The 35-member St. Mary’s High School chamber choir serenaded cancer patients at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) on Dec. 14 as members of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation moved from room-to-room with gifts and food while spreading holiday cheer.
Part of an annual tradition, the family-led holiday party, complete with a visit from Santa Claus, lifted the spirits of patients being treated within the hospital’s Don Monti Division of Oncology and Hematology, which includes the largest adult bone marrow and stem cell transplant unit in the Long Island/Queens region—and the only transplant program accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation in Cellular Therapy.
“It’s a nice gesture, a distraction to take your mind off everything else,” said Jorge Castrillon, 29, of Elmont, who has been hospitalized at NSUH for three weeks during his nearly two-year fight with leukemia, one of more than 700 patients who have received treatment in the unit over the last year. That number includes about 100 bone marrow transplants.
“These patients have been forced onto this journey of cancer that they never wanted,” said Caroline Monti Saladino, the foundation’s president and sister of the late Don Monti. “My mother’s philosophy was always, ‘Let’s make the journey more bearable. Let’s bring some joy.’ That’s especially true this time of year when people are in the hospital. We want to bring a sense of Christmas, Hanukkah and the holidays to them.”
David Deleon, 54, of West Hempstead, LI, had been hospitalized for 44 days while battling leukemia when the Foundation stopped by his room. “Me, I’m feeling good. But there are people in worse situations than me,” said Mr. Deleon, who is eagerly awaiting the day he can return home. “It’s truly important to bring morale up for those less fortunate, those seriously ill.”
The annual holiday tradition, which dates to the 1980s, was born from tragedy. The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation was created by Tita and Joseph Monti after their 16-year-old son, Don, died at NSUH of myeloblastic leukemia in June 1972. Within days of his passing, the Foundation was dedicated to the mission of finding a cure for cancer. The Cold Spring Harbor-based charity has since raised and contributed tens of millions of dollars toward cancer research, education, fellowship and patient care. In addition to the holiday celebration for patients, the Monti and Saladino families hosted a holiday party on Dec. 15 for more than 200 staff from the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Beyond its longstanding history of philanthropy at NSUH, the Monti Foundation also supports Don Monti Cancer Centers at Northwell Health’s Glen Cove, Huntington and Plainview hospitals. All are part of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, which is composed of inpatient and outpatient clinical cancer centers throughout the New York region, bringing together a team of more than 200 multidisciplinary physicians and clinical scientists spanning early detection, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
“From helping to build and sustain our inpatient cancer facilities, to propelling the progress of translational research, to providing nurturing, supportive care for our patients, the Monti and Saladino families have contributed in countless ways to our very foundation as a Cancer Institute,” said George Raptis, MD, senior vice president of cancer services at Northwell Health, and acting executive director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute.
To support the life-saving efforts at North Shore University Hospital or other cancer initiatives throughout Northwell Health, make a donation to the Northwell Health Foundation.