Benvenuto grateful for Gateway support with cancer fundraiser
Anthony Benvenuto is a sophomore member of the Gateway junior varsity boys basketball team, and he knows about battling on the court to help his team earn a victory.
Benvenuto also knows all about what it's like to battle with an even more challenging opponent.
Five years ago, the 15-year-old began a fight against both leukemia and lymphoma.
“I actually wasn't getting any symptoms,” Anthony said. “But we were on the way to a Pirates game, and I found this lump on the back of my head. I told my mom that I hadn't felt anything like that before. We went to the doctor and got the diagnosis.”
A treatment plan was quickly put into effect with chemotherapy included.
“I really didn't understand what was going on at the time,” Anthony said. “Things were really emotional with my family. I eventually got to the point where I knew what was going on. My family was very supportive, and they didn't let it bring me down.”
With support from family and friends, Anthony fought the cancer, and today, he is in remission.
Nerve complications in his feet, a side effect of the chemotherapy treatments, slows him down a little bit, but Anthony said loves to play basketball and be with his friends, teammates and coaches who support him every step of the way.
He served as a varsity team manager in seventh and eighth grade. He was on the bench for Gateway's first two trips to the WPIAL championship game at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center, and he witnessed up close the Gators' first of back-to-back WPIAL titles.
Benvenuto was back at the Palumbo Center last year at the Gators won it all again.
“All of my teammates have supported me through everything,” he said.
Benvenuto also said he has sparked a special relationship with Dr. Cleveland Steward, an assistant coach for the Gators, and Chuck Myers, the head coach of the Gateway varsity softball team, who also serves as the boys basketball squad's scorebook keeper.
Both Steward and Myers are lymphoma survivors.
“We all understand and relate to what we went through,” Benvenuto said.
A Green Out event was held at the Furrie Sports Complex on Jan. 29 during the doubleheader against Franklin Regional, and Lee Ann Benvenuto, Anthony's mother and the head organizer of the event, said $794 was raised for the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society's Pittsburgh branch.
She said that more than $2,000 has been raised overall during events since the fall.
“It's such a good feeling when you raise money for such a good cause,” LeeAnn Benvenuto said.
“The community really comes out and supports the events each time. Coach (Mitch) Adams and the boys basketball team really supports the cause, and the players are always behind Anthony. Coach (Aaron) Tipton on the JV team always is right there to encourage Anthony when he is having a bad day. It shows they really care about something more than just basketball on the court. It makes you feel good as a parent.”
Money was raised during the most recent Green Out event through several avenues, including the sale of T-shirts.
Green T-shirts were everywhere during the Franklin Regional doubleheader, including on the backs of the boisterous Gators student section.
Lee Ann Benvenuto said she couldn't have organized the Green Out event without the support of many people, including co-organizers Jerri Shorr and Suzanne Kromka.
For more on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit www.lls.org.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.