On the Avenue: Ben-Bay Kiwanis shows local family facing cancer that ‘no one fights alone’

Members of the FDNY risk life and limb every day to save others from danger. They answer potentially deadly calls without hesitation in an effort to help and protect their neighbors at all costs. So, what happens when one of New York City’s Bravest needs help himself? The community rallies, of course!

When firefighter Mike Sapia of Engine 284, Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights learned that the wife of his longtime friend and fellow “Castle on the Hill” firefighter Reno Genovese was facing a sudden battle against brain cancer, he turned to his neighbors for help.

“We started handing out fliers to whoever we could to get the word out to try and help the family,” Sapia said.

Genovese’s wife Michele, 45, is also mother to the couple’s three young children. In late November 2021, she began experiencing debilitating headaches but didn’t think much of it until she woke up with partial paralysis of her face, Sapia said.

“That’s when they knew something was wrong,” he said. “They called 911, she went for tests and then it came back that it was brain cancer.”

Since then, Michele has been waging a courageous but costly battle against the disease. Determined not to give up, the couple recently switched hospitals and began a new series of treatments.

“Right now, Michele is facing the biggest fight of her life and we want her to know that ‘no one fights alone,’” the flier circulated by Engine 284 reads.

Indeed, the couple has not been alone on their journey, thanks to an outpouring of support from friends, family and local community members.

The Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge, which meets weekly “on the avenue” at Cebu Bar & Bistro, 8801 Third Ave., welcomed Sapia to its Feb. 1 meeting, heard about the situation and immediately sprang into action.

“We knew we wanted to do something for this family and thought that so many other people in the community might want to show their support for a local hero like Reno,” said Club President Thomas Aellis, owner of Romantique Double Diamond Limousine, 1421 86th St. “The results have been incredible so far and are a testament to how much love and support exists for members of the FDNY and their families here in Bay Ridge and throughout Brooklyn.”

Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge President Thomas Aellis (Second from left) said he hopes people will continue to donate to his club’s Facebook fundraiser benefiting the Genovese family. Photo courtesy of Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge

The Club launched a fundraiser for the family on Facebook Feb. 7 and within one day it had raised more than $5,000.

Aellis said the benefit of donating through Kiwanis is that donors can rest assured that their contributions will be delivered directly to the family.

“That’s the beautiful thing,” he said. “As a 501(c)3, any donations to Ben-Bay Kiwanis are always tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. We’re making sure that every single dollar raised goes straight to the Genovese family, to help them now and in the future.”

At press time the fundraiser had been shared 78 times, with 110 unique donors contributing a total of $8,815. To contribute to the effort and spread the word, visit www.facebook.com/donate/274127141516166. Here’s hoping that everyone “on the avenue” and throughout the community take a moment to show the Genovese family that “no one fights alone” in Bay Ridge!

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Hannah and Eleanor Oberg celebrate during the 2015 Norwegian Constitution Day Parade as it makes its way along Fifth Avenue. Eagle Urban Media file photo by Arthur De Gaeta

We love a parade! And we’re thrilled to hear that one of the most popular and longest-running parades in Brooklyn is set to return after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Earlier this week organizers announced that the Norwegian Constitution Day Parade — a neighborhood tradition since 1952 — will be making its return on May 15. Its theme will be “Honoring Essential Workers.”

The march goes along Third Avenue from 80th Street to Bay Ridge Avenue, then up to Fifth Avenue and over to the reviewing stand in Leif Ericson Park. Hundreds of spectators typically line up “on the avenue” to cheer on the many bands and organizations that take part in the festive march. Floats modeled after Viking ships are always a main attraction.

Stay tuned for more details as plans are finalized for this year’s parade.

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