Although hearing the news of Lindsay Giordano's diagnosis made so many in Belleville heartsick, the flipside is how much the township has embodied the generosity of spirit shown through the years by her and her family.
If you have yet to hear about Giordano and how the 29-year-old's courageous battle with breast cancer has galvanized this town, rest assured you will hear plenty over the next two weeks. Through Belleville High School Athletic Director Tom D'Elia, 1,000 $10 t-shirts reading “LG2K: Belleville Supports Lindsay Giordano” will be sold, while next week will include a fundraiser Feb. 15 at The Brownstone and a basketball doubleheader/Pink Out at BHS two days later that will serve as equal parts tribute to Giordano and awareness about her affliction.
“Belleville is a family. Even though it's changed over the years, the people who are still here and even those who mov out, we all have a great respect for each other,” said Janelle Romano, one of Giordano's best friends since they met more than 20 years ago in a gymnastics class. “I think we feel if we're behind her and we support her – you have family outside of your family and that family is going to help her to be stronger, be better, to fight this and not give up.”
Here is one reason everyone in Belleville is rallying around Giordano: She is a 2000 graduate of BHS, she comes from one of the town's most selfless families and, most unfortunately, already underwent a double mastectomy before enduring her current rounds of chemotherapy.
During a recent round, Deanna Simone sat with her maid of honor. Although she occasionally struggles to make sense of why one of her best friends is suffering, they both enjoyed themselves as though nothing has changed through the years.
“She's a very brave person,” Simone said. “We were just laughing and talking. It's wonderful how positive she stays through the whole thing. Because that really helps.”
Another reason seemingly everyone has made Giordano's cause their own: her ability to make others feel better about themselves, whether during the best of times or in the face of adversity.
This is why Bobby Kane, Richard Giordano's partner at the Belleville Police Department, helped organize a fundraiser at The Brownstone in Paterson on Feb. 15 that will go toward Lindsay Giordano's medical bills since she has not been working despite his partner's opposition.
After originally thinking he might sell 400 tickets, that number climbed close to a 700-person sellout – and with another 350 on a waiting list, Police Chief Joseph Rotonda said confidently, “We probably could have sold another 1,000 if we had a larger place.”
As it is, township dignitaries and friends from the school where she taught in Paterson have purchased tickets by the dozens. This made it easy for Kane to push past Richard Giordano's protests.
“I did it for Lindsay. I didn't expect the outpouring of support,” said Kane recently at the Belleville Police Department, looking over at his partner's chair before adding with a chuckle, “I don't mind getting yelled at.”
Seeing the success of Kane's efforts prompted D'Elia and Board of Education President Pete Zangari discussing how they could help Giordano while also boosting breast-cancer awareness. Their brainstorming birthed the idea of a benefit basketball doubleheader in which the Belleville girls will face rival Nutley at 6 p.m., followed by the boys game at 8 p.m.
Those who buy t-shirts will gain free admission to the doubleheader, although additional donations are also encouraged. Nutley athletic director Joe Piro asked for D'Elia to bill him for a batch of t-shirts. A speaker from Susan G. Komen will address the crowd, which is expected to approach the BHS gymnasium's capacity of 1,500, prior to each contest.
Moreover, vendors have been screened by both D'Elia and Zangari since they want people who genuinely realize what this cause means – and not look at this as a profit-making opportunity. Bella Casa Catering is all about the cause; the Acme Street business will donate food just as it did for January's Jim Silvestri scholarship fundraiser Buccaneer wrestling team,.
“Everybody I've actually stopped and talked to has said, 'What can I do?' That's what the Giordanos are about,” D'Elia said. “Of course they're very silent about it. Now is a time for the people they've helped all their lives to say, 'No question, I'm going to help you.'”
“This is such a wonderful event because we're able to help out Lindsay. We're able to show the Giordano family support,” Zangari said. “And it's a wonderful lesson in civics for the students of this town. Especially for the ones who just came here that may not know Belleville is not a town, it's a community. And it also raises awareness.”
Added D'Elia: “This is what communities do. They help each other out.”
Third Ward Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli graduated from BHS with Giordano in 2000 and served several years on the zoning board with her father. He considers his former classmate a friend and, without prompting, will tell you, “She's probably one of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met. She's just always willing to help anybody.
“We're here to help Lindsay out in every way that we can,” Cozzarelli continued. “But we also have to try to get the public awareness out there. That's really one of the big goals of this. There's two goals: doing this for her and also genuine public awareness for it and by bringing more attention to the disease, hopefully there's a cure.”
For now, as Lindsay Giordano braves chemotherapy, she does so with the backing of an entire community. A community that is echoing the same generosity of spirit she and her family have displayed so often through the years.
“I've been praying for her everyday,” Ramano said. “Anything she needs, I will be there for her in a second. I just know how hard this is for her.”
“This is the time that she needs everybody together,” Simone said. “And everybody has come together, like a family.”
For those who wish to purchase t-shirts starting Tuesday, please call Belleville High School Athletic Director Tom D'Elia at (973) 450-3500, ext. 3466. Shirts are expected to sell out quickly.