“Over-the-top overwhelmed” was how former Glen Cove City Councilman Mike Zangari described his reaction to the fundraiser held in his honor on Feb. 2 at the Church of St. Rocco.
Zangari was forced to step down from the council last November because of declining health due to a rare form of cancer. The fundraiser was aimed at helping him with his treatment. He said he appreciated the effort, but added that being the subject of a charitable event was foreign to him. “I’m never used to receiving,” he said. “I usually give, because I’m always about other people.”
His wife, Janice, expressed her gratitude as well, while emphasizing how difficult it can be for her husband to accept help. “Mike deserves this,” she said. “He doesn’t like the attention. He’s all about other people, and it’s very hard for [him] to accept.”
The fundraiser was spearheaded by former Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello and his wife, Coleen. With the help of Councilman Joe Capobianco, Councilwoman Pam Panzenbeck, city spokeswoman Lisa Travatello and many others, they formed a committee dedicated to providing Zangari with as much financial support as possible.
Their efforts paid off. They raised roughly $15,000 in donations from the fundraiser’s 225 guests, far surpassing the committee’s initial goal of $5,000. Zangari will undergo a number of treatments and procedures over the next few months, which will force him to stop working as a wheelchair price analyst at National Seating & Mobility in Garden City.
“He’s an inspiration. He’s great. We love Mike,” Coleen Spinello said of her motivation for organizing the event. “He’s really such a great person, so we just want to help out. He’s going through a really tough time.
“When you’re feeling good emotionally, it helps you get through a battle like this,” she added. “I think this is great for his morale, seeing all these people and friends around with so much love in their hearts.”
Capobianco agreed. “Mike’s a great guy, and he’s in need given his circumstances,” he said. “It’s just the community coming together for him. Hopefully it goes well for him and this will alleviate some of his financial concerns.”
The guest list extended well beyond Glen Cove city officials, making clear Zangari’s far-reaching influence on the community. He has worked with the city’s youth in various capacities, which his wife said is invaluable for children, not only because of what he teaches them, but also because it exposes them to a person with a disability with which they may not be familiar. Zangari, who has spina bifida, has used a wheelchair since childhood.
For years he ran a basketball program for 3- to 5-year-olds. Stacy Karathanasis said that her son, Panagiotis, learned how to play the game with Zangari’s tutelage, and added that he had a lasting impact on her son and other children. “Michael is one of a kind, absolutely,” she said. “You don’t see a person in a wheelchair — he does everything. Instead of you offering help to him, he comes to you.”
Guests at the fundraiser were treated to food, drinks and raffles provided by businesses throughout the city. Appetizers of Italian cheeses and cold cuts were followed by an Italian dinner buffet, prepared entirely by volunteers — including a group of Italian grandmothers ranging in age from 65 to 97.
After a dessert buffet, there were several silent auctions, and a 50/50 raffle raised $1,300 on its own, Coleen Spinello said.
“This is Glen Cove,” her husband added, summing up the community’s support. “We come out for our friends, especially our friends who are in need, and Mike is a very special person.”
“It was such a nice evening, [with] a lot of love in the air,” Coleen said a few days later. “We’re overwhelmed with how successful it was.”