Rockaway is coming together for a family that has been there for the community in every way. Some may recognize the Hanna name from their work serving the community as owners of Brown’s Hardware. Last year, The Rockaway Times named Liz Hanna as Person of the Year for all of the selfless work she’s done for the local area, even after the business was sold. Now her family is in need of some help themselves. On Friday, October 14, a benefit is being held at the Knights of Columbus on behalf of Liz’s brother, Brian Hanna, who is in the process of recovering from a long-awaited liver transplant.
More than 20 years ago, Brian Hanna was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The diagnosis was followed up with a life of medications to help maintain normalcy. About a year ago, the medications were no longer doing what they needed to, but they had caused severe damage to his liver. Brian had become so ill that he hit a point where the only thing standing between him living a long life, was a liver transplant. And so began the process to get on the list.
To speed up the process and give him a better chance at getting an organ, Brian’s medical team referred him to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Brian uprooted his life, making the move to Florida with his wife, Lisa, leaving their daughter, Danielle, a senior in high school, under the care of her grandparents in Rockaway. Shortly after, Liz Hanna drove down so her brother and his wife would have a car to use. Within roughly two weeks of making the move to Florida, a miracle came. Brian got the call. He raced to the hospital 10 minutes later, went under at 1 a.m. and by 7:15 the next morning, doctors reported that everything had gone well.
Brian Hanna is now in the recovery process, as doctors monitor him with daily bloodwork, looking for signs of rejection or complications, which requires an extended stay in Florida, before he’ll be given the all clear to return home.
Having to start a new temporary life in Florida, comes at a cost. Costs that have accrued since Brian started getting sick last year, resulting in him having to leave his job at Sloan Kettering, and not knowing if he’ll ever be able to return to work. As someone who takes pride in being the main supporter of his family, that in itself was a big financial hit. On top of that, the Hanna family is now having to pay for living costs in both Florida and in Rockaway, and with no income coming in, it’s been an added stress on an already stressful situation as Brian recovers.
Realizing the reality of her brother’s struggles, the woman who seems to do everything for everyone, Liz Hanna, reached out for a little help. And without hesitation, some of her closest friends are stepping up to the plate to do what they can.
Mike Coogan, who has known Liz Hanna since first grade, as well as Jody Sautner, who has known the family for more than 30 years, plus Jen Fabry, Gail Vicente, Mary-Kate Touhey, Terrie Macklin, Eileen Savelli and Christine James have formed a committee, the “Friends of BH” to organize a fundraising effort to help give the Hanna family the support they need during this trying time, and they’re hoping the community joins in this effort.
“With the transplant, they’ve incurred expenses such as two residences and Brian had to take a leave of absence from his job, and we don’t know if he’s going to be able to go back. Not being able to support his family was one extra level of stress for his family to deal with. So when Liz asked us for help, it was a no brainer. She’s always the one to help and not usually the one to ask for help, but she asked on her brother’s behalf,” Sautner said. “Both Brian and his wife are out of work and it’s a lot. They’re really living a whole second life now and both lives need to be funded. Their savings have already taken a hit over the past year with Brian being sick, so if we can do something to help ease some of their burden, we want to do that. So we hope to come together as a community and do one of the things Rockaway does best, and help this family.”
On Friday, October 14, all are welcome to come out for a fundraiser for Brian Hanna from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus (333 Beach 90th Street). Tickets are $50 and include food, beverages, access to raffles for some fabulous prizes generously donated by local businesses, plus live entertainment from popular local party band Wine With Sue and DJs@Work.
According to Coogan and Sautner, Rockaway is already rallying to show support. “We’re expecting to have a good turnout. There’s been a lot of buzz and people are excited to come and lend their support,” Sautner said. “The Knights has been great, and the Graybeards have given us good guidance and there’s been a tremendous outpouring of support from merchants donating toward the raffle prizes.”
“Anyone we’ve spoke to has embraced this and would love to help,” Coogan said. Sautner added, “It always comes back to the same thing. Every person we’ve spoken to said, ‘Anything for Liz Hanna, she would do anything for us.”
Tickets to the fundraiser on October 14 can be purchased at the door on the night of the event or in advance by sending a Venmo payment of $50 to @Jody-Sautner
For anyone who cannot attend the event, there are still ways to show support. Anyone can buy a 50/50 ticket for $50 from any of the organizers or by sending a Venmo payment to @Jody-Sautner. A check can be sent to The Graybeards, with a memo “For the Friends of BH” to Graybeards’ c/o Friend In Need BH, 129-04 Newport Avenue, Belle Harbor, NY 11694. The group has also set up a GoFundMe, “Benefitting Brian ‘Hammer’ Hanna,” and direct donations can be made at: www.gofundme.com/f/kvgeum-helping-brian