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GBF battles brain cancer at front lines

Mary Pallotta and her brother, Dennis, always dreamed of one day being in business together.  Today they work hand in hand every day – in spirit.

OPEN HOUSE: The foundation’s Mary Pallotta, president, frequently opens her home to members wrestling with brain cancer and injury.

Several years ago Dennis lost a battle against a cancerous brain tumor. “He’s not here, with me physically but his spirit inspires me daily,” Pallotta said. “Together, we’re in the business and helping others.”

After her brother’s death, Pallotta channeled her grief by teaming up with the Guardian Brain Foundation, an organization aimed at helping people battling brain cancer or traumatic brain injury. The GBF’s mission is to provide support services and help advance neuroscience research toward a cure for brain cancer.

“[This] is an area of health care that we hear little about,” said Pallotta, president of the brain foundation, “When my brother was diagnosed I knew nothing about it and I didn’t know where to go to learn more. I felt very alone.”

Together with the foundation Pallotta compiled information about the disease and developed support groups for patients and their families. “Battling career is a life-changing clear that often becomes a very dark period of time for many patients and their families,” Pallotta said. “We don’t want people to be trapped in their illness. We want them to have all the valuable information necessary so they can make their own choice, and choose their own part. This allows them to be able to better focus on living.

Pallotta focuses on the here and now and tries to teach people how to laugh in the face of hardship. “We try to reach them that even though they have a brain tumor or injury. They have to live their lives to the fullest because they never know, what tomorrow will bring,” Pallotta said.

She helps plan fun events, such as comedy club nights, galas, and fund raisers throughout the year.  “Whether an event where people share stories, of battle and triumphs or just an evening of laughing, each gathering acts as on outlet, a place to be heard,”  Pallotta said.  “We’re a voice for those who are fighting against this terrible disease.”

To accomplish that Pallotta and her volunteer staff sometimes travel to area hospitals to listen lo the concerns and stories of families touched be brain tumors and injuries.  They also investigate top-notch facilities and specialists in the area, which provides a foundation for determining which research efforts BGF will fund and for a database of resources that help people affected to brain cancer.

But it’s the human side of the organization that inspires Pallotta the most.  “Guardian Brain is devoted to more than just support and research,” she said.  “It’s about giving people quality of life.”

That’s why the GBF will reach into coffers, to provide financial support for families in need.  “We often provide funding for procedures or medications not covered by insurance,” Pallotta said.  “The high cost of medical treatment also leaves people struggling to feed their families and take care of children, so the foundation provides food and transportation for many of its members.

Although the GBF is young, it has ambitious, plans for the future.  “One of our long-term goals is to create a facility for people with brain tumors and injuries – a place that is fully equipped for medical needs and also focuses on quality of life by providing special activities to keep people entertained healthy and happy,” Pallotta said.

The foundation is very involved in each patient’s life and personal battle against brain disease.  “We do as much as we can for these people,” said Pallotta who opens her home to the served by the’ foundation.  They inspire us to keep working hard everyday.  I’ve met so many people that have been in and out of my life too quickly, but through Guardian Brain Foundation we can keep their wonderful memories alive.”

Pallotta encourages people to contact her if they need information on brain tumors and injures, or if they would like to attend support groups.  “It’s a place where people understand what you’re dealing with,” she said.  We’re here to help.”

Kenneth R. Cerini is the managing partner a Cerini & Associates, a full-service CPA firm. If you are a not-for-profit agency and have an interesting story to tell, call (631) 583-1600 or e-mail to him at kenc@ceriniandassiciates.com.