Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the Cancer Support Center and its nearly three decades of service to the community.
Michael Alberico’s special relationship with a Flossmoor volunteer at the Cancer Support Center blossomed into a donation, then an annual gift followed by nearly 20 years of service on the board of directors.
At the center’s annual golf outing in September, Alberico, of Flossmoor, was presented the 2021 TRJ Humanitarian Award for his leadership and dedication to CSC and unwavering compassion for those battling cancer.
The disease struck Alberico’s family in 1977 when his brother, Mario, 17, got a diagnosis for a rare bone cancer.
“As we say, it’s a non-discriminating disease, whether you’re rich or poor, no matter your race or religion. it’s terrible,” Alberico said. “I consider when you hear cancer it’s possibly one of the worst words in the English language, and it’s one of those things when you hear it, either yourself or a loved one, it’s like everything else just tunes out. You can’t even hear anything else.”
There were no support groups in 1977, so the family gave Mario all the love and encouragement possible. Mario survived cancer, but no one in the Alberico family has forgotten how it affected not just the patient but each of them.
When the late Joan Dobrez approached Alberico “and she was telling me about what the Cancer Support Center does, I was immediately drawn to it.” He dutifully made donations, attended the golf outings and then was invited to join the board.
Initially, starting in 1996, it was a big board of about 85 people – the thought being to collect ideas and do outreach with a variety of people. Alberico remembers it was just too unwieldy, so the board was scaled back to about a dozen people and he was asked to serve. During his first 15 years on the board, he took a turn as president. He stepped away for a time in 2011, but then did another term from 2017 to 2019.
“It’s just an organization that you want to continue supporting,” he said. “My attitude is, if I can help these people (at CSC) help somebody else, it’s all worth it. We always talk about that…our guide at the board level was how does this help our participants. And when you take it to that level, it’s easy to make the right decisions.”
Alberico sees the board’s role as helping with the business side of the organization, “so they can continue doing what they’re doing. When you have an organization like the Cancer Support Center, they’re the true angels of this world. What they do, day in day out at the drop of a hat – it’s incredible.”