When 3-year-old Olivia Grace was no longer acting like her high-energy self, Fresh Meadows mom Jen Rader-Tarazona knew something was not right. Doctors, however, initially disagreed.
“Because I knew that she wasn’t herself, I was pushing for blood work,” Rader-Tarazona told QNS. “[Doctors] are not conditioned to look for pediatric cancer … But being her parent, I was Googling, reaching out to parents, the school nurse. It was really on me. I pushed and pushed.”
Finally, Rader-Tarazona got an answer: Olivia was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 30, 2017. She began what will be a 26-month journey through chemotherapy and other treatments.
Olivia, who lives with her mom, dad and older brother, can be “very feisty,” according to Rader-Tarazona, but also “gentle and kind.”
“[Olivia] loves to play on the iPad and with Play-Doh. She loves dancing, and singing with her brother,” she said. “She’s not outgoing but is a sweetheart when you get to know her. She’s a lot of fun to be around.”
Around the time of Olivia’s diagnosis, Rader-Tarazona took to a “Bayside Moms” Facebook group looking for toy donations to cheer up her two young children.
Queens natives Butch and Amanda Rinaldi, who own and operate Butch’s Boxing and MMA on 35th Avenue, took note of the concerned mom’s request.
“We’re looking at it thinking, ‘What could we do?'” Amanda Rinaldi said. “Having a 3-year-old myself, it kind of hit home a little bit.”
The cause also registered with Butch Rinaldi, who has two children with developmental disabilities.
The married duo decided on a fundraising event for Olivia. On May 12 from 4 to 6 p.m., gym members from all age groups will put on an athletic showcase for attendees who can watch sparring and fighters training. Participants can also purchase raffle tickets to win a number of prizes donated by local businesses.
The cost of admission is a new, unwrapped toy, or a monetary donation to Olivia’s family.
“It should be a good show,” Amanda Rinaldi said. “We’ve done [fundraisers] before and it’s always a lot of fun.”
When the Rinaldis approached gym members about participating in the fundraiser, the response was immediate.
“I started mentioning [the fundraiser] to the classes here, and everybody was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes,'” Butch Rinaldi said.
For Butch, a former Marine, the training and fitness center “is not your typical tough guy gym.” The center is open to people from all age groups and welcomes members who have social, developmental or physical disabilities.
“Being Bayside residents and being small business owners in Bayside, we really do care about the community we live in,” said Amanda Rinaldi, a Golden Gloves boxing champion. “You won’t go to many boxing gyms and see people on the spectrum or people with physical disabilities … [Boxing] is not just about hitting a bag and puffing your chest out. It’s so much more than that. We’ve seen so much growth in here.”
Rader-Tarazona said she and her family would be thrilled “if even a dollar is raised” at Saturday’s event. For the mom, the event is more about creating awareness for pediatric cancer.
“[Amanda and Butch] have been absolutely amazing,” she said. “We’re just happy the word is getting out there. I want to create an awareness and tell mothers not to second guess their intuition.”
Butch’s Boxing and MMA is located at 203-18 35th Ave. Inquires about the event can be directed to 646-421-9749.