The Bayside community came together in a big way to support a local girl and her family.
On May 12, Butch’s Boxing and MMA on 35th Avenue was the site of a fundraiser for three-year-old Olivia Grace, a local girl battling leukemia. During the athletic showcase, over a thousand dollars and dozens of new toys were collected and handed over to the youngster and her family.
Amanda Rinaldi, who operates the gym with her husband Butch, said about 70 people piled into the business for the showcase, and dozens more walked in simply to donate to the cause. The duo spoke with QNS ahead of the fundraiser on May 7.
“Our gym was packed,” Rinaldi said. “There were so many people who walked in who didn’t even know the family but saw The Queens Courier or the flyers around town.”
Olivia was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 30, 2017 and began what will be a 26-month journey through chemotherapy and other treatments. She, parents Jen and Ivan Rader-Tarazona and her older brother were in attendance at the event, which featured sparring and fighters training conducted by volunteer members of the gym.
“It was really nice. It was such a bittersweet thing,” Rinaldi said. “We were really happy [Olivia] was there. It was touching for people to meet her and hear her story.”
When QNS spoke with Jen Rader-Tarazona, the Fresh Meadows mom pointed out a lack of awareness surrounding pediatric cancer. Doctors are not trained to look out for the illness, she said, and parents can feel lost when trying to seek a diagnosis.
To increase awareness, Rader-Tarazona spoke at the event about her experience spanning the last couple of months.
“Out of all the cancers out there, pediatric cancer is the least funded,” Rinaldi said. “[Jen] hit us with all these numbers and statistics and we were just blown away.”
The 111th Precinct provided two vehicles for the event and allowed kids to check out the inside and use the PA system, Rinaldi said. Assemblyman Ed Braunstein also stopped by to meet the family and provide a donation.
A number of teens who belong to the gym volunteered to help out at Saturday’s event. The group is already asking the Rinaldis when they can take part in another fundraiser.
“They loved it and they want to do more,” she said. “Seeing Olivia and knowing what they were pushing for made them feel really great, and doing things like this helps them push their skills and become better boxers. We have some really good kids.”