Luisa Belfiore is only 13 years old, but the eighth-grade student from Howard Beach knows what she wants to do in life — and it’s no small feat.
Luisa, who attends Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway Park, has set her sights on helping to find a cure for cancer.
Inspired to act after her mother’s best friend, AnnMarie Delfini-Bergano — a woman so beloved by Luisa and her siblings that they call her their aunt — was diagnosed with breast cancer, Luisa has raised about $2,500 for the American Cancer Society this year.
Last year, she collected about $800, and she said she hopes to increase that number exponentially in the coming years.
“My aunt is so close to my heart, and she’s been my mom’s best friend since they were my age, so she inspired me to do something,” Luisa said. “I hate seeing her battle something so rough, and I don’t want others to have to go through that.”
The 13-year-old began modestly, setting up a collection box as a sixth-grade student at Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach. She learned quickly that she and her peers were anxious to make an impact, and the box brimmed with donations.
Since then, she has raised funds through a variety of events, including with sponsors for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, collecting money outside Waldbaum’s in Howard Beach and selling cards from the American Cancer Society at her school — one of which was purchased by Howard Beach’s own singing sensation, “American Idol” finalist Pia Toscano.
“You have to do whatever you can and try and get involved,” Luisa said. “There’ll be some days when you want to go out with your friends, but it’s better to know you’re making a difference when you go out and stand in front of Waldbaum’s instead of just getting pizza.”
Luisa’s mother, Cissy Belfiore, noted that numerous community groups and residents have rallied behind the teenager. Students and parents at PS 146, for example, donated money, as did individuals at Ave Maria Academy in Howard Beach. Her entire family — Cissy, her father Tommy, and sisters Catherine, 7, and Anna, 5 — too, has thrown support behind the teen.
“She amazes me,” Cissy Belfiore said. “I’m so proud of her, and I would definitely like to thank everybody in the community for helping her. For her to be doing this at 13 is amazing.”
For more information, visit Luisa’s site at main.acsevents.org/goto/luisa_belfiore.