On February 5, 1981, Emmanuel Vizzoni was diagnosed with Burkett’s lymphoma just weeks after his seventh birthday. Over the next two months, his parents, Joseph and Susan Vizzoni, alternated shifts at the hospital while their son endured grueling medical treatments. Sadly, on April 5 of that year, the lymphoma claimed Manny’s life, leaving his family to pick up the pieces.
Coping with their grief and explaining to their younger daughter why her brother had simply “disappeared” proved to be incredibly difficult for the Vizzoni family. At that time, medical treatments for pediatric cancers were developing rapidly; however there were large gaps in the emotional, spiritual, and financial support available for families. Susan reflects, “Joe and I came to understand—because we were running back and forth to the hospital while family members helped care for our daughter—that families with other circumstances must have an incredibly difficult time managing this. We realized that the best thing we could do to cope with our own loss was to start helping others in this situation.”
In 1983, after two years of kitchen-table talks and networking, the Vizzonis established the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation (ECF) in memory of their son. At that time, the purpose of ECF was to fill in gaps that medical insurance did not cover, to provide assistance in the home, and to give spiritual support and guidance to families struggling to deal with their child’s diagnosis. Joseph and Susan felt that it was important to help all members of the family, not just the child with cancer.
At first, families were hesitant to accept any support from the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation. Joseph and Susan recall talking to one mother who said, “We’re having enough trouble getting food on the table. We don’t have time to sit down with a counselor.” In response, an ECF volunteer delivered a new microwave to the family’s door. Overwhelmed that an organization was willing and able to make a huge difference with a small gesture, this family became one of ECF’s first.
Even in the beginning, Caseworkers would visit a new family’s home to assess their situation. Was the family having trouble getting to and from the hospital? Were they having trouble getting meals on the table? Were they able to keep on top of the surmounting medical bills? Through the Caseworkers’ guidance, ECF was able to meet some of the families’ needs, thus helping to improve their overall quality of life.
Since those early days, ECF has helped over 2000 families in New Jersey manage their struggle with pediatric cancer. ECF recognizes that each family has a different experience and different needs. Consequently, ECF staff, Caseworkers, and volunteers have dedicated themselves over the past decades to helping families address these needs as they arise. ECF continues to provide a comprehensive package of support at no cost and in the comfort of the family’s home. Services are coordinated by professional Caseworkers, who work with the children, siblings, and caretakers to help preserve their quality of life as they grapple with the challenges of pediatric cancer.
Meet Some Of Our Kids
Meet Andre Andre is a 13 year-old fun-loving boy from Paterson, NJ who is a straight A student. In July 2016, he was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma and immediately began a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. At one point during his radiation session Andre...read more
Meet Ellie When Ellie was undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she was very scared about her hair falling out. To help her feel better, Ellie’s family let her shave her father’s and grandfather’s heads to match hers. Ellie enjoyed this so much,...read more
Meet Mahogany Mahogany and her mom walked into the Northern Regional Center shortly after her cancer diagnosis, wondering what ECF was all about. They walked out with two toys, a box of Mahogany’s favorite cereal, a birthday bag, and a Caseworker, Caitlin, to provide...read more
ECF has helped me tremendously with the support of my Caseworker, Eileen, as well as the volunteers with the holiday wish lists and in making sure Ty had a wonderful birthday every year. And when times were really hard, ECF helped out with meals and food. I don’t think I would have made it through without having to talk to someone who understood. Thank you ECFTheresa Godfrey, Ty’s mom
Where to Find Us
67 Walnut Ave
Clark, NJ 07066
Central Regional Center
67 Walnut Ave
Clark, NJ 07066
(908) 322-4323 x17
Sr. Central Regional Director