By Nicole Hennessy
The door barely closed before a woman exclaimed, “Hi, Mrs. Rocco!”
The hottest day of the summer waited outside as Stacy made her way into a Bay Village coffee shop, and to the table she was being waved toward unexpectedly.
Making small talk for a few minutes before shifting the topic, Stacy said, “My husband and I have a nonprofit.”
Telling her story, again, she is sitting in sterilized hospital rooms while her daughter, Julia, receives radiation treatments, trying to comprehend the situation.
A bit foggy and unable to fully convince herself she is looking at her daughter, stuck with tubes and sedated, Stacy remembers feeling somewhat like a car accident, or as if she’d been in one, onlookers assessing the damage.
When Julia was barely 1 year old, she inexplicably stopped walking, and right away Stacy and her husband, John, knew something wasn’t right.
Multiple tests and doctor visits later revealed Julia had a tumor pressing on her spinal cord, lodged near her heart, and she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a surprisingly common cancer that affects the nerve endings.
Now 6 years old, “she’s healthy,” Stacy said, traces of concern giving way to a hint of relief in her voice.
But thinking back, she’s in the doctor’s office still, in the hospitals and traffic, worried, constantly worried, which is why she now dedicates such a large portion of her time to helping other families in similar situations, the result of a promise she and John made to each other while Julia was sick.
Meant to help cover expenses “most people don’t think about,” like parking or lost wages due to frequent hospital visits, 80 percent of the funds raised through the Roccos’ organization go directly to local families they come across, various hospitals and contacts helping them identify potential recipients, the remaining funds, after operating costs, going to neuroblastoma research.
On a daily basis, both Stacy and John find themselves discussing their organization with acquaintances, friends, family, colleagues and anyone else who will listen, particularly through Roc the Croc, which is the largest fundraiser the Roccos have planned.
“Maybe this is why this happened,” Stacy remembered John and herself thinking, when Roc 4NB Cure was just an idea.
“We’ve helped 13 families so far,” she said, grabbing a cup of coffee before seeing Julia and her son, Anthony, off the bus.
Side Bar: Roc the Croc, which will take place on Oct. 5 from 7:30 a.m. until midnight at Crocker Park, will be an all-day fundraiser featuring food, live bands, a parade, members of the National Guard and a 5K marathon. To register for the 5K or to donate to Roc 4NB Cure, visit http://roc4nbcure.org/ or e-mail the Rocco family at email@example.com.