Italian Welfare League Supports Thalassemia Patients Through CAF

June 10, 2011 – The Italian Welfare League (IWL) is a valued supporter of CAF, providing grants totaling more than $30,000 to the Foundation. These funds are dedicated to assisting children of Italian descent meet the challenges associated with thalassemia. CAF recently spoke with Bea Tusiani, IWL’s Chairwoman, about IWL and its role as an ally in the fight against thalassemia.

IWL logo

CAF: Can you tell me a little of IWL’s history?
BT: The Italian Welfare League just celebrated its 90th anniversary last year at an event held on Ellis Island, where it all began. In 1920, a splinter group of Italian women separated from the American Red Cross to assist the increasing numbers of Italian immigrants arriving at the New York City piers. The well-educated ladies of the League opened an office on Ellis Island and were given a desk on the piers to provide guidance, serve as translators, obtain medical treatment and find housing and jobs for these impoverished foreigners.


They donated cribs and a year’s worth of clothing to babies born aboard the large ocean liners arriving in the U.S. During the Great Depression and World War II, the League distributed thousands of quarts of milk, meal tickets, food baskets and clothing to Italian populations both at home and abroad. Even the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, performed concerts to benefit the League’s fund-raising efforts.

CAF: How long have you been with IWL?
BT: I joined in 1999, shortly after I moved into Manhattan from Long Island. I was going through a family crisis at the time, and was looking to put my energy into something positive. The League was in transition at the time, since the immigrant population had assimilated into the American culture and no longer needed its services.

“There are people out there, many of whom you don’t know, who care about you.”

CAF: What is IWL’s mission?
BT: In the aftermath of 9/11, the League reached out to the mothers of eight newborns of Italian descent, whose fathers perished in the World Trade Center disaster. The League found a new identity in helping children in need, or suffering from trauma, which evolved into the “I Nostri Bambini” program. Its modern-day mission is to bridge the gap between what families can’t afford, and what insurance doesn’t cover for badly needed supplies, treatment and services for youngsters who are sick or otherwise in need. Over the past ten years, the League has donated more than half a million dollars to hundreds of recipients with cancer, cerebral palsy, accident victims, and those who are autistic, have brain injuries or have had organ transplants.

CAF: How did IWL become aware of Cooley’s Anemia Foundation and the needs of our patients?
BT: In addition to assisting children on an individual basis, about 5 years ago, the League started giving out Special Needs Grants to agencies that provide healthcare services to clients, requiring that they be used specifically for children of Italian descent. The Association for Children with Down Syndrome, Children’s Skin Disease Foundation and Rocking Horse Rehab are among the dozen agencies that received such grants in 2010. CAF has been among them since 2007, totaling $30,500, which has been used for chelation therapies, direct blood transfusions, tubing, and travel expenses to obtain second opinions. I became familiar with Cooley’s anemia through the events sponsored by the Palminteris and Child Reach Foundation. While their efforts basically focus on research, the IWL steps in from another angle: by filling some immediate needs on a clinical level.

IWL Board of Directors

CAF: Have you or anyone you work with at IWL had any direct experience with thalassemia?
BT: I’m sorry to say, no….but we’ve actually had wonderful dialogues and heart-warming thank you notes from the families of those we’ve assisted. They seem genuinely touched, and in many cases, relieved, that some financial pressure has been taken off of them in the short-term.

CAF: What message would you like to send from IWL to our patients with thalassemia?
BT: You are not alone. There are people out there, many of whom you don’t know, who care about you and are fighting to help you, even if only in small ways.

CAF: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
BT: I’d like to credit Gina Cioffi for fulfilling the League’s grant requirements and following up on each case. Her diligence has kept CAF on the Special Needs Grant list from year to year.

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