Regina Criscuolo, her family, friends, and a team of student volunteers are in gear to spend Sunday, Aug. 14 “Cutting Out Cancer,” with a cut-a-thon taken to new levels at Guilford’s TEACH Hairdressing Academy .
In addition to “Clips for a Cause,” there will be food trucks, roaming Star Wars characters (look for a certain chirping, whirring old-school droid), vendors, activities, raffles, a DJ, and more, for a full day of fun inside and outside TEACH at 1575 Boston Post Road in Guilford. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free.
Most important, 100 percent of all money raised goes to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, via a donation made to rider Elizabeth Falcigno of team “Live Positive.” Elizabeth will ride 100 miles in Smilow’s Closer to Free benefit ride this September. She rides in memory of her “Papa,” Edmund W. Falcigno, Jr., who was Regina’s beloved father.
Regina, a Branford resident of 26 years, lost her dad last June, after five-year battle with cancer. Knowing she wanted to do something in his memory, Regina decided to raise money to buoy her niece’s decision to ride 25 miles his honor in the 2015 Closer to Free Ride. Regina turned to her extended family at TEACH, co-owned by her husband, Michael Criscuolo, Jr., with business partner Christopher Rollins, for help. With their help as well of that of family, friends, and TEACH staff and students, Regina put on her first Cutting Out Cancer cut-a-thon in August 2015, raising $2,500 for Smilow.
This year, the New Haven magnet school teacher had a bit more time to plan, and the results are showing.
The day’s food trucks and food services include Rocco’s Off Wooster, The Ice Cream Guy, Cannolis on the Run, The Big Purple Cupcake, and Smoothie King. More than 25 vendor booths have been filled by purveyors of crafts, books, gifts, cosmetics, jewelry, and even pet treats (Pupcake Bakery). In addition, Regina’s bringing in Rebel Legion Star Wars characters to mingle with kids. For a small fundraising fee, kids can have a photo with a character taken by Cathy Wilson Ramin Photography, for a memento developed and delivered on site. A Minion-costumed character will also be making the rounds and will be available for the same type of photo opp. Like Ramin, all of the day’s professionals are donating their services so that 100 percent of proceeds can go to Smilow. Volunteers from Bubbles the Clown to TEACH students are lending a hand to offer other options such as balloon animals, caricatures, face painting, and crafts. Ultrasonic Entertainment will be donating the day’s DJ services.
“We’re trying to make it a family day, with every penny we raise going to Smilow,” says Regina. “You can come with your family and have fun for very affordable prices.”
Regina is also hoping to treat some local kids with cancer in their lives to any and all of the day’s activities, as a gift from TEACH Academy to them.
“We would give them anything they want—they can have their hair or nails done, ice cream, cannolis, pizza—anything—for free. We just want them to have a day of fun,” says Regina.
She’s reached out to families through local pediatric oncology connections and also encourages families to contact her at 203-215-5214 so she can add their child to the group. Another component Regina’s planning for Cutting Out Cancer are the day’s two types of raffles. A separate raffle will offer three top prizes (including a sapphire necklace donated by Branford Jewelers and a five course meal for four donated by Nellie Green’s). A tea-cup style raffle will offer some 50 different prizes (gift baskets, merchandise, gift certificates, and more) contributed by local merchants and businesses include many of the day’s vendors. Regina credits her mom, Linda Falcigno, who is also a popular receptionist at TEACH, for helping to pull the raffle together.
“My mother is phenomenal. She’s been instrumental in soliciting and getting a lot of prizes,” says Regina.
Raffle prizes will be announced at day’s end; winners don’t need to be present to win. Another option for all attending the Aug. 14 event will be the opportunity to purchase a luminaria bag, to be lit that night in honor of a loved one.
“I’m hoping to have the whole school parking lot illuminated. They can come back at night if they want to see it, and I’m also going to take pictures to put on [TEACH Academy’s] Facebook page.”
All through the day, Michael Criscuolo, Jr., and Rollins, who is also namesake founder of Christopher’s Salon of Guilford, will join a team of 15 TEACH student volunteers manning the Cut-a-Thon inside the academy. Nails and other services will be offered as well. While walk-ins are welcome, appointments are preferred (call 203-458-3334 to set up at time).
Outside, a cadre of more student volunteers and Regina’s extended family, including the Criscuolos’ two children, Amanda and Michael Criscuolo III, will be on hand to assist with what’s hoped to be a big crowd.
“I’m really trying to get as many people as possible, from towns all around, to come here and support this, and have a great day with their family,” says Regina. “That’s why I’m bringing in everything from the Star Wars’ Rebel Legion to a Minion [-costumed volunteer]. I’m trying every angle, because it’s really important to us to support Smilow.”
During the last year of his life, Regina’s dad was in and out of care facilities for more than 250 days, with “most of them at Smilow,” says Regina. She says her family will be forever grateful for the care and consideration shown by Smilow’s nurses, staff, and doctors.
“If my dad couldn’t be home, he felt great comfort being at Smilow,” says Regina.
Going forward, Cutting Out Cancer cut-a-thons at TEACH will continue annually each August, to continue to support Smilow and to honor her father, Regina adds.
“I think he’s smiling down from heaven and proud that his whole family is coming together for this,” she says. “We couldn’t save him, so I’m hoping to maybe help other people not experience this; and help build awareness about Smilow. I don’t think people realize just how lucky and fortunate we are in Connecticut, to have such a phenomenal facility right at our fingertips.”