Bay Ridge

On the Avenue: Ben-Bay Kiwanis Club delivers $30,000 raised for FDNY family in need

March 19, 2022 Editorial Staff
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Signed, sealed and delivered!

Members of the Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge were pleased to be able to present a check for $30,000 to Firefighter Reno Genovese of Engine 284, Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights at a special event hosted by his “Castle on the Hill” mates on March 8. The money was raised through a Facebook fundraiser organized and shared by the Club less than a month earlier upon learning of Genovese’s wife Michele’s battle with a rare form of brain cancer. The couple has three young children together — Gia, Gemma and Matteo.

“We knew immediately that we wanted to help this family,” Ben-Bay Kiwanis Club President Thomas Aellis said. “But we also knew that so many other people would want to show their support for one of the city’s ‘Bravest,’ so we decided to post it online as a fundraiser. From there, it just took off.”

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Fellow “Castle on the Hill” Firefighter Mike Sapia was the one who first made Kiwanis aware of the situation when he visited the Club “on the avenue” during a meeting at Cebu Bar & Bistro, 8801 Third Ave.

He spoke about an event he was organizing on behalf of his FDNY brother following Michele’s sudden and tragic diagnosis. In late November 2021, she began experiencing debilitating headaches but didn’t think much of it until she woke up with partial paralysis of her face, Sapia said.

“That’s when they knew something was wrong,” he said. “They called 911, she went for tests and then it came back that it was brain cancer.”

Since the diagnosis, Michele has been waging a courageous but costly battle against the disease. Determined not to give up, the couple recently switched hospitals and began a new series of treatments.

The Kiwanians and Sapia himself used their connections to spread the word through Facebook and email, which contributed to the fundraiser surpassing its initial $25,000 goal in such a short time.

Firefighter Reno Genovese (center) is pictured at a March 8 benefit at which he received a check for $30,000 donated to his family through a fundraiser organized by members of the Kiwanis Club of Bensonhurst & Bay Ridge, led by President Thomas Aellis (left). Radio personality Joe Causi (right) was also present at the event to show his support for the family as Genovese’s wife battles brain cancer.

“About two weeks in we were thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring a big check to the family at the benefit Mike was organizing in Staten Island,’” Aellis said. “By week three we knew we were going to hit our goal and then some, so a bunch of us bought tickets to support the event and also to make this very special presentation. Special thanks to the Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator for helping us to get the word out as well. Their support was huge.”

Sapia was overjoyed to learn that Ben-Bay Kiwanis would be there at the Richmond County Yacht Club on March 8 to support the “No One Fights Alone” benefit and to meet the family. He had received a strong response already from friends, family and special guests like radio personality Joe Causi who pledged to attend and show their support.

“The benefit was a great success,” Sapia said. “More than 250 people attended. Reno and Michele were in attendance for a short while, but were completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends and family, but especially the Ben-Bay Kiwanis Club!”

Aellis said the Club will continue to accept donations through Facebook at and will make sure that future donations get delivered to the family as well.

What an incredible outpouring of support — and it all started with a simple meeting “on the avenue!”

* * *

The warmer weather is on its way, but it’s not too late to #EmbraceWinter!

The Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance is hosting its 10th Annual Embrace Winter Festival in partnership with the Merchants of Third Avenue Civic Improvement Association on Saturday, March 19.

The festival features a lively art walk along Third Avenue, beginning at noon at Owl’s Head Yoga, 278 73rd St. Participants will walk to 89th Street, enjoying artwork on display at several spots along the way. Five of the artists displaying their work along Third Avenue are scheduled to appear and speak and answer questions about their displays, organizers said.

The event will end with a reception hosted by Cellary, 8916 Third Ave., with noshes provided by ALC Italian Grocery, 8613 Third Ave., and music by Reel Celtic. Tickets are $20 per adult and $5 per child. Reservations are recommended.

Contact [email protected] for a reservation or further information.

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