Danny Alotta wants to make over cancer.
He is not a doctor finding a cure. But the Jackson Heights native is helping some of its youngest victims in a way that helped him through his own battle with cancer years ago.
Alotta is the founder of Joy Juice, a nonprofit that provides fashion makeovers to teens with cancer.
As a senior in high school, Alotta was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. What started out as a seemingly bad cold ended up as “borderline stage 4” cancer for the healthy, athletic teen, he said. Eleven years later, he was declared cancer-free.
“When you are a young person you are still invincible,” Alotta said. “For your parents they understand the seriousness.”
During his chemotherapy, Alotta would find ways to lift his spirits.
On the way out the door for his first chemotherapy treatment he announced it was time for his “joy juice.”
“It was my way of making it a game,” Alotta said. “The only thing I knew how to do was make it a game.”
He also made himself feel better through what he calls “makeovers.”
Alotta would dress up to go to the doctor, don a nice pair of socks around the house or his cousin Billy would buy him a new pair of sneakers.
“Maybe new shoes cure the blues,” he said, adding that a brand-new pair of sneakers still makes him happy to this day.
The chemotherapy mentally and physically affected Alotta, rendering him pale and changing his hair.
“You go through a point where you don’t feel presentable,” he said. “You look in the mirror and you don’t know who is staring back at you.”
In October 2012, Alotta, who is a partner in a clothing line and restaurant, decided to step away from his business ventures and use his branding knowledge to share his experience with cancer in the hope of helping others.
He decided to launch his nonprofit and write a movie, book and a one-man show.
His book, also called “Joy Juice,” was released in January 2014. His show, of the same name, debuted in June at the Kaufman Music Center on West 67th Street. Alotta hopes to perform it in other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., next year, and he has already spoken to a studio about his movie script.
A little over a year ago, he started his teen cancer makeover organization, which received nonprofit status this summer.
So far, it has held events with the Ronald McDonald House in New York and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation in Las Vegas and has plans to work with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Teen Cancer America.
The events can be simple as providing lunch and bringing sneakers, socks and headphones so the teens can listen to music during chemotherapy, which Alotta used to do. Sometimes makeup artists and stylists are brought in so the teens can “feel like a celebrity for a day.”
Alotta is also helping those dealing with cancer through the international organization Cancer Positive as its latest ambassador. Cancer Positive, which uses stories, quotes and helpful information to aid people in finding “their own silver lining,” sees Alotta’s story as inspiring because he is using it to encourage others to stay positive.
“They are an organization that sees cancer not only as a diagnosis — it’s about a state of mind,” Alotta said.
“I will never call myself a survivor,” he added. “I call myself a fortunate…because I am fortunate to still be here to tell my story.”
- Citi Bike finally coming to Queens
- Barnes & Noble in Fresh Meadows to close
- Stolen Yorkshire Terrier reunited with Bayside owner