EAST GREENWICH – Lauren Pietrantozzi is trying to raise $7,200 so four people can take a walk – a 39-mile walk.
Pietrantozzi, a popular server at Besos Tea House, will enter the Avon Foundation Walk for Breast Cancer on May 19-20 in Boston with three friends in an attempt to donate as much as they can. But before the sparkling young woman meets that date, she has another equally important one set for Sunday, March 25.
That is when Besos Tea House will hold an initial fundraiser for Team Pietrantozzi’s larger effort in Boston in late May.
“I heard of the (Avon) event on Facebook, but when I saw the minimum amount to participate in the walk was $1,800, I got a little discouraged,” said Pietrantozzi. “I still pitched the idea to (Besos co-owners) Tony (Morales) and Kristin (DellaGrotta), just to see how they felt about hosting a fundraiser for the walk.
“Both of them loved the idea and that encouraged me to go forth with the fundraiser. I started the event because I love hosting fundraisers and doing whatever I can to help people in need,” she added. “I made my goal $7,200 so I can put a team of four together for the walk.”
Pietrantozzi, like most people in the world, has a personal connection to a loved one with cancer.
“My grandma was the biggest influence on me to make a change and do anything I can to prevent any kind of cancer from hurting anymore people and families. She had cancer, both lung and liver, four times for the last 13 years of her life,” she said. “She was one of the strongest, funniest, most loving ladies I know.
“In my family we mostly have (endured) lung cancer, which in some cases, can be prevented. Breast cancer cannot be, which is why I want to help raise money to find a reason and a cure,” said Pietrantozzi. “My mom has said a couple times to me in the past couple weeks, ‘Mammie would be so proud of you.’ To me, that is the most important thing and my personal goal has already been reached, because I know she is watching and guiding me the entire way.”
This is the waitress’s largest organized fund-raiser to date, a far cry from the bake sales she organized for The Tomorrow Fund or organizing recycling collections in school to raise money for local families in need.
“After I did some research about the event, I put together fundraising ideas with a basic plan. So, I went into work early one day and approached Tony with my idea and I don't think he thought twice about it. Both Tony and Kristin have been extremely helpful and have made planning this event as easy as possible,” she added.
The March 25 event is not the first community or charitable event held at Besos. Since the Teahouse opened in October, it has hosted four fundraisers, including raising money for London Bridge Learning Center, East Greenwich High School cheerleaders and East Greenwich High School softball.
“Way back when we were brainstorming about our vision of what Besos would be, we agreed that in addition to offering good food and beverages, we’d like to create a comfortable space that gives back to the community, customers and staff,” said Besos co-owner Kristin DellaGrotta. “This event perfectly fit that vision. While giving Lauren, our fabulous server, and those affected by breast cancer a space to hold their event, we're also raising awareness and funds for an inspirational nationwide foundation.
“We strive to be a positive addition to Main Street and the East Greenwich community. As a lifelong East Greenwich resident and a longtime East Greenwich business owner, both the town and its residents are important to us,” she added.
There is certain serendipity about a Teahouse hosting this event for this disease. Ongoing research has shown that the anti-oxidant qualities in tea – especially Green Tea – may actually help reduce breast cancer rates (Green tea is the most popular tea in both China and Japan, countries which have very low breast cancer rates), although more research is needed.
Tickets to the March 25 Besos event – which will launch Lauren’s May 19-20 Avon Walk – are set at $35.
“Lauren set the ticket price at an affordable $35 to make it easier for people to contribute,” said DellaGrotta. The price includes complimentary hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast, silent auction and door prizes. It will be held at Besos from 4 to 8 p.m.
Tickets are on sale at Besos, 378 Main St., East Greenwich. All proceeds from ticket sales, Besos and the silent auction will be donated to The Avon Foundation for Women. For more information, go towww.besosteahouse.com, under Breast Cancer Benefit, or go to http://www.avonwalk.org/boston .
James Merolla is an award-winning writer and frequent contributor to The Pendulum.