More than 400 community members filed into the Coral House in Baldwin to eat dinner, vie to win prizes and raise more than $38,000 for the National Hemophilia Foundation on March 29, as part of the 11th annual Christopher’s Hemophilia Benefit.
This year’s event raised the most money for the organization, which funds research into a cure and educates the public about the disease. The Ambrosio family, of Lynbrook, started the fundraiser in 2009, and this year’s event boasted the highest attendance out of the previous 10. It also featured more than 400 raffle prizes, including cruises, sports packages and gift certificates to local businesses.
“Every year gets bigger and bigger,” said Kelly Ambrosio, one of the founders of the annual fundraiser.
Kelly’s son, Christopher, was born without factor VIII, an essential blood clotting protein necessary to prevent bleeding into the muscles, joints and organs. One day after his birth, he was diagnosed with hemophilia, a condition in which a person’s blood does not clot.
Throughout his life, Christopher — who is now 14 — has had to get his blood infused with Factor VIII, which became a difficult task when his body rejected it when he was 1, and again when he was 9. He has since changed Factor VIII brands, and last year, he decided to once again switch treatment to an injection. Kelly said he has been doing well since.
But the Ambrosios were not the only ones dealing with a child with hemophilia. When Christopher was almost 2, the family found out about another young boy in New York City whose family organized a hemophilia walk for his preschool class. The Ambrosios then became involved in the walk, which the National Hemophilia Foundation eventually sponsored and used as a model for walks across the country, according to Kelly.
She said that the walks have expanded, but the Ambrosios have consistently been one of the top donors.
To ensure that they continue to donate to the organization, the Ambrosios also partnered with local businesses. A percentage of Hewlett-based Marinara Pizzeria & Restaurant’s revenue from its lunch and dinner sales on April 8 were given to the cause, and anyone who shops at La Benes Clothesline in Malverne on May 3 could ask to donate a percentage of their purchase to Christopher’s Crew, a group created in Kelly’s son’s honor.
As for the fundraiser, Kelly said, she and her family were “overwhelmed and humbled to see how many people came out.”
“It’s always amazing,” she said. “We’re truly blessed.”