It hasn't been an easy holiday season for the LaBianca family, who live in Brick's Lake Riveria section. Both husband and wife are battling cancer.
But through the support of the community, their season has been made a bit brighter.
Three years ago Stephen LaBianca was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. This summer, it became aggressive. Making matters worse, this past September, Amy LaBianca was diagnosed with breast cancer. But she credits her husband for saving her life.
“If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have checked myself and notices the lump,” she said.
When friends and family saw that this family needed help, they took action. Amy LaBianca’s friend Karen Donahue and sister Julie Wesk, both of Brick, each entered the family into New York radio station 92.3 Now’s 'Breaking and Entering' Contest, which surprised families in need this Christmas season.
“Out of top five chosen, both entries were picked and they ended up winning,” said Sharon Rizzo, a friend who resides in the Cherry Quay section. “They (the radio station) wanted it to go un-noticed. We let them in there (the LaBianca’s home) while they were out and then they came home surprised.”
The radio station did all of the holiday shopping for the family and brought furniture donated by a listener that was needed for Steve. Amy LaBianca said that her friends changed around her schedule for the day so that she would be out of the house and surprised when the radio station arrived.
“We came home and were shocked. We had no idea this was all going on. It was a nice surprise,” Amy LaBianca said.
In addition to the contest entries, Rizzo set up a meal plan website where people could enter the LaBiancas' name and sign up to bring them a meal (www.takethemameal.com). Plus, Rizzo rallied the PTA where hers and the LaBianca children attend school. Parents got together to assure the LaBianca's children – Gianna, 9, and Aiden, 7 – would have money in their lunch accounts so their parents would not have to worry.
Frank Rizzo and his partner Steve Baily, who own the Amazing Decorations holiday decorations company, showed up at the LaBiancas' home and decorated the outside of the house with lights, Sharon Rizzo said.
Sharon Rizzo also set the family up with the Beauty Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps families battling cancer.
“Lori Ceraolo, the founder of the Beauty Foundation, has done so much for our family to help us from a cleaning service and grocery money. And, she put me in touch with other places that were able to help us,” Amy LaBianca said.
Plus, according to Amy LaBianca, when she first had her surgery, her daughter's Girl Scout troop, Troop 1341, were at her house every day helping out and making sure she and her family had a meal.
“We even had strangers helping us. Every time I turn around there are people I don’t even know helping us, from bringing us a meal, to taking my kids to CCD and just being there to support us,” Amy LaBianca said. “I wish I could name everyone to thank them.”
A humble family, Sharon Rizzo said the LaBiancas are never the type of family to ask for help and instead are always trying to help others. They say they've been overwhelmed by the support and assistance from family, friends, the community and local businesses.
Thanks to the community, it was a merry Christmas after all.