Much like the fictional George Bailey character portrayed by James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Commack resident Jeff Galluzzo knows how much he is loved and respected. This past Sunday, the Hibernian Hall in Babylon Village became the Bailey house.
Galluzzo, 43, married with two small children, was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer in September, underwent four months of chemotherapy and had surgery to remove a lung in late January. He's currently undergoing radiation treatment and the outlook is bright.
“Doctors are confident that things are moving in the right direction,” said longtime friend Neil Katz.
Galluzzo was born and raised in Deer Park, and attended Hofstra University where he played soccer. During and after college, he worked as a deejay and earned a degree in education. He first taught at Island Trees, and after earning a degree in administration, he went on to become an assistant principal in an elementary school in Farmingdale.
“What’s here today, is a conglomeration of his life," said Katz at the event last week. Katz befriended Galluzzo at Hofstra, where they both attended college.
“There are people here from Deer Park, Hofstra, deejays he’s worked with, Commack soccer representatives, Farmingdale residents and other friends from Island Trees… just about everywhere …and we got a turnout that we could never have possibly imagined," said Katz. "It's what would be expected because of the type of person Jeff is and the type of family they are. They’re universally loved and respected…and Jeff is just one of those people that everybody just loves…it’s just the kind of person he is.”
The fundraiser started off on a small note, said Katz, but quickly took off.
"As we started doing it, it just started to grow and grow and grow…to be quite honest, when you do a charity event, you usually have to get out there and solicit. We never had to do that. We just got the word out and people started to come and raffle prizes started to come in for raffles and auctions. Under the category if you build it, they will come, there’s four hundred people and over two hundred raffle prizes to prove it.”
Included among the hundreds of donated raffle basket prizes were box seats to the New York Yankees home opener as well as autographed jersey and ticket packages with famous New York athletes Amare Stoudemire (Knicks) and Mark Sanchez (Jets).
Neighbor Eddie O’Gorman said, “Jeff’s just overwhelmed by how many people are here today for him and his main concern is for his family and their welfare. We’re all here for him.”
Another longtime friend who pitched in to get the benefit moving was Rich Gaudet, who said, “Everybody just kept coming to us and asking us what they could do to help. They were like, Jeff needs help, what can we do. People were emailing us and calling us and everyone just came together and shot it out of the park.”
Surrounded by friends and family, Jeff Galluzzo is wrapped in a spirit of hope.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the generosity shown here and I promise five years from now to host another fundraising event for a family in need,” said Galluzzo during a brief, emotional speech given later in the evening.
“The money that we were able to raise for Jeff and his family exceeded our expectations,” said friend/organizer Dean Nichol. “The compassion shown by Jeff’s friends, family and community was unparalleled.”