Before he died of cancer in 2003, at the age of 57, Jerry Regina, a longtime Somers Point resident, requested that his obituary ask mourners to perform a kind deed for someone they love rather than send flowers to his funeral. The request summed up a life he had spent helping others.
In 2004 his brothers John and Nick joined other friends and family in forming the Jerry Regina Legacy Foundation to ensure that the good deeds Jerry was known for would continue. In the last 10 years, 26 families struggling with cancer have received $96,000 to help with their expenses. The foundation still has about $130,000 to donate.
This year, on its 10th anniversary, the foundation gave $10,000 to the DiAntonio family in Mays Landing, who have had more than their share of struggles. John Regina is so affected by their plight, the Northfield builder has also resolved to also help them repair and renovate their home.
"This family is just so incredibly in need," he said. "We had never come across a family that so typifies what we are trying to do. This is a mission for me."
Kathy and Christopher DiAntonio have two children with disabilities. Jeanna, 15, has Down Syndrome and glaucoma. Christopher, 13, is autistic. Both attend the Atlantic County Special Services School. Both parents had worked in the casinos, but Kathy lost her job in December 2011. In March of this year she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in May her unemployment benefits ended. She had surgery in June and just finished radiation treatments in September.
They were struggling to pay their bills and Cathy Suman, of AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute, wrote to the Regina Foundation asking for help on their behalf.
"I could not sleep thinking about this family," John Regina said.
Kathy DiAntonio said her husband's check has been going for basic living expenses, and even with insurance, the medical bills are piling up and the children need school clothes.
"My husband will be so excited," she said after receiving the check.
Regina said they usually give about $2,000 to a family, but this was such an extreme case they decided to give $10,000, only the second time they have awarded that much. He said he also plans to help the family with a mini-makeover on their home and will recruit separate donations and volunteers to pay for paint, carpeting and appliances.
"We're going to see what they need, and what we can do to help them," he said.
Kathy DiAntonio said her first priority for the $10,000 check will be to pay medical expenses not covered by her husband's health insurance.
"I'm going to first take care of the people who took care of me," she said.
Contact Diane D'Amico:
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To learn about the Jerry Regina Legacy Foundation visit jerryreginalegacyfoundation.com