Colluras take stage at Cooking for a Cure


One year ago, Rachel and Ronald Collura participated in a diabetes research fundraiser not knowing that the disease would soon have a personal impact on their lives.

Whether dealing in the deli business, public safety, education, or philanthropy, the Collura family is well known for their willingness to step up in the spirit of service. Last week, East Rockaway’s Rachel and Ronald Collura, owners of Arata’s Deli and Caterers in Sea Cliff since 2003, were honored alongside their family at the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation’s 18th annual Cooking for a Cure fundraiser.

“It was unbelievable, and I can’t express how much this event moved us,” Ronald said.

Back in 2022, Ronald was unfamiliar with diabetes and he did not know of anyone who had the disease. This changed after his grandson Giovanni was diagnosed with type 1, juvenile diabetes at the end of 2022.

“I went into the hospital for an operation. When I got out, Jonathan, my third oldest son, who is a cop in Nassau County Bureau of Special Operations, took me for my second checkup after the surgery,” Ronald said.

During the doctor visit, Ronald said Jonathan told him, “I don’t know what’s the matter with Giovanni. He wakes up in the morning and the bed is soaked with sweat.”

After Ronald’s grandson Giovanni went to the doctor later that week with the flu, he was rushed to the hospital, where the diagnosis of juvenile diabetes was made. Ronald mentioned that when children with diabetes get sick, they are often rushed to the hospital. This happened for Giovanni, as his vital signs were irregular.

“The doctors couldn’t give him insulin or anything because he was throwing up,” Ronald said

Soon after this diagnosis, Ronald had a conversation with Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, who explained to him that this is a normal symptom of diabetes.

“This is a really big learning experience,” Ronald said.

To help ease Ronald and his family into this new chapter of their life, DeRiggi-Whitton called Ronald’s daughter-in-law Victoria and assured her that Giovanni was going to be fine. This optimism comes from her own personal relationship with the disease.

During Christmas of 2022, DeRiggi-Whitton’s daughter, now 27, was home for the holidays and she spent an hour and a half talking on the phone with Victoria to explain some of the things about the disease. Now, over a year later, DeRiggi-Whitton noted that Giovanni stole all of the attention away from the Collura’s and displayed how strong, healthy, and smart he is.

“He’s doing good. He’s 4 and full of energy. I babysit and watch the numbers. It’s all something new to me,” Ronald said about his grandson, adding that the experience brought an important new perspective for his family. “It opened up something new to me and my wife. We never looked at diabetes and, all of a sudden, I hear about it constantly.”

DeRiggi-Whitton said that her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was three. Soon after, she became familiar with the Diabetes Research Institute, which leads the world in cure-focused research. She noted that since being a co-host for the Cooking for a Cure event, she tries to find people to come to the fundraiser and share their personal story. This year, she chose to honor the Collura family.

DeRiggi-Whitton explained that Rachel and Ronald gave back to different charities over the years – the most recent one was for detective Jonathan Diller, who died last month in the line of duty. She wanted to show her appreciation for all the work that they do in the community by honoring them at the event.

“We just started getting involved with this recently and it’s new to us,” Ronald said. “Hopefully they will find a cure.”

DeRiggi-Whitton explained that the DRI is part of the University of Miami and there is a building there that is dedicated to finding a cure to diabetes. A lot of its funding comes from grassroots efforts like the Cooking for a Cure fundraiser.

“I really believe that they’re going to cure it,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “They’ve come up with some new medication that actually helps regrow islet cells, which is the problem with type 1 diabetes.”

DeRiggi-Whitton, known as the face of the Diabetes Association in Nassau County to Ronald, has contributed a lot of her time to raise money and awareness of the disease.

“During the last two decades, it has been an absolute privilege to help the Collura family and so many others like them as they come to terms with a diabetes diagnosis in their family,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “By getting involved, sharing their stories, and giving back, the Collura family is serving as a beacon of hope and showing the world that there is tremendous hope to be found in the days ahead.”

The Collura family’s new role with DRI is a natural extension of their commitment to service. Ronald is an ex-captain of the East Rockaway FD and ex-President of the Kiwanis Club of East Rockaway.

In total, about 175 tickets were sold at this year’s event. A benefactor underwrote all the expenses of the dinner so every penny made went to the DRI. Fundraising was aided by about 60 raffle prize baskets.

Over the past 18 years, Cooking for a Cure has raised more than $1 million for the DRI. Research behind their BioHub, a bioengineