Tag Archives: gofundme.com

Whitestone community raises funds online for sick 2-year-old

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Michaela Giragosian

The Whitestone community has come together in a big way to raise funds for the family of a toddler with a rare form of cancer.

Two-year-old Lola Rose Giragosian of Whitestone was found to have a cancerous mass at the bottom of her skull after weeks of usually sluggish behavior culminating in a trip to the emergency room in February. The tumor had been pushing down on her spine, making her legs feel very weak and causing a great deal of pain to the little girl.

Testing showed that Giragosian was suffering from a chordoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor that can occur anywhere along the spine, from the base of the skull to the tailbone. According the National Library of Medicine, chordomas are so rare that they affect only one in a million people, and comprise fewer than 1 percent of tumors affecting the brain and spinal cord.

“It was just my worst nightmare. We’re over here trying to be happy about having another baby and you’re hit with this bomb,” said Lola Rose’s mother, Michaela Giragosian, who was then eight to nine months pregnant with the family’s second child. “We didn’t know how to react.”

Lola Rose’s parents found that they would need to take daily trips back and forth to the doctor’s office in Manhattan to deal with her diagnosis, and juggle this responsibility with the care of newborn Lucy, who was born shortly after her older sister’s health problems began.

Lola Rose’s mother said that although many new parents find it stressful to have young children, she and her husband treasure time when their family can finally be under the same roof experiencing their children’s early years and growing pains.

“We love the screaming and crying,” Michaela Giragosian said. “Parents can’t take that sometimes, but when we hear both of them screaming [together], we embrace those moments.”

In an effort to help with the family’s medical bills, household bills and traveling costs, a cousin set up an account with Gofundme.com, a crowdfunding site where donations can be solicited to raise large amounts of cash in a short time. The money raised for Lola will also cover a trip to Disney World for the family, since the little girl always has a smile when she sees her favorite character, Minnie Mouse.

To date, the GoFundMe account for Lola Rose has only been active for two days and has already raised more than $4,200 from 69 donors, although it is still short of its $20,000 goal. Online publicity and support by local community groups are largely to thank for the speedy fundraising, with the civic group We Love Whitestone continuously sharing information about the campaign through multiple media platforms.

Michaela Giragosian, who was born and raised in Whitestone, said that the outpouring of support from people in her community was overwhelming, and that she thanked the community for their generosity, support and prayers.

“As a parent sometimes you think you can do things on your own, and when people step in and see that you need help and be so supportive it’s an amazing thing,” said Giragosian, who hopes little Lola will be well enough to go on her Disney adventure by the end of 2015.

To donate funds for Lola Rose’s GoFundMe account online, click here.


Astoria volunteer turns to online fundraiser to release first album of ‘positive music’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Ben Trivett

One Astoria singer is hoping her lyrics will fill listeners with enough positive energy that they in turn will contribute to an online campaign to help her release her first album.

Mary Walker has always had a passion and love for music. Growing up in Kansas she would listen to her mother and brother practice musical instruments throughout the house. She sang at her church’s youth choir, and in college she was the lead singer of her own rock band.

“Typically when I was growing up the house would be filled with music. Everyone was practicing their instruments,” Walker said. “I come from a strong gospel and blues background.”

When she made the move to New York in 2001 she started another band. But after the terror attacks on Sept. 11 of that year, she said she felt her life became filled with stress and she needed to find a way to relax.

She then encountered the nonprofit educational and humanitarian organization The Art of Living, which would send teachers to New York City to teach people meditation. Walker began taking classes and attending chanting sessions with the organization.

“It really changed my life,” she said.

Through her experience with the sessions she got together with other members of the meditation group and started a chanting band, which later morphed into the band Butterthief. The band plays “sit-down, traditional chanting music with a pop spin to it,” she said.

