Been There, Beat That Kicks Off LLS Fundraising Campaign

 Been There, Beat That Kicks Off LLS Fundraising Campaign

By Katie McFadden

They both beat cancer. They’ve been waiting for their moment. And now is the time for Rocco Pisani and Siobhan O’Sullivan to shine as they team up to compete for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student Visionaries of the year! But they can’t do it without your help!

Team Been There, Beat That is ready to take on their next challenge—to raise as much money as possible for a charity that helped them and continues to help others through their battles with blood cancer, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). In May 2019, 9-year-old Siobhan O’Sullivan of Rockaway was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. And in May 2020, 10-year-old Rocco Pisani of Broad Channel began treatments for the same. Undergoing the same battle, it wasn’t long before their parents found support in one another, and Siobhan and Rocco found strength within one another, often side by side at Cohen Children’s Medical Center to receive treatments. Today, both 14-year-olds are cancer free, Siobhan going into remission in the summer of 2021 and Rocco, this past fall.

As survivors, both know firsthand just how hard that battle was and the struggles they had to overcome. As Pisani explains, while their treatments helped them defeat cancer, the treatment, developed more than 40 years ago, is made for adults, but given to children in lower doses. He says that resulted in some severe side effects. From needing his appendix removed due to inflammation in his intestines, to allergic reactions to chemo, stroke-like symptoms and hallucinations from pills, Pisani’s side effects ran the gamut. O’Sullivan also experienced a severe reaction before her last treatment that landed her in the hospital for 10 days around Christmas. It is because of those struggles that Pisani and O’Sullivan are fundraising for the research aspect of LLS, as the organization explores other treatments that might be more suitable for kids. “We just want to help LLS fund research so they can find a better way to treat kids, so others don’t have to go through that,” Pisani said. “No one should have to go through what Rocco and I went through,” O’Sullivan said.

Running for Student Visionaries of the Year gives them both the opportunity to raise as much money as they can for LLS. They both have some insider info on how to run a successful campaign, as Siobhan’s older sister, Julia, ran in 2022, Rocco’s friend Angelina LoBianco ran last year, and Rocco was even named Honored Hero of the Year by LLS last year and was given the role of serving as a motivator to all participating teams to do their best. After doing their best to beat cancer, Siobhan and Rocco have decided that working together as a team will give them the best chance of winning this year.

And with that, comes a ton of support behind their team. At LLS’ kickoff party for the Student Visionaries of the Year campaign at Slate NYC on Friday, January 26, out of about 20 competing teams in New York City, Pisani says they brought the biggest crowd. Comprised of friends, classmates, and young family members, Been There, Beat That has more than 30 members who are all doing their part to help Rocco and Siobhan raise the most funds. The teams have seven weeks, until March 15, to scrape every penny together, before the winner will be announced.

And they have a lot of fun ways in which the community can help support their effort, that goes beyond just writing a check. One way is to eat! For three Wednesdays this month, February 7, 21 and 28, when people dine at The Wharf, Pico, Harbor Light, Callie’s, Bungalow Bar, La Sorrentina, or Rocco’s of Roc Beach, each restaurant will be donating a portion of the bill toward the cause. “Rocco and Siobhan went into each place and gave a flyer and they all said yes. It helps during such a slow time, when people might not have gone out on a Wednesday night to eat, but now this can help drum up business, while raising money for LLS,” Rocco’s father, Rob Pisani said.

Then, on Saturday, February 10, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Siobhan’s dad, Jerry O’Sullivan and family friend Rich Pontieri will be bartending at Jamesons on Beach 129th. They will be donating all tips towards the cause and Chris Solo will also be donating time playing music.

Pizza lovers will enjoy the event on Saturday, February 17, as La Sorrentina on Beach 129th Street, will be hosting a Teens Fight for Cancer pizza night. For a $30 ticket, kids from 12-16 can enjoy pizza, DJ music, soda and water from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (For tickets, send $30 through Venmo @beenthere-beatthat with the “child’s name – pizza event” in the memo.)

As Rockaway celebrates St. Patrick’s month, U2 tribute band, 2U, will be playing at The Rockaway Hotel’s Pool House on Beach 108th Street from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, March 9. The $40 a person night includes 2U, and DJ sets in between, plus a 50/50 and other raffles. Tickets will go on sale starting February 8.

As the campaign goes on, Rocco, Siobhan and their teammates will be selling $100 raffle tickets, for a shot at winning a $10K grand prize or smaller prizes. Winners will be announced on Facebook live on March 13. Some tickets will also be available at Bagel & Barista Station on Beach 116th Street.

Bagel & Barista is also making other efforts to support the cause. Throughout the campaign, customers will be asked at checkout if they’d like to donate anywhere from $1 to $20. Also, throughout February, they are running a “Souper Bowl” effort in which a dollar from every soup purchase, will be donated toward LLS.

Some other fundraising efforts include dress down days at schools with participating team members, a penny war, in which the class that collects the most pennies will be rewarded with a pizza party, and a flamingo flocking effort, in which neighbors can make a donation to “flock” a neighbor with flamingo signs on their lawn for two days (Text Danielle at 646-957-1454 for details).

Having so many friends, neighbors and local businesses involved in the effort to help them win means a lot to Rocco and Siobhan. “It feels really nice that so many people want to help kids going through this. People are good in their hearts, and it feels good that we’re not alone,” Rocco Pisani said.

Siobhan’s mom, Maura O’Sullivan, says that support has been there from the start. “I want to thank everyone. We live in a great neighborhood that was so supportive the whole time they were sick, and we were blown away by people’s generosity and compassion and concern, and to see so many people come out again to support them means a lot,” Maura O’Sullivan said.

To donate directly to Team Been There, Beat That, head to:

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