primarily “Our Heroes for the Gala” led by longtime supporter Frank Fusaro. Frank in particular, has supported us for over 20 years and has helped raised millions of dollars. When a cure is reached and they look back on the foundations history, Frank’s efforts will be a big reason why we achieved our goal. In addition: Anthony Viola, our National President, for his leadership, our Executive Director Gina Cioffi who is just amazing, and my dear friend and fellow warrior in this battle Frank Somma.

And I have to add Peter Chieco. He inspires me daily.

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will be a special guest speaker at the Gala. Why was he selected to speak at this 60th anniversary Gala?

Sal is just the most humble person you will ever meet. Yet to know what he did in service to this country, and for him to be recognized with the highest honor the country can bestow on a war veteran, just shows the incredible character of this man. Curing Cooley’s anemia will take a herculean effort, and for Sal to allow us to recognize his heroism as a symbol of hope for the Foundation is just so special.

Our theme is heroes. We need heroes to step up for this event like our honorees are doing. What could be better than to welcome a true American Hero to our podium?

What should people know about the importance of the funds raised at this event?

They should feel confident that they will be invested wisely. We are a very efficient organization in utilizing the precious resources that we are blessed to receive.

As I said we are on the cusp of greatness. We need to grow CAF so that the Foundation had the resources to be at the cutting edge of these new transformative therapies for our patients and their families.

What else would you like to add?

While the Gala will be a great evening to recognize an important milestone, we need the long term support of many to achieve our goals. Each one of us has the chance to be part of a miracle, the cure of this disease, but we need your help, we need heroes!

Lots of organizations do Galas. Few, however, can show you the progress we can. People who have contributed because of Alicia and Michelle (Peter’s daughter), over the past 25+ years can actually see how their money has saved lives. Alicia and Michelle were born in the eighties. The prognosis then was teen years at best. They are now beautiful, healthy, professional women. Don’t get me wrong, they still have a world of medical treatment and worry to deal with, but they are here because so many gave so unselfishly and CAF invested those funds so wisely.

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