With his "Walk 4 Kids" only several weeks away, Richard Fenster of Carle Place is drumming up support for the Leukemia Society of America by throwing several benefits in the local area. He wants to help terminally ill and disabled kids by walking from his home in Carle Place to Orlando, Florida starting Sept. 12.
Rich Fenster (left), meets with friends and supporters at Shannon's Pub at a fund raiser to benefit the Leukemia Society of America. Also attending were his wife Maria (second from right), his brother, his parents and his children.
The first benefit was held at Shannon's bar in Williston Park on Aug. 8. Along with many of his friends, co-workers and well-wishers, were his closest supporters, his family. Attending the festivities were his wife Maria, his three children, his brother and his parents Warren and Peggy. Though the idea was quite unusual, they all believe that he can do it, if he sets his mind to it.
"He talked about it a lot. He wished he could do something for the children," Maria said. "This is something he's always wanted to do. I'm really for it. I've been supporting him all the way." She also said that Fenster's three sons don't fully understand the magnitude of his endeavor, but are also fully behind him. "They said 'if daddy's doing it for a good cause, we're happy.'"
His parents, though a bit worried about loss of income, are also fully backing his idea.
"We're very proud that he's doing this," Fenster's mother Peggy said. "I know he can do it. He's always had a big, big heart. He always puts everyone in front of himself."
So far, the only major concern coming from Fenster's loved ones is his safety, especially in wooded areas.
"I'm a little nervous about him walking in wooded areas, with snakes and such," Maria said. "But I said that if he gets past that, he'll be okay."
To raise money for the Leukemia Foundation, Fenster held several raffles, giving away prizes donated by local businesses, such as hair products, gift certificates and a bicycle. Guests at Shannon's were treated to live Irish music by Raphielle and a free buffet, with food provided by Rudy's Deli of Williston Park. Fenster has known Rudy's owner, Harry Hadjicharalanbous, for four years and spends his extra time helping out with errands.
"I think its great what he's doing," Hadjicharalanbous said, "Anything to help the people is nice. I'm going to help him as much as I can."
In the next few weeks, Fenster will be holding several more fundraisers at Walker and Willis in Albertson, the Irish American Center in Mineola, and Chunkys in Mineola.
According to Fenster, he has also been getting support from Home Depot, where he works full-time. He said that a fellow employee has volunteered to ride along with him and to provide supplies, in exchange for being given time off to take the trip. Without this added support, Fenster explained that he would have to bike part of the trail from New Jersey to the edge of Virginia. But these plans are not concrete, and Fenster said that "right now, it's up in the air."
Fenster's friend David Herpin also said that Fenster has already checked out the route, by driving down in a van. Herpin has been friends with Fenster for a couple of years, and they've worked together. He supports him, feeling that they follow the same philosophy.
"I know where he's coming from," he said. "I'm about people who are trying something against the odds. I'm also here to keep his morale up, keep his faith up."
Before the trek, Fenster will receive a blessing from Father Donald Hanson at Our Lady of Hope R.C. Church in Carle Place. The entire trip is expected to take over a month, with Fenster reaching Florida at the end of October. He will stop for food and lodging, which will come out of his own pocket.
All proceeds from the trip and parties will go to the Leukemia Foundation for research. Anyone wishing to help Fenster in his quest can call him at 741-6291 or the Leukemia Society at 752-8500.