When their friend was in need, South Shore residents Corinne Roig and Pietrina Dalba sprung into action.
On Saturday, the two hosted a 1k toddler fun run at Babylon High School to support their longtime friend, Lacey Keefer, whose 7-month-old daughter recently had facial reconstruction surgery.
Together, the race raised $4,685, helping Lacey and her husband, Patrick, offset some of the financial woes from their bundle of joy’s treatment.
On May 1, little Sienna Grace Keefer successfully underwent an extensive operation to correct a birth defect called coronal craniosynostosis, which causes skull bones to fuse prematurely and can affect skull shape and brain development. The Patchogue family had to pay an $11,000 deductible and 30 percent of the final cost of the surgery.
That hefty toll on the parents inspired Roig and Dalba, who have been friends with Lacey for 20-plus years, to help out.
“We’re gonna do whatever we need to do to help them,” said Dalba, of Bohemia.
The two began organizing their Babylon Toddler Fun Run, and in just two weeks of planning, it amassed $3,500 and had 85 registered families through a fundraising website called Crowdrise.
Running a fundraiser is nothing new to Dalba, whose family created the Joseph M. Pizzurro Memorial Foundation in 2012 to honor her twin brother who passed away.
“I wanted to make an impact in my brother’s name,” she said.
Her family’s foundation, which donates scholarships to North Babylon graduating seniors who are interested in the creative arts like Joseph was, was the fun run’s sponsor.
“It was only supposed to be like 20 kids, but I posted it on social media and we got over 300 responses,” said Roig, of Babylon, on the event’s success.
According to the event organizers, the race was planned under a month ago with the help of quick approvals by Babylon School District Deputy Dr. Peter Daly and Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino.
“It was an amazing turn out with close to 100 runners,” Lacey told GreaterBabylon during the race.
Among the day’s participants were Michelle Onza, of Mastic, who brought her three children Kayla, 9, Tyler, 7, and Brayden, 3—they were all born with a rare birth defect called synostosis.
Onza attended the event because her eldest daughter Kayla was never diagnosed when she was born.
“I knew something was wrong in the beginning when doctors kept telling me she’s fine, she’s fine, there’s nothing,” Onza said after several neurologists and MRI scans reported nothing abnormal. “As soon as they did surgery her speech came back.”
In addition to helping the Keefer family and raise awareness for birth defects, the race also gave children an avenue to give back through Raising Toddlers Who Care – Toddle4aCause!, which is a nonprofit that emphasizes children are never too young to give back and fight for a cause.
As teachers in Kings Park School District, both Roig and Dalba understand the importance of getting kids involved in the community.
“We’re school teachers and we noticed a huge decline in children’s involvement overall with fundraisers,” said Doig, “I think parents are afraid because everything is so not safe anymore, but we need to find other ways to get them involved, and I think that’s something that’s lacking from the generations that are upcoming.”
Scroll down to see photos from the day.
Top: Babylon Toddler Fun Run participants enjoying the race. (Credit: Pietrina Dalba)