The Marie C. Petrilli Cancer Research and Treatment Memorial Fund will mark its 15th anniversary with “A Walk to Remember Marie” on Sept. 13 at Deer Island.
Mrs. Petrilli passed away on June 19, 1999 at the age of 39 following a long battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Al Petrilli and Marie Cavaleri Petrilli were married for 11 years. They had worked together at the Boston Athletic Club, he as racquetball professional, she as a human resources coordinator.
“Marie was my soul mate, always my best friend,” said Petrilli. “We had a great time together. We went out together for five years before we got married and we married for 11 years. We moved to Seal Harbor in Winthrop and brought up our two children there and then exploded out of the condominium when they were two and four. We found a house on Nahant Avenue and I’ve been there since.”
They have two children, Albert Jr., 24, a three-sport athlete at Winthrop High School who holds a degree in Computer Science from Endicott College and works as a data storage engineer, and Marielle, 22, a cheerleader at Winthrop High School and graduate of Stonehill College, who is now studying at Simmons College to become a nurse practitioner.
Mrs. Petrilli received cancer treatment for 16 months at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Al Petrilli and his younger brother, David, decided to launch a foundation in her memory soon after her death.
“We consider Mass. General Hospital one of the best institutions in the world,” said Petrilli. “During the course of my wife’s treatments, we felt the hospital needed some capital improvements to make the patients feel better about their environment. We thought that the nurses would need to be recognized for their outstanding work. Our whole mission was to improve patient care for cancer patients and their families. We decided to renovate two patients’ lounges at Mass. General. We bought a blanket warmer for patients receiving chemotherapy treatments that cost us $8,000. We tried to improve on the little things that actually meant so much to all cancer patients and their families.”
Petrilli, who is vice president and senior loan officer at MSA Mortgage in Winthrop, said the foundation spent more than $100,000 making these improvements during the first couple of years.
“Our goal was to bring awareness, in our own little way, to the hospital so they would make major overall changes to improve patient care.”
In the past 15 years, the foundation has awarded 33 scholarships to oncology nurses at MGH totaling more than $65,000. The first two scholarship recipients were Mrs. Petrilli’s oncology nurses.
The foundation also annually presents three $1,000 scholarships to WHS seniors who intend to pursue careers in the nursing profession.
“The largest number of our donations have gone to everyday situations that we’re confronted with,” said Petrilli. “For example, in 2014 we presented a Marie C. Petrilli Courageous Award for $3,000 to Glenna Carew, (following an earlier $5,000 to her), who is currently battling a serious form of cancer. Her son, Chris, who was a great athlete at Winthrop High, grew up with my son, Albert, and is one of his best friends.”
The foundation hosted golf tournaments in 2013 and 2014 that raised $220,000.
The first Walk to Remember Marie was held in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of her death.
“This year’s Walk is going to be geared toward families,” said Al Petrilli. “There will be a $25 registration and we’re doing it as a pledge walk with a minimum pledge of $100 per participant. The 2.6 mile race will start at 10:30 a.m. The walk will start at 11 a.m.”
Petrilli said there will be musical entertainment, yogurt from yosogood and pizza from Crest Avenue Pizza.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun day for families,” said Petrilli. “Our goal is to raise thousands of dollars so we can help people.”
Petrilli said the foundation’s outreach has exceeded expectations.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” said Petrilli. “When I started the foundation, I wanted to keep Marie’s spirit alive because she was so young and had two young kids, my children. And I didn’t want my kids, being so young, to forget their mother. I kept the foundation going because I truly believe that I like to make a difference. That’s just the way I am. And I knew that coupled with my brother’s energy, the two of us would make a difference and help touch people for the rest of our lives.”
Petrilli is the former chairman of the Viking Pride Foundation. Now that he has stepped away from that role, he has been able to devote more time to the Marie C. Petrilli Fund.