By John Santamaria
When Rich Filippazzo of West Islip found out last year that he was diagnosed with stage 1 chronic lymphocytic leukemia, he didn’t know what was going to happen. What he did know is that he is going to fight his battle and do whatever it takes to win the fight against leukemia.
According to PubMed Health, “This disease causes a slow increase in white blood cells called B lymphocytes, or B cells. Cancer cells spread through the blood and bone marrow, and can also affect the lymph nodes or other organs such as the liver and spleen.” While the cause of CLL is unknown, there is no link to radiation, cancer-causing chemicals, or viruses and it mainly affects adults around the age of 70 while rarely seen on those who are under 40 years old. Rich is a husband and father of three who has been going through various procedures over the past year since his diagnosis. His family, led by his wife Donna, wanted to take matters into their own hands to show their support and finding a cure for this disease.
For Father’s Day, he was given a surprise to support his battle which was a charitable pick up hockey game at Skate Safe America rink in Farmingdale. Hockey is a popular sport in the Filippazzo household and what better way to show their love and support for their father by playing the game they love. “It was very emotional and I was deeply touched by this and to know how many people care means a lot to me,” said Rich. “We thought this would be a great idea and to get our friends and family together to show support for dad,” said Mike Filippazzo, Rich's oldest son.
The event took place on Saturday July 14th with close to 30 people participating in the pickup hockey game and over 80 people in total at the event. Even Rich took part in the game playing goalie and he had a blast. Score wasn’t kept, stats weren’t recorded but there was one concept and that was to have fun. Many family members and friends of the Filippazzo family were on hand to watch, participate, and show their love for Rich. Donations were also being collected and will all be sent to the C.L.L. Research in his honor.
At the games conclusion, the participants gathered around Rich for a very emotional moment. “I am truly touched to have you all here and you all have touched my heart by showing your support for me.” Rich’s nephew Pat Scudiero of Seaford participated in the game despite suffering a hamstring injury and because of what was going on, just watching the game wasn’t enough. “Hockey was a success, I loved seeing my uncle so happy and he doesn’t deserve any of the things he’s had to go through,” says Scudiero.
The Filippazzo family hopes to do more fundraisers to support Rich and his fight while also hoping find a cure to this disease. Rich’s wife Donna ended the event with a short message for all in attendance in what was a successful event. “We greatly appreciate all of you coming out to play hockey and showing support for our family.”