It all began in the summer of 1993, when men and women, then mostly in their 30s and 40s, began gathering on the beach at Magnolia Boulevard to play volleyball.
They were electricians, financial managers and local business owners, but none of that mattered out on the beach on summer afternoons and early evenings. They all lived in Long Beach, and they bonded over their love of volleyball on weekends and Wednesday nights in the spring and summer. They grew older, and closer, over the years, near the water and on the sand and under the warm sun.
Now they have a bigger reason to bond. One of their own, Phil Kendis, 49, of Long Beach, a wealth management adviser at Bank of the West in Manhattan, was diagnosed with inoperable tumors on his spine in 2019, and recently his condition has worsened.
Kendis now uses a wheelchair, and is spending $1,000 a week on an aide to help him with meals and dressing. His money is running out.
Kendis, who is single, has no close family members. So his boys of summer have taken over.
Steve Marrero, 51, who owns a mechanical contracting business, set up a GoFundMe page that in the past four months has collected about $21,000. The goal, Marrero said, is $30,000, which would pay Kendis’s rent for one year.
But his friends have not stopped at fundraising. They have become his family.
“We’ve been making trips for him,” said Kevin Heller, 52, a senior vice president at a financial company and a member of the volleyball group. “We’ve been going to the bank for him, grocery shipping. This group of people has been taking care of him.”
The players describe Kendis as quiet and low-key, but very much involved with volleyball. According to his Facebook page,he graduated from the University of Arizona in 1993 with a major in French and a minor in business.
He moved to Long Beach about 10 years ago, and began showing up on the beach to play volleyball. His friends say that before his illness, he was extremely athletic, a natural, really a good guy. He played lacrosse at UA and rugby in Europe, when he worked for overseas financial companies. He first visited Long Beach over 20 years ago.
Kendis was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan earlier this week, and was unable to comment for this story.
“We’ve played together for about 20 years,” said Anthony Cifarelli, 59, a local electrician. “It’s like being little kids again. But we’re a bunch of guys who all look out for each other. Now we’re all looking out for Phil.”
Health insurance, of course, doesn’t cover everything, and Kendris has been paying out of pocket for the care he receives from an aide. He lives on the second floor of a house, which makes it all but impossible for him to get outside. He manages to do some work on his computer at home, but his friends worry about how long he’ll be able to do that.
“We go over and watch a basketball game with him,” said Charlie Price, another volleyball player, said. “This is what Long Beach does.”
There is something, Price said, about Long Beach that fosters a sense of community. “It’s the beach, the boardwalk,” he said. “We’re always outside.”
Bill Paradiso, 66, a local business owner and a member of the volleyball group, said that the players would gather at what is now J.J. Cooper’s for annual holiday parties. “Now we go over and bring him food,” Paradiso said of Kendris. “We cover each other’s back.”