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Comunale's "can-do" attitude helps others


Losing a child is every parent's worst fear. 

For Steve Comunale, it became a reality in February 2006 when his 27-year-old son, Stephen A. Comunale Jr., died after a year-long battle with cancer. Although grief-stricken, Steve was determined to create a legacy that would honor his son's positive, can-do attitude by giving help and hope to families facing cancer. Within two months, the Stephen A. Comunale, Jr. Family Cancer Foundation was born.

Steve said the idea for the foundation came one day when he was at the hospital for his son's chemotherapy treatments. While there, he saw another man who had many people in the room with him. A nurse told Steve that the man had no family and no car, so the neighbor, including all of his children, had to bring the man to his treatments.

This got Steve and his family thinking: "There are so many people who need help. Wouldn't it have been easier if we called a car service and had him picked up?"

To help in these types of situations, the Comunale foundation provides a wide array of services to individuals and families who are coping with a cancer diagnosis. They also offer financial support so families don't have to choose between paying for their medication and their mortgage. "We're not into cancer research or curing cancer," Steve said. "We're just trying to help people survive daily."

The foundation works with local nonprofit organizations to provide children and families with fun outings and activities to get their minds off of what they're going through. Trips to the zoo, therapeutic horseback riding at Victory Gallop, and rides on the Polar Express are all ways the Comunale foundation brightens families' lives.

While the Comunale foundation is well loved and supported in the community, there was a significant source of funding it was missing out on. Its private nonoperating tax status prevented the foundation from accepting grants from private foundations and donor-advised funds. Steve's longtime friend Rennick Andreoli, a former board member for both the Comunale foundation and Akron Community Foundation, realized an opportunity and encouraged Steve to meet with the community foundation. 

"We really didn't know how it was going to work, and then they explained it and we just said, 'This is great,'" Steve said. "All these other [funds] and we can be a part of it."

Shortly after the meeting, the foundation established the Stephen A.Comunale, Jr. Family Cancer Foundation Program Fund at Akron Community Foundation. Now, donor advisors can make contributions to this field-of-interest fund to help support the foundation's outreach through initiatives with local nonprofits. 

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