BURRILLVILLE – Erin Todisco-Place says that when she first decided to organize a charity event to raise money for breast cancer research in 2009, she wasn’t exactly sure why.
“It sounds corny, but I originally started because I wanted to do something to make a difference for people,” Todisco-Place said. “I always donated to different charities, but you get that feeling that you’re missing something. I’m very grateful for the life that I’ve built, and you start to think, ‘What can I do for someone else?'”
She said that for some reason, the cause spoke to her despite not having a personal connection.
“I don’t know why I started it,” she said. “I just did.”
In her first three years of holding La Dolce Vita, a “celebration of life,” at Bella Restaurant, Todisco-Place donated the proceeds to the non-profit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
The first year, she says that just 40-50 people attended. But the event has grown every year since, and by 2011, she’d raised some $9,000 for the organization.
In the fourth year, Todisco-Place decided to host the event to benefit the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation after learning that 88 cents out of every dollar the organization receives goes directly to those battling breast cancer.
“I wanted the money to actually go to local people as opposed to it going to overseas,” she said. “I just wanted it to be more impactful.”
Todisco-Place will take part in a three-day walk as part of the fundraiser at Colt State Park in Bristol during the first weekend in June. Participants travel 44 miles and camp out in pink tents during “Glori Days,” a walk to celebrate, honor and remember those touched by breast cancer.
A North Providence native who has lived in Burrillville since 2009, Todisco-Place says she attends the walk alone, and has made friends along the way.
Initially, she says she planned to take a year off in 2018, and not hold La Dolce Vita.
But in August, she received news that her mother had been diagnosed with the very illness she’d been raising funds to eradicate. Tears welled in her eyes as she relayed the news to NRI NOW last week.
“It’s kind of like the universe knew it was coming,” Todisco-Place said.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, Todisco-Place will again host La Dolce Vita at Bella Restaurant. Tickets for the event cost $40, and it comes with a full family-style dinner, a DJ, photo booth, raffles and a silent auction. Prizes include gift certificates to many local businesses, PPAC tickets, wine and liquor baskets, jewelry, and even tickets to La Gondola Providence for a ride during Water Fire.
Many attendees dress up for the special evening.
“It’s a fun night out,” Todisco-Place said. “I wanted to focus on celebrating life and enjoying it while you’re here.”
On an “Inspiration Board,” guests will have the chance to write names or messages on tags, with well-wishes, or in memory of a lost loved one.
“I take all the tags collected at the fundraiser and wear them on my shirt, so I have everyone’s names and thoughts with me, because that’s really why I do it,” Todisco-Place said.
She said that some of the event’s benefactors have attended every year.
“I think it’s a good mix of those who have personal connection to the cause, and people that support me,” she said. “It’s always meant so much for me to see people out there having a good time.”
And in 2018, the charity event will have an even deeper meaning to the woman who has long been motivated to help others. Todisco-Place said that after hearing the news about her mother, president of the foundation, Maria Gemma Corcelli herself, reached out to help.
“They mean it when they say they’re there for you,” she said. “To have them reach out and be so caring and genuine – I feel like I’ve found what I’m supposed to do.”
In all, Todisco-Place has raised nearly $18,000 to help with the battle thanks to the generosity of friends, family, local businesses and charitable givers.
Last year alone, she raised more than $5,000, and her goal this year is $9,000.