By Sara-Megan Walsh
A Hauppauge company’s employees are heading out on a cross-country tour to raise funds for cancer research and awareness inspired by the memory of a Kings Park woman.
Nature’s Answer, a family-owned manufacturer of nutritional supplements, will celebrate the formation of its charitable arm, Nature’s Answer Foundation, with six employees embarking on a more than 4,000-mile motorcycle ride beginning Oct. 1.
“We are a health-oriented company and this ties closely in with the company’s mission of promoting well-being,” said vice president of operations Tom Connelly, of Stony Brook.
The Road 2 Wellness Tour motorcycle ride came together as part coincidence and part in loving memory, said Nature’s Answer CEO Frank D’Amelio, Jr.
D’Amelio, of Lloyd Harbor, said an employee asked for the company to participate in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an American Cancer Society fundraising event Oct. 15 at Jones Beach. Nature’s Answer general counsel Scott Seedall, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, then asked D’Amelio if he would join him for a motorcycle ride after the company’s annual trade show in California.
“When it was suggested we ride, I connected the events together,” said Nature’s Answer CEO. “I said let’s do it for [the] cause and that Monday is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
D’Amelio said his sister-in-law, Maria Bellock, 46, of Kings Park, died of breast cancer in July 2016. He witnessed firsthand how devastating cancer can be.
“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through,” he said.
Bellock’s brother Larry Chiarenza, of Commack, is Nature’s Answer vice president of sales and will be riding cross country.
“Cancer is very taxing on the caregivers as well as on the patient,” he said. “It’s a very difficult process to go through.”
A former motorcyclist, Chiarenza said the two-week ride will be a challenge as he’s never ridden further than 100 miles before.
“[Maria] would probably think I’m nuts because I haven’t ridden in 30 years,” he said. “I never had any intention of riding again but it’s for such a good cause. How could I not?”
Other riders include Kasra Hosmand, of Bay Shore; Tom Mandelo, of Lake Ronkonkoma; and John Hank, of Huntington.
“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through.”
— Frank D’Amelio , Jr.
Father Anthony Asir of St. Thomas More Parish in Hauppauge blessed the bikes Sept. 18 at a kickoff event held at the company’s Hauppauge location.
“I hope this can help bring people out of the darkness into the light, from ignorance into awareness,” Father Asir said. “May they go as your ministers bringing cancer awareness where they ride.”
The two-week tour will include stops in numerous cities to raise awareness with highlights including several American Cancer Society Hope Lodges, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before ending at the Jones Beach walkathon Oct. 15.
Money will be raised through donations from sponsors and the sale of promotional items. In addition, the company will donate 10 percent of its total sale proceeds for the month of October. Overall funds raised will go to charities including the American Cancer Society, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and St. Jude hospital.
“With that funding, we can start new research projects which are risky, too risky for the government to support,” said Diane Fagiola, senior director of philanthropy for CSH Lab. “This fundraising is huge for us.”
Camila dos Santos, a junior faculty at the lab, said these funds allow researchers, like her, to get an initial data set to help support “out-of-the-box” research ideas and be more competitive for federal grants.
Those interested can visit www.road2wellnesstour.com to learn more, follow the riders on their trip and donate money.
Also, the Road 2 Wellness Tour can be followed on Twitter through #Road2Wellness.