Monday, February 20, 2017

Phil Cuzzi Fulfills Promise to Late Friend Luongo

Phil Cuzzi's friendship with Belleville classmate Robert Luongo transcends baseball, reminding us of the brand of people that often gravitate toward the officiating vocation, as depicted in a article on Cuzzi.

Cuzzi and Luongo grew up together, and as Cuzzi attended Glassboro State College, Luongo went to Harvard. As Cuzzi climbed the umpiring ranks, Luongo took to business.

When Luongo's health suffered in the 1990s, manifesting in an ALS diagnosis, Cuzzi stuck by his friend, and, sensing Luongo's value of education for his family, made a vow: "The last time I saw Robert, the last thing I said to him was, 'Rob, you will never have to worry about [daughter] Dominique’s education, I will get our community and the baseball community involved to raise whatever we need to send her wherever she wants to go.'"

If you've followed Cuzzi's story, you may recall the Luongo name from Cuzzi's charity, the Robert Luongo ALS fund, established in 2003 as a fundraising effort for education and, later, dedicated to finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), colloquially known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and the name sake of the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which Cuzzi and crew (alongside Bob Costas) took part in after a game in Anaheim that season.

After Robert Luongo died in 2004 at the age of 49, Cuzzi continued fundraising to honor Luongo, planning dinners and bringing in guests from baseball legends Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa, to boxers Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney, to actor Steven Schirripa and broadcaster Costas.

Now, Luongo's daughter is set to graduate from Robert's alma mater, Harvard University, and Cuzzi's promise is nearing completion: "And now, she’s graduating. I can’t believe it. [Mother] Debra deserves so much credit. She has instilled the values in her daughter that were so important to both her and Robert. We are all so proud of Dominique, her future is only limited to her own dreams. As proud as we all are of her, it pales in comparison to how proud Robert is of her."

Cuzzi describes the Robert Luongo ALS Fund as a three-tiered organization: "We raise money for scholarships for students of parents and family members who suffer from ALS, as well as donating money for research to ALS, in the hope of finding a cure, and to help families who need to care for an ALS patient."


Post a Comment