As 2021 came to a close, Kiwanians from throughout the borough came together for a special Brooklyn Kiwanis divisional meeting held at Mama Rao’s, 6408 11th Ave. The event served as a chance to officially introduce the new slate of officers for each Brooklyn club, as well as new Brooklyn Lieutenant Governor James Orlando, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge.
As part of the evening’s installation ceremony, Orlando and former Brooklyn lieutenant governor Joseph DeMarco presented the official Kiwanis lieutenant governor home club banner to new Ben-Bay Kiwanis Club President Thomas Aellis. Ben-Bay carries the distinction of being able to display that banner at all future meetings while Orlando serves in his new boroughwide role.
Aellis also received an official pin during the ceremony, along with fellow officers Chris Ferraro, secretary; Ernesto Cappello, treasurer; Albert Corhan, president-elect; and Scott Palma, past president.
The Ben-Bay club meets regularly “on the avenue” at popular Cebu Bar & Bistro, 8801 Third Ave. Its members raise tens of thousands of dollars to benefit children and families in need each year.
The Bruzzese family is one such family whose relationship with Kiwanis goes back several years to when Enrico and Josephine Bruzzese’s daughter Julia was diagnosed with Lyme disease after a long and grueling process. They were present at the divisional meeting and received a special donation check from Orlando on behalf of Kiwanis to help with their ongoing medical costs.
“It makes us feel great that there are people like you out there helping others because we learned that there are people out there who need help and you guys are doing that, so thank you so much and God bless you,” Enrico Bruzzese told the Kiwanians in attendance.
Julia’s story gained widespread attention when she greeted Pope Francis at John F. Kennedy Airport in 2015 in search of a miracle. Earlier that year she had suddenly become paralyzed due to an unknown illness. A short time after meeting the Pope, she was officially diagnosed with Lyme disease and began treatments for the debilitating illness. The Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge was among the family’s most active supporters during their most difficult days.
“Thank you so much for welcoming us with open arms,” Julia said. “One of my main missions in life is to raise awareness and do anything in my control for this disease not to happen to another person like me.”