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Stop by and help the Buscettos fight a battle that's touched us all

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published October 31. 2013 4:00AM

This is an old line from Mel Brooks: "I don't know what to say, so I'll just say what's in my heart ... Baboom, Baboom, Baboom."


And pretty solid advice, too: If you don't know what to say, say what's in your heart.

It is the rare occasion when Mike Buscetto - funny, flippant, provocative - doesn't know what to say. But trying to make sense of cancer bewilders us all. And it wasn't long ago when Buscetto's children, watching cancer afflict their grandmother, confronted him with a question he couldn't answer:

"Dad, why do bad things happen to good people?"

Buscetto's answer was to say and do what's in his heart.

Buscetto, who co-owns Filomena's Restaurant in Waterford with his brother, Bill, has invited everyone in for lunch or dinner through this week. He will match all donations from restaurant patrons made to the new Lawrence + Memorial Cancer Center.

Bill Buscetto, also the athletic director at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, said more than $500 was donated Monday night alone.

"I wanted to do something," Mike was saying Tuesday night. "My mother-in-law, Anna Gilger, died from cancer at 65. I know L + M was building the new cancer center. I want to do something not only for my mother-in-law, but for everyone affected by it. We're all affected by it.

"I thought of where I see the most people and it's at the restaurant," he said. "A lot of people can't donate thousands of dollars. This way, people can donate whatever they can and I'll match it dollar for dollar."

Buscetto has been the backbone of the sports community around here since his playing days at St. Bernard. He's always there. Watching his kids play. Coaching. Acts of philanthropy. Now Buscetto becomes a bridge between a disease that affects us all and sports, our greatest outlet from real life.

Think about cancer's affect on the sports community:

There's the late Jack McDonald, umpire, referee, friend and father of John, who plays for the Red Sox. There is John Contillo, a coach in Waterford and Montville. There's Ann Marie Houle and Liz Sutman, two high school softball coaches, whose teams play a "Play for the Cure" game every year, a fundraiser to fight breast cancer.

There are the women who gather on the court at Mohegan Sun Arena before a selected Sun game every year, all breast cancer survivors. There's Linda Pfeiffer of New London, whose basketball and softball players during her coaching days at New London High raised more than $20,000 for cancer research. There's Donato Auriemma, Geno's dad, who died of it. There's Jim Calhoun, who has survived it several times.

There's Hal Levy, mentor to many media members in and out of Connecticut, formerly of the Groton News, who died of it. There's Raheem Carter, former New London police officer and Fitch High quarterback, who has inspired many gatherings, reunions, fundraisers, remembrances and awareness in the wake of his death. There's Pam Sdao, wife of Dave, who has coached cross country and track at East Lyme High. There's Taylor Emery, an East Lyme kid, who died of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, never forgotten by his friends and teammates. There's James Johnson, an AAU basketball coach and former girls' basketball coach at New London High, who just died of it.

There's John Ellis and the Connecticut Sports Foundation dinner. There's Mason Etman, who, with the help of the foundation, survived multiple surgeries as a 3-year-old boy and beat the disease. There's the late Joe Sullivan of Waterford, former youth coach, star of the show at the Thames Barber Shop. There's late Fitch basketball coaches Terry Purcell and Charles Hillman. There's Katie Douglas, former Sun guard, both of whose parents died of cancer. There's Richie Conover, basketball coach, who beat it. There's Sal Amanti, New London icon, who battled it for 28 years.

There are so many more unintentionally omitted.

"The thing that touched me is that it's going to be such a dignified experience at the cancer center," Buscetto said. "I want (the money) to go toward the patient experience. People here would have to go to Boston and pay thousands of dollars for hotel rooms. Now instead of having to do it up there, you get your treatment here. What an asset to the community."

Cancer, maybe more than any other illness, compels disconcerting, disheartening, dismaying thoughts of mortality. But there is always faith, the kind of faith that is a lifeline, a light for the way. It's all we have sometimes. All we hold on to. Faith, as has been suggested, is like electricity: You can't see it. But you can see the light.

And all of us can intensify the light by walking into Filomena's today, tonight and Friday and giving what we can. Mike Buscetto will inspire thousands and thousands of other cancer patients and their families with our help. Bravo.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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