When Louis Fuoco Sr. started a golf tournament in Bellport to benefit a local camp for children and young adults with special needs, clams were the main course.
At Thursday’s Rotary Club of Patchogue 43rd annual Fuoco Memorial Golf “Feastival,” the menu had graduated to Italian-style food stations at just about every hole.
The entrees have changed, but the dedication of one family to keep the event thriving hasn’t. Steve Fuoco is the third generation in his family to keep golf tournament running at Bellport Country Club, where his entire family has golfed over the years.
Thursday morning, 150 golfers took off in their carts to kick off the golf tournament, raising $75,000 for Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a camp in Center Moriches that serves children and young adults with disabilities. The proceeds help ensure that children and young adults with physical and developmental needs are able to swim, participate in arts and crafts, talent shows, cookouts and carnivals to regain a sense of normalcy.
Steve Fuoco’s sister, Beth Ann Santos, now 46, was born in 1966 with spina bifida, a birth defect that caused the bones of her spine to not completely form, resulting in an incomplete spinal canal.
Fuoco’s grandfather, Louis Fuoco Sr., who died in 1978 at age 78, began the event after Camp-Pa-Qua-Tuck accepted his granddaughter as a camper at age 3.
“My sister is really the motivation for us,” said Steve Fuoco, 56, of Patchogue. “My sister got the chance to be a regular kid and do things that we all take for granted.”
Louis Fuoco Jr. carried on his father’s legacy of organizing the tournament. His children took over the reins after he died 11 years ago at age 73.
Looking back at how the camp has helped her family over the years, Steve’s sister, Mary Jo Fuoco, said it makes her feel good to ensure that more kids can attend for free each year.
“We were always shuffled around when my sister was sick and in the hospital,” said Mary Jo Fuoco, 52, of Bellport, speaking of herself, Steve and their older brother, Louis, 57. “When my sister went to camp, it was good for the entire family to have Mom and Dad to themselves.”
Steve Fuoco, who also plays in the tournament, said it has been sold out almost every year and usually raises an average of $70,000.
Steve Taitz, an attorney at Roe Taroff Taitz & Portman in Bohemia, played with friends and family at holes offering Italian ices, pasta, wine and beer tastings, fruits, clams and homemade zeppoles and cannolis.
“It has really become a cause that’s very special to me,” said Taitz, 56, of Bayport, who has participated in the event for 20 years. “I do make sure I’m out here every year. This isn’t really a serious tournament. Everybody is here to have a good time and give to a great cause.”
Above: Steve Fuoco, 56, of Patchogue, helped organize the Rotary of Patchogue's 43rd annual Fuoco Memorial Golf Festival at Bellport Country Club to raise money for Camp-Pa-Qua-Tuck, which serves children and young adults with disabilities (Sept. 20, 2012)