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Growing up in East Haven, brothers Steven (left) and Rob Fernicola did everything together; now, with Steven battling brain cancer, Rob is again at his side, helping however he can. (Photo courtesy of Rob Fernicola )
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When East Haven resident Steven Fernicola was diagnosed with cancer, his brother Robert (Rob) helped take action by not only helping organize a motorcycle ride fundraiser, but also doing anything he can for his brother while he fights against the disease.
Rob says a reason for the Aug. 13 motorcycle ride event was to get as many people as possible to show their love and support for his brother, who is battling malignant brain stem glioma, and show how many people actually care about him and what he’s going through. He says that goal was accomplished.
Another goal was to raise $10,000 for Steven and his family, and that goal was exceeded, with proceeds totaling about $12,000. Rob says between 100 and 150 bikes participated in the ride, and about 800 people showed up after the ride at Eli’s in Branford.
“We definitely raised his spirits up, and that was our goal ultimately,” Rob says, “At the end of the day, we try to raise his spirits up and make him understand how many people actually care about him and want him to beat this.”
Rob says the ride will take place every year to support his brother’s fight against cancer, and when Steven gets better and is able to work and take care of his family, Rob says the proceeds will then be donated to families that need help just like his brother.
Friends and family were a huge part of the events success, and Rob especially wanted to thank his friend Muhammed, who helped spread the word about the event to bikers on his Facebook page, and his friend Tyler King, who designed the T-shirts.
“They played a huge role in this, and I couldn’t have done it without any of them,” Rob says.
Initially very upset about hearing the diagnosis, Rob says he can’t put into words how it feels to see the support shown for his brother.
“After all that—the planning and the preparation—and then everything coming together like it did was just amazing, literally amazing,” Rob says.
Rob says Steven is doing well right now, and his family, which includes two young daughters, is doing well because he’s doing well. It can be stressful for Rob to juggle work and help his brother, but he acknowledges that what his brother is dealing with is probably more stressful than what he’s dealing with.
“I can still wake up and go to work every day, I can drive a vehicle; he cannot,” Rob says. “So at the end of the day, I look at it as a blessing that I can help him out.”
If his brother needs a ride anywhere, like to get a haircut or go to the store, Rob will be there to help him out. He says helping anyone out is awesome, especially when it’s a family member.
Rob and his brother have always had a close relationship, and Rob shared some fun memories of some things the two of them would do because they look so alike.
“We used to switch girlfriends when we were younger, switch classes when we were younger,” Rob says, “Literally, without my brother, I wouldn’t do something; without me, he wouldn’t do something. We were always a team in everything that we did, and that’s speaking truly from the heart.”
Steven’s humor is still there right now, as Rob says his brother pokes fun at him. Rob used to be about 20 pounds heavier than his brother, but got hurt and is unable to go to the gym, saying “he gets sick, and he gets bigger than me now.”
There’s also a GoFundMe account set up for his brother, to which people can still donate (www.gofundme.com/aubqpc-stevens-medical-fund). The goal was set at $25,000, and is currently around $16,000.
Rob says he’s overwhelmed by people who showed up to the fundraiser, and who have donated and showed support for his brother.
Rob says the community has definitely pulled together to help his brother, especially with the fundraiser. He says when people reach out to him about his brother, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“I see everybody that reaches out to me and everybody that actually acknowledges the fact that he’s sick and he needs help,” Rob says, “The community has definitely played a huge role in this whole thing.”
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