Crusading for Children with Cancer
Meet Andrea Verdone. I looked up the word “crusader” and the Oxford definition is, “a person who campaigns vigorously for political, social, or religious change; a campaigner.” I don’t like cliches, but Andrea is a true advocate for children with cancer — a crusader!
Andrea and her husband, Dan Gorsegner were living in Rutherford, NJ. She was working in NYC for a magazine publishing company and Dan was running the family business installing and refinishing hardwood floors — a local business, Gorsegner Brothers. Then on August 16, 2012, their three-year-old daughter, Natalie, the younger of their two daughters, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Andrea had come home from work and noticed Natalie had red pin-sized dots around her eyes and felt that she was probably coming down with something. Later that weekend, Natalie’s fever spiked. By Tuesday, Dan had taken her to the pediatrician where she was diagnosed with a “summer virus,” and just two days later after symptoms escalated Andrea took Natalie to Hackensack University Medical Center where her diagnosis came back as Leukemia.
Andrea never returned to work and the family went from two incomes to one so they knew that keeping their current home wasn’t an option. With that, they sold their house and decided to relocate closer to Dan’s work and family so in July of 2013 they moved back to Middletown.
Andrea felt a strong need to learn more about this disease and immersed herself to learn more about all childhood cancers. She discovered there are more than a dozen types of childhood cancers and 100’s of subcategories. She also learned that childhood cancer is incredibly under-funded — from the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancers only receive 4% of all research dollars for all types of childhood cancers.
Andrea began documenting Natalie’s story on a public Facebook page, primarily to keep family and friends up to date on her progress. The page had many followers and in April 2013, she decided to raise money for childhood cancer research. If each of her followers would donate $1, she could possibly raise $5,000 or $10,000. So she posted a handwritten sign that said — Would you send us one dollar for pediatric cancer research? Within a few hours, the post had been shared hundreds of times. She decided to set a goal that by September (Natalie’s birthday month and Childhood Cancer Awareness month) they would raise $50,000 and she called it Natalie’s Birthday Wish. They received money from all over the country, even outside the country. By Natalie’s birthday, $110,000 was raised! She decided to earmark that donation to a more aggressive form of Leukemia — AML.
By the winter, she thought that she could do this again. But this time, she got more creative and asked people to help by holding their own mini fundraisers as well. That time, they raised $164,000 and that money would go towards research for Ewing’s Sarcoma. Knowing that she wanted to continue raising funds for childhood cancer research, Andrea created the 501 C(3) organization called Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer.
Since that very first fundraiser, Infinite Love has given over $1 million to research and in the last few years, they also began helping families directly. For example, they sent the brother of one of their “fighters” to a Jets game with four of his friends getting picked up in a limo and hanging out VIP style in the Jets green room. They’ve built dream tree houses, paid for car repairs, arranged special breaks for parents and last winter, they unfortunately organized and paid for the funeral of a boy who wanted to be put to rest in the Florida waters (Eternal Reefs) as his dream in life was to become a marine biologist. Infinite Love flew his immediate family down for the service, and wanting to end their trip on a happier note, they also sent his family to Disney and Sea World, as that’s what this boy would have wanted for his two younger brothers.
Infinite Love has been able to fulfill 26 research grants to some of the country’s leading research hospitals and facilities. Each year they focus their fundraising efforts on a different form of childhood cancer. This way, not only are they supporting each type financially, but they’re also educating the online community that otherwise might not know these different types of childhood cancers even exist.
Infinite Love also sets up online fundraisers (via their website) to help families directly. Not only does the foundation absorb any of the processing fees, but also the families receive every penny that is raised on their page. In one case, Andrea posted a fundraising page on their Facebook page for a family that needed financial assistance, it was shared widely and within one week they raised $26,000.
Infinite Love is run completely by volunteers. Andrea has a small team of core members that she says have made Infinite Love what it is today — nobody takes a salary, not even Andrea. But they also have about 90 members, mainly local, that jump in to help with one-time tasks, and help as it’s needed for fundraising events and special projects. At the end of February, unbeknownst to Infinite Love they held their last (for now) in-person fundraiser, Pocketbook Bingo, which was completely sold out in less than two days.
When I asked her where she wants to take the organization in 5 or 10 years, Andrea said, “I would love to double what we bring in now, but it’s tough when you don’t have a FT staff. With that my main objective is to be able to continue helping the families who need it and to continue to fund vital research. As long as we’re able to do both in one capacity or another I’m happy.
Andrea and Dan’s daughter Natalie is now 11 years old. She is now 6 years cancer free and “cured,” a word they use once the person has been cancer free for five years.
I had to ask Andrea what is something on your bucket list. Here is what she said — “I definitely would love to travel as a family, show the girls more of our beautiful country and the world. But really I just want the luxury of growing old, watching my healthy girls grow to live their best life, and eventually perhaps Dan and I will even fulfill our dream to one day live steps from the beach so that we can start each day off with our toes in the sand. And while this sounds incredibly cheesy, I’d also love the continued opportunity to help more people. I’m not sure why, but it never feels as though what I’m doing on a personal level is ever enough.”
This year has been tough for all non-profit organizations and Infinite Love For Kids is no exception. But they are getting very creative and on December 12, they are holding their very first Annual Spin 4 Kids fundraiser — a virtual biking fundraiser. And if you are not a rider, please consider a donation.
Info and Registration can be found here: