Photo ProvidedJen Cantagallo (top left), Jeff Cantagallo (top right), Amanda Smith (middle), Jaden Cantagallo (bottom left) and Jazmene Cantagallo (bottom right) are leading the effort to put together the Cancer Sucks Car Meet fundraiser at the Glen Burnie Pep Boys Speed Shop parking lot on July 31 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. All proceeds go to Smith, who is battling cervical cancer.
Family Organizes Car Meet Fundraiser To Aid Friend, Create Awareness
For many parents, seeing their kids off to school early in the morning is a routine. For Jeff and Jennifer Cantagallo of Pasadena, along with their two daughters, 10-year-old Jazmene and 8-year-old Jaden, that routine for the past two years has included Amanda Smith, the bus driver for Jazmene and Jaden.
But concern cropped up later this year for the Cantagallos. “We didn’t see [Amanda] every day,” Jeff said. “We’re friends with her on Facebook, and Jen keeps in touch with her through text and on Facebook. So we found out her situation and decided to help.”
Smith was diagnosed with Stage II cervical cancer on April 20. Unfortunately for Smith, she had experience battling cancer because her mother, Gail, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in 2009, which spread to other parts of her body before she was deemed cancer-free in 2012.
Smith began chemotherapy and radiation treatments in June, and even though treatment has taken a toll on Smith physically and emotionally, she should be cancer-free by August. Treatments have shrunk Smith’s cancerous tumor in half. A hysterectomy may be necessary to completely remove the tumor.
“My mom has been my greatest support system,” Smith said. “She lives right next door to me, so she’s been there for me a lot. My husband’s had to take on extra hours at work, so he works a lot now just trying to get us by. The kids, it’s an emotional battle every day. One day they’re fine, the next day they’re not. When they see me sick, then they’re upset.”
Smith and her husband, Christopher, live in Pasadena with their three daughters – 11-year-old Savannah, 12-year-old Jasmine and 15-year-old Emilee – and their 16-year-old son, Aaron. With Amanda’s having to focus on her recovery, she hasn’t been able to work, leading to less income for the family and forcing difficult decisions as to what they do and don’t need.
Enter the Cantagallos, who thought of hosting a fundraiser for Amanda’s family shortly after they heard about her battle against cancer. Jeff is the creator of www.carshowz.com, a website designed to plan, promote and photograph car shows across the country.
Jeff and Jennifer thought it was only appropriate to tie their experience with car shows into a fundraiser for Smith. The Cancer Sucks Car Meet will take place at the Glen Burnie Pep Boys Speed Shop parking lot on July 31 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. For each car that comes to the event, a minimum $10 donation is requested. All proceeds will go to Smith and her family.
“It’s a big help,” Smith said. “When you go from working full time to having no income come in – and then medical bills on top of it piling up, piling up, piling up – it’s the biggest stressor I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
More than 175 people have committed to going to the event on the “Cancer Sucks Car Meet” Facebook page, which the Cantagallos and Smith encourage people to join.
Scores of local businesses from Pasadena, Severna Park, Arnold and Glen Burnie have donated items that will be raffled off at the event. Movie tickets and gift cards, along with a fire pit and charcoal grill, are just a sampling of the items that will be raffled off to help Amanda’s family. A bake sale will also be held.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Jennifer said of the way residents and businesses have helped the cause. “It’s amazing to see a lot of people come together. I’m from a small town, and I’m used to people being there for each other.”
Smith hopes that the event will help raise awareness about cervical cancer. Doctors, according to Smith, estimated that she had been living with cervical cancer for three years before her diagnosis. Smith stresses the importance of regular testing and early detection.
“Nobody ever thinks about cervical cancer,” Smith said. “They don’t pay attention to their body. They don’t pay attention to the things that happen. So many people go without having routine scans.”