Lifelong Oyster Bay resident Joseph Anatra had always been one to lend a hand in the community, but now he has found himself on the receiving end.
Since Anatra, 31, was diagnosed with brain cancer just over three months ago, the community has come together to hold a benefit for the young father who friends say was instrumental in helping with relief efforts in the town after superstorm Sandy.
Anatra learned of his diagnosis after he had a seizure on Christmas day. He was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage where a CAT scan revealed he had a large tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain. Anatra said the tumor was found to be malignant and had advanced to Grade 3 Cancer. Though the tumor was removed, Anatra started chemotherapy and radiation to treat any leftover cells that will continue for the next 12 to 18 months.
During this time, Anatra, who is an employee for the Town of Oyster Bay Sanitation Department, is not able to work. Since Anatra is unable to drive, his wife Danielle, also a town employee, has taken off from work to care for him.
Jason Ginzburg and Mike Scotto, who are both Anatra’s childhood friends and now co-workers, knew they had to do something to help their fellow Plainedge High School alumnus. On Friday, they are throwing a benefit at Manor East Catering Hall in Massapequa for Anatra, who has an 18-month-old son and recently bought a home in Oyster Bay.
“We wanted his number one goal to be to get healthy and do what he has to do,” said Scotto. “So we wanted to at least be able to ease his mind on the financial end.”
The catering hall has offered to hold the event at no cost to the organizers. The sold-out benefit will include a buffet-style dinner and an open bar. Former pro-wrestler Johnny Valiant is also donating his time by providing standup comedy.
John DeJohn, co-owner of Manor East, said he was happy to help a local family.
“If someone needs our help and we can possibly do it, then we are going to do it,” he said.
About 40 other businesses also provided gift baskets and prizes to be raffled off at the event.
Zorn’s, a restaurant in Bethpage, where Anatra had worked for seven years, donated gift cards for the raffle and has a donation box dedicated to Anatra on its counter.
“Joe has always been here for me and Zorn’s,” said Paul Gucciardo, the manager of Zorn’s, adding that Anatra still comes back to help out during busy seasons. “He is a great guy and people are willing to help him because of it.”
Scotto said Anatra put in hundreds of hours for the superstorm Sandy relief effort while on the job but also in his free time, helping people carry furniture out of their houses and offering to lend a hand however he could.
“He is a great guy and a giving guy,” Scotto said.
Anatra said he was shocked by the amount of support he has received from everyone, especially the community, in the last three months.
“It has been unbelievable,” said Anatra. “It is amazing who has come around and supported me.”
He is thankful for his Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who calls him on a regular basis to see how he is doing and offers help.
More than 300 of Anatra’s family, co-workers and friends will attend the benefit. Anatra said he and his family are looking forward to it.
“We are overwhelmed,” said Anatra. “The last four months have been life-changing.”