An Amazing Day in Verona Park!

GIST DO IT Walk NJ 2019

Participants in the GIST DO IT Walk NJ 2019

On May 4, 2019, The Life Raft Group held its first GIST DO IT Walk in New Jersey, at Verona Park. Despite the drizzle, over 50 people were in attendance and over $18K was raised for #GISTresearch.

LRG Senior Vice President Laura Occhiuzzi thanked our sponsors and donors and expressed gratitude for everyone who joined us for the event. Our Event Sponsor was Idea Village Products Corp. of Wayne. Kessler Rehabilitation Center was our Bronze Sponsor. We are also grateful to Walgreens in Verona, who sponsored a table at the walk.

Tammy Wolf, wife of GISTer Ted Wolf, presented the Wolf Strong Award to Chelsea Ozeri, the most successful fundraiser of the GIST DO IT Walk NJ 2019. Chelsea, a new LRG member and recipient of the 2nd annual Wolf Strong Award, raised over $10K for #GISTresearch. This award will be presented each year to a Patient Philanthropist. (Read Chelsea’s story: liferaftgroup.org/2019/05/patient-of-the-month-chelsea-ozeri/).

Ted, who passed away in September of 2018, received the first Wolf Strong Award at our debut GIST DO IT Walk at Life Fest Miami in 2018.

Chelsea Ozeri Receives Wolf Strong Award 2019

Left to right: Diana Nieves, Laura Occhiuzzi, Chelsea Ozeri, Tammy Wolf

Tammy flew in from Florida to attend the walk and was joined by close friends and coworkers from Charlotte, NC. Remembering Ted, they saw the bench in the park with a quote that said, “I love walking down memory lane because I get to run into you.” Tammy said that it hit home. “It meant something to all of us. I felt like Ted was there in spirit and to have this tribute to him, him being a legend for his courage and strength, meant a lot.”

Prior to presenting the award and the beginning of the walk itself, Tammy shared from her heart about her husband’s courageous eight-year journey with GIST to the crowd of staffers, friends, family, and Life Raft Group members. (View Tammy’s speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVhA8QKkqgc).

Tammy and Ted were able to have eight years together after his initial GIST diagnosis. Stressing the importance of patient and caregiver education, she shared, “When Ted was diagnosed, two of the clinical trials that he participated in weren’t even in existence yet. I got three more years because of those trials. I think about the impact they had. His quality of life was really manageable for the eight years, until the last three months of his life. I think about what strides have been made in just the eight years. More people are living with it and managing it. The more education that people have about GIST, the better the chances of managing it well, because it’s so rare, scary and unknown. The Life Raft Group was a sanctuary where he educated himself.”

This is a tribute in so many ways. I know how much he [Ted] loved the Life Raft Group. We both learned so much in our eight years of this fight we had together. Thank you for all the hard work you and your team does every day.” – Tammy Wolf – LRG Member, Caregiver

The LRG is grateful for the Wolfs for all their efforts to bring awareness about GIST, and to Chelsea for the amazing work she did fundraising for this walk.

“The GIST walk was such an empowering event. Being out in nature with others living with GIST, as well as my husband, friends and family, was so energizing. I really felt the love and support of those around me- it just lifts you right up and out of the fog.”  – Chelsea Ozeri – LRG Member, Recipient of the Wolf Strong Award 2019

Chelsea Ozeri & friends at GISTDOIT 2019

Chelsea Ozeri with family & friends