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Tournament raises $60,000 for brain cancer research

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Two years ago, Fabiana and Nick Pellicani, of Rockville Centre, lost their 5-year-old daughter, Gabriella, to pediatric cancer. Since then, they have raised awareness of the disease and funding for research in her honor, amassing nearly $150,000 over the past two years.

More than 100 people took part in the second annual Golfing for Gabi tournament at the Rockville Links Club on Sept. 24, in support of the Jimmy Fund, a fundraising arm for Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The event honored Gabi’s life and spirit. She died on Oct. 16, 2018, 10 months after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer. Despite her disorder, she attended St. Mark’s Nursery School and kindergarten at Watson Elementary School.

“Gabi was always a positive child, even after her diagnosis,” Fabiana said. “Every day she would find moments of happiness and burst out, ‘This is the best day ever!’ And that phrase struck us on Thursday, since during such a terrible year, we were still able to come together with family and friends for this cause.”

During the afternoon, 110 golfers competed in the tournament, which was followed by an outdoor reception attended by friends and family. The participants raised nearly $60,000 to support research focused on brain cancers at Dana-Farber, where Gabi underwent a clinical trial.

“Given the current situation, we had no idea what to expect in terms of attendance and fundraising,” Nick said, “but just like last year, we were completely overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the community. Golfing for Gabi is obviously very important to us, but it’s really gratifying to know that it also means a lot to so many others. And as always, we’re so proud to know that Gabi continues to bring hope and joy to others.”

Gabi’s grandfather Paul Pellicani, who drove up from Maryland to take part in the fundraiser, said he was pleased with the turnout and the generosity of the attendees. “Many giving a little,” he said simply, “can do a lot.”

Fabiana said that while her daughter was undergoing the clinical trial at Dana-Farber, the family was supported by, and received high-quality care from, doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital, and they felt it was important to continue supporting the research being done. “It’s our hope that, in our lifetime, there will be a cure,” she said, “or at least a breakthrough in treatment options that will allow other children to live longer — and maybe even long enough until the next treatment breakthrough.”

The event’s first-place gross winners were Colby Anderson, Michael Lawless, Sean Kerly and Billy Dong, who set a tournament record with an 18-hole score of 59. The first-place net winners were Frank Cummings, Mark Pfeifer, Kenny Collins and Ned Morgan. The winners’ prizes included a plaque featuring a rainbow drawn by Gabi. Sponsors included Toppan-Merrill, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Holderness & Bourne and Golfer’s Journal.

The event also included a silent auction and raffles, with prizes ranging from sporting events, helicopter rides and a trip to Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, to framed artwork created by Gabi. Another prize was a BMW i8 Spyder electric toy car, won by Gabi’s 4-year-old brother, Antonio, which he happily drove around during the reception.

Next year’s Golfing for Gabi is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23. For more information, to to www.golfingforgabi.com. Donations in support of pediatric brain cancer research can also be made in Gabi’s memory at www.danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/gabistrong.