Valley Stream resident Christine Miserandino and her family celebrated her 37th birthday this year in an unusual way. Instead of presenting Miserandino with gifts, the family hosted an “unbirthday party” to raise money for lupus research.
Called the Purple Party, the third annual event was held on Sept. 7 at Pompei Restaurant in West Hempstead and served as a launch for Miserandino’s new charity, the But You Don’t Look Sick Foundation. Miserandino said she was inspired to turn the idea of a birthday on its head as a result of her own experience with lupus. “I have been living with lupus for over 20 years. We started to throw an ‘unbirthday party’ to raise money for lupus research two years ago when I decided I didn’t need gifts, but I wanted to give gifts to others and grant the wish of someday living a life without lupus. I remember being younger, when I was first diagnosed with lupus and wondering if I would even make it to 37, so now every birthday is such a gift and a reason to celebrate,” Miserandino said.
As the symptoms of lupus can cause Miserandino to suffer from severe fatigue, pain, and stiffness she said she leaned on the support of family and friends to make the event a success. Lynbrook resident Jennifer Ruocco, who Miserandino calls her closest friend, along with her husband Matthew, have been there for Miserandino from the beginning, Miserandino said. “They have seen me though everything, from nights in the emergency room to celebrating life and dancing at the party.”
Jeniffer Ruocco helps with essentially all facets of the event, from planning to helping to MC the party, Miserandino said. “But her real calling, if you will,” Miserandino said, “is making the baskets for raffles and handling that part of the event,” she said. Ruocco made over 70 baskets for raffles at this year’s event. Ruocco said that while she is glad to put in so much hard work for Miserandino and her cause. “Christine is my best friend and I would do anything to help her. She really is an amazing, strong woman and it’s wonderful to be able to help this great cause and help lupus patients.