The community rallied for Ralph Sunday.
Family, friends, co-workers, friends and co-workers of family members ... they all gathered at the St. Peter Knights of Columbus hall, Riverview Banquets, to enjoy picture-perfect June weather and a picnic atmosphere and to . All proceeds from the afternoon, which included hot dogs, brats and potato chips, plus games for the kids, a cake walk, more baked goods that you can imagine and a raffle, will help the Dantino family defray medical expenses associated with Ralph’s three-year-plus battle against cancer of the appendix.
It’s a rare form of the disease, and Ralph’s battle has been hard-fought, including an intensive surgery last September in Baltimore. Complications followed, and turned what had been planned as a two-week or so stay into more than 60 days in that city. (And THAT was followed by more time in rehab and in a hospital in Chicago.)
In the interest of disclosure, let me say that Ralph and wife Nancy are close friends of ours, and my husband and I were among the foot soldiers helping organize the “Rally for Ralph.” A turnout of several hundred Sunday afternoon proves we are far from the only ones lucky enough to call them friends.
And the reaction of everyone involved was wonderful. There were untold offers of help in any capacity possible or needed. Individuals, businesses and organizations donated gift certificates, gift baskets, gourmet food baskets, artwork, two grills (one gas, one traditional), a stay (including parking) at a downtown Chicago condo, great tickets (and parking!) to a Bears game, tickets to two Sox games, a 42-inch flat-screen television set, a hand-painted in-home mural, a stay at Geneva’s Herrington Inn and plenty of gift certificates to local restaurants. All in all, there were more than 75 items offered; merchants were generous, as were friends and co-workers who put together their own baskets and donations.
All in all, it was a fabulous afternoon. There were tons of people having fun playing games or the Cake Walk, catching up with people they hadn’t seen in a while, devouring hot dogs and brats and cookies and cakes, dancing to the music of a DJ and perusing all the raffle items while picnic-goers decided which ones they wanted to try to win.
And the love for the Dantinos was like a physical presence. I am sure they felt it, much as I’m also sure that all of them would prefer being on the sidelines, and would so much rather be giving to others (as most of us would, I’m also sure). But as Patch editor Rick Nagel said in his story on Monday, "But this is one of those rare cases when you have to say, sorry, we're doing this for you anyway."
“It’s like a reunion,” one Genevan said, surveying the crowd and picking out various subgroups of different people she knew, from different pockets of her own life, certainly, but mostly from the Dantinos’ lives: Mothers’ Club of Geneva, the school community (Nancy was a PTO president twice, Ralph was on the School Board and both were active volunteers when their children were in school), LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, work, the kids, sports teams, the “chain gang” from Geneva High School football teams (Ralph’s a proud member), St. Peter Catholic Church and other churches, city officials (Ralph is Fifth Ward alderman and former member of the Geneva Plan Commission) and others.
It WAS like a reunion. And it was an afternoon that showed once more how great it is to be a member of the Geneva community, as it turned out not only to enjoy each other’s company but also to support a member of that community.
Connie Wagner, who spearheaded the Rally for Ralph, said it best, early on: “To me, this is Geneva at its best ... It’s why we moved here, it’s why we live here and why we love it here.”
(Those who were not able to attend, but who would still like to contribute ... there’s still time! Send checks to Rally for Ralph, care of the State Bank of Geneva, 22 S. Fourth St., Geneva, 60134.)