Molloy student walks for cancer

By: John Maher (

Michael Pignotti, a Rockville Centre resident and a junior at Molloy College, lost his mother, Laura, to stage four breast cancer in January. He had watched his mother, a pharmacist at Mercy Hospital, battle the disease all his life - she was thrice diagnosed with breast cancer and twice with ovarian cancer - and wanted to do something to make a difference, or at least to show he cared. So Pignotti, 19, and his sister Alexis, 17, along with some friends, signed up to participate in the Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K Walk at Jones Beach on Oct. 20. But that was only the beginning.

Photo by Rockville Centre Herald (John Maher).Pignotti, who lives in Rockville Centre but attended Oceanside schools and volunteers with the Oceanside Fire Department, reached out to his fellow firefighters for support. After word went around the firehouse, over 40 members of the department volunteered to walk with him.

Then the Molloy track team caught on. When Pignotti mentioned his plans to walk to a few of his teammates on the men's team, the news found its way to his coaches, who asked the men's and women's teams to sign up for the walk as well.

The connections kept on coming. Pignotti works for Rockville Centre Code Enforcement, and mentioned the event to friends there. Now his colleagues intend to walk, and some of them have even contacted their fire departments - some as far out as Wantagh and Seaford - in hopes of attracting more walkers.

"It's a lot of work, because I have to sign them all up and organize it," Pignotti said.

But the sheer numbers gave Pignotti an idea: to raise funds and awareness at the same time. So he ordered two varieties of a black long-sleeve T-shirt, each bearing the OFD department logo in pink on the front left breast and "Fight Breast Cancer" or "In Memory of Laura Pignotti" in bold pink letters across the back. He's been driving from firehouse to firehouse across the county in an attempt to sell them all, and after only a few weeks was forced to order more.

He anticipates over $1500 in combined sales, all of which will be donated to the American Cancer Society after the walk.

"A couple of months after it happened, I started thinking of how hard she fought," said Pignotti. "So I wanted to do this in memory of her strength, and of her fight."

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