WATERTOWN — The seventh annual Joe Garassino Foundation Golf Tournament was hosted on Monday, June 3 at the Watertown Golf Club. The foundation, started by the family members of local resident Joe Garassino, raises money for local families who are battling cancer.
Joe Garassino passed away in 2013 from bile duct cancer at the age of 28. Since his passing, his family has created the Joe Garassino Foundation as a way to keeping his legacy alive and to help others who have been diagnosed with cancer.
The golf tournament is the primary fundraiser for the foundation and has been a success for seven years.
The golf tournament, which starts at 9 a.m., has 18 holes of golf, food, raffle prizes, dinner and an auction with prizes that vary from dinner gift cards to concert tickets to sporting events.
After the golfing section, participants are invited to a dinner as recipients of the foundation are called up to tell their stories.
During the tournament’s dinner, Joe’s father, Mike Garassino took a moment to speak to those attending.
“From the bottom of my heart I thank you,” he said to the more than 260 participants that attended the dinner.
“Cancer does not discriminate,” he told the crowd. Mr. Garassino talked about his son Joe and how sudden his diagnosis was and what a shock it was to the family when Joe passed away seven months later.
“Joe never complained once,” he added. After Joe’s passing, the Garassino family began the first foundation golf tournament that year and since then have worked to expand the charity.
Joe’s sister Lisbeth Garassino announced that the foundation was launching a new website that will allow cancer patients to meet with other patients, family members, survivors, friends and caregivers.
The site will allow users to blog, share their experiences, find support and chat with other users going through similar situations.
“My brother would have loved to connect with people,” said Lisbeth, adding that her brother had trouble finding people he could share his experience with.
The Garassino Foundation plans to expand the website and help cancer patients and their families from across the state connect, support and share.
After the dinner the annual auction took place.
Some of the prizes included tickets and box seats to Yankee and Red Sox baseball games, music concerts, dinners at local restaurants and even a four hour cruise on a sailboat yacht in Newport, R.I.
The money raised by the auction and the golf tournament goes directly to cancer patients and to local organizations like the Harold Leever Center.
Bob Simko of Naugatuck, Tim Cocchiola of Southbury, Diane Currier of Watertown, Silas Matthew of Farmington, Brittney Mann of Waterbury, Lynn White of New Milford, Kendall Lord of Southington, Meghan DiPietro, Jayden Edwards of Waterbury, Jose Campanario of Danbury and Annie Chicoine were this year’s recipients of the foundation.
“This was a blessing,” said Ms. Mann, who had just completed her final round of treatment that day. She was thankful for the donation and said that it will help her move forward.
Steven Peyre, whose son Silas was a recipient of the foundation, was also grateful for the donation. He said that life still goes on even after a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, but thanks to the donation he will be able to spend more time with his son as he recovers.
Since the foundation’s inception in 2013, the golf tournament has raised more than $93,000 and has donated to over 35 cancer patients, with no intention of slowing down.
“It sells out every year. Mike and Denise do such a great job,” said Vin DeRosa, a participant who has attended every year.
Mr. Garassino attributed the success of the foundation to “the good people of Watertown and Greater Waterbury.” He said that the event would not be possible without the donations and sponsorships that come from the area’s local businesses and residents.
“I want to keep my only son’s legacy alive,” he added. With the help of his wife Denise, his daughter, and the support of the community, Mr. Garassino has achieved the goal to keep the Joe Garassino Foundation expanding as it helps those of the local community.
Those looking to learn more about the Joe Garassino Foundation may visit https://joegarassino.org/.