Butterthief (Photo by Ben Trivett)

Although she is still rocking out with Butterthief, after the business she owned folded last year, she decided it would be time to focus on her music career and work on her solo album. In order to fund the album release, she started a campaign on gofundme.com.

“My focus is creating a movement. Change starts with the individual,” Walker said. “For people to make a change, it first has to start with you.”

The funds gathered by the campaign will pay for the studio time, recording software, music publishing and other aspects that go into producing the album. She plans to work with guitarist Aram Bajakian, who played on tour with Lou Reed.

The album, which has a release date slated for April, will be filled with rock, alternative and soulful “happy” songs, all written by Walker.

“I want to create a fan base of people who like to listen to positive, uplifting music,” Walker said. “My focus is to have uplifting and passionate music.”

To contribute to Walker’s campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/marywalker.

Along with singing in the band and working on her solo album, Walker also helps to host “Yoga Remix Parties” where partygoers, specifically in colleges and universities, listen to Sanskrit chants set to electronic music and rock beats. The parties are substance free and include organic juices and food.

“People go away feeling free and partying without drugs and alcohol,” Walker said. “You don’t really need anything to have fun and have a good time.”

When she is not singing or hosting the parties, Walker can also be found volunteering for The Art of Living, going to prisons with a colleague where they teach meditation and breathing techniques to groups of teenage boys.

“Not even at home or school are you taught to deal with negative emotions,” Walker said. “They’ve been so grateful.”


Community contributes to College Point family following tragedy

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Daniel Rinaldi

People the world over are helping one College Point family racked by tragedy.

The Malave family was driving home from a spring break vacation in Florida on Saturday, March 30 when they were reportedly hit by a driver heading down the wrong side of the road. Christian Malave, 11, was killed in the crash, and his parents Carlos and Hilda, and older sisters Melissa and Aly, were severely injured.

Days later, longtime family friend Daniel Rinaldi got the idea to raise money for the Malaves, potentially to help pay for their medical bills and funeral expenses. On Monday, April 1, Rinaldi set up a website with a fundraising goal of $1,000. A little more than a week after the crash, with the Malaves still in a Florida hospital, donations at home reached over $40,000.

“We’re still climbing,” said Rinaldi. “There’s no indication of slowing down or capping it.”

At the beginning, Rinaldi, 25, received donations from his immediate Queens community. Eventually, that spread to the entire state and now several donations have come in from overseas.

“I look at that picture of the family, and it’s been my motivation. I think it has been a lot of other people’s motivation in wanting to give back, too,” said Rinaldi. “They say, ‘You know what, this could have been me, my family; this could have been my little kid.’”

More than 600 people have contributed to the Malave fund. Rinaldi hopes that the money will further provide for the family and give them time to recover, whether they need to pay for a physical therapist or simply put food on the table.

In the span of just one day, the fund collected over $2,000.

“Money should be the very last thing this family must worry about at this time,” said Allison O’Hagan on the fundraising site. “DONATE DONATE DONATE!”

Promotions for the Malave fund have been done primarily via social media – the site has been shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook, and 500 times on Twitter. Rinaldi said he sent out a few emails requesting help, but that the entire project has been done without any banks or big corporations.

“It’s just regular people willing to give up the money they may have spent on their lunch,” he said.

The family, well-known in their neighborhood, is said to be one of the most wonderful families you could ever meet, and the youngest Malave was a pleasure to be around.

“Christian was a beautiful little boy. He had a smile that just lit up a room,” said Tracy Salerno on the Malave fund website. “Always polite, always respectful. Be very proud of the little man that you raised.”

The community has no plans of stopping their efforts anytime soon. The College Point Five Guys on 14th Avenue donated 10 percent of every purchase from Thursday, April 11 to the Malave fund.

“If we can take some stress away, and show them there are good people out there, we can make a difference,” said Rinaldi. “It’s about trying to help a family that didn’t deserve this to happen to them.”

If you would like to contribute, visit www.gofundme.com/2gy7cc.