Howard Beach event raises more than $100K for cancer research, services

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THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen
THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Many family members and friends came in support of Loren Licausi, who passed away in February from leukemia.

All those who knew Loren Licausi describe her as strong, independent and caring.

One of her best friends, Lauren Lafemina, said her character left a noticeable mark on people.

Licausi passed away in February from acute myeloid leukemia — a form of cancer that starts with bone marrow — which she was diagnosed with only months earlier. She was 19.

“Love for Lauren,” the team formed in her honor, was one of many to participate at this year’s Howard Beach Relay for Life at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.

Cancer survivors along with family and friends of people who have lost their bouts with the disease created special messages of tribute on white paper bags.

The Saturday, June 8 event raised more than $100,000 for cancer research and services. The Howard Beach Relay for Life has raised roughly $750,000 since it started five years ago, according to co-organizer Phillys Inserillo.

Licausi’s memorial team included her family and friends from both the neighborhood and Mount St. Mary College, where she was a freshman.

“We just wanted to do something in her memory,” said Lafemina, who also worked with her. “We all became friends through this.”

Family friend Angela San Phillipo helped organize a fundraiser for Licausi at St. Helen’s Church earlier this year. It raised more than $20,000. San Phillipo said Licausi had been looking forward to seeing videos and photos from the event.

“She was really a very special kid,” she added.

Another team, “Sebastian’s Friends Forever,” was formed in honor of eight-year-old Sebastian Oseff. He recently lost his own battle with cancer. The team raised more than $2,000 for Relay for Life, according to the event’s website, surpassing its original aim of $1,000.

Inserillo, who coordinates the walk with Melissa Fochetta, said part of the goal has always been to bring the community together for a single cause. She added that this year that was particularly important since the area is still recovering from Sandy.

“We wanted to do the event for the cancer survivors,” Inserillo said. “But we also wanted to have an event where the community could come together and celebrate their resilience.”