Story by Marianne Salza
Al Petrilli’s late wife, Marie, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1997. She endured arduous cancer treatments for a year and eight months afterwards she sat in an austere community lounge that overlooked the State House as a respite, but the room felt dreary.
Following Marie’s passing in June 1999, at the age of 39, Al was determined to bring warmth to the Massachusetts General Hospital room. Patients, he fervently believed, should take this time to be at peace and focus on their recovery. With a couch, sheer curtains, and a rug, Al and his loved ones renovated the lounge to feel more like home.
“As a spouse of a patient going through treatment, it’s frustrating because you see the weaknesses in the health system. The focus is to get the patient better, but improvements need to be done to make the patient and spouse more comfortable,” explained Al, who promptly co-founded the Marie C. Petrilli Cancer & Treatment Memorial Fund in Marie’s honor with his brother, David.
For two decades, the non-profit organization that has been spearheaded by family and friends: Al and Marie’s children, Al and Marielle, Marie’s sisters, Al’s brother, David Petrilli, and Al’s partner, Heather Clucas, and her children, Kevin, Dan and Emilie, have been supporting families and advocating for patient care.
“Twenty years later you see many improvements,” said Al, whose foundation provided the first blanket warmer to Mass. General. “Things we suggested are being done.”
Each year, the Petrilli Fund recognizes Mass. General oncology nurses and caregivers through three scholarships to assist in furthering their education. Since the organization’s inception, 60 such awards have been presented.
The Foundation also provides WHS graduating seniors a scholarship for students entering a nursing program.
The Petrilli Fund presents courageous awards to patients undergoing treatment, and offers financial assistance to help families pay for mortgages, hospital co-payments, transportation, and prosthetics.
“While we want to make sure somebody finds a cure for this horrible disease, the majority of our funds go directly to the patient and their families,” noted Al, adding that 10% of their funds benefit cancer research. Petriili estimates that they have given over $500,000 to improve patient care with financial assistance.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Marie’s passing, the Petrilli Fund held an All White Attire Disco Night fundraiser on Sept. 7, at the family’s Winthrop home.
“It was a fun time,” said Al, Producing Branch Manager, NewFed Mortgage. “We’re small, but we do big things. We change lives.”
Visit www.MarieCPetrilli.com to donate and learn more about resources.