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Drive keeps memory of loved one alive through benefit to assist others

After Monica Senese died unexpectedly seven years ago, her family wanted her kind spirit to be remembered.

Liz Bernardone described her 23-year-old sister as "a kind-hearted person who was nice to everyone." The 1995 Niagara-Wheatfield graduate died from a fall in 2000.

That was the characteristic her family aimed to memorialize.

"Family, friends and I were thinking of a way to remember my sister, and we thought we should do something to help out a local family," Bernardone said.

They decided to establish an annual benefit to raise funds for a local person needing help to offset expenses not covered by medical insurance. The event always is scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving, to be more convenient to those from out of town.

The benefit raised $7,000 in its first year, an amount that more than doubled to $15,000 last year. Bernardone said they want to break the record this year, the third for the benefit.

Proceeds from this year's event will go to the Kasprzyk family of Amherst.

Nine-month-old Mikey Kasprzyk has cerebral palsy, with difficulties swallowing, seeing and speaking, plus possible hearing loss.

Michael Kasprzyk, Mikey's father, said his son survived a 90-day hospital stay following his birth.

He requires 24-hour attention because he remains susceptible to choking to death.

"He's doing as well as he can. He still requires an awful lot of care," Michael Kasprzyk said.

The family has had trouble finding nurses to help care for Mikey. Michael and his wife, Michelle, who herself nearly died because of complications from Mikey's birth, share the overnight duties four times a week.

The family is very thankful to relatives, friends and people they don't even know for their assistance in very tough times, Kasprzyk said.

The benefit will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Adams Fire Hall, 7113 Nash Road. Admission of $20 includes food and beverages. Drawings, split clubs and gift baskets will be featured. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

"We'll be taking donations up until Friday [for the event]," Bernardone said. She can be contacted at 622-5037 or at Checks made out to the Monica Senese Memorial Fund can be sent to the fund at 6952 Walmore Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14304.

Aaron Besecker of the News Niagara Bureau contributed to this report.


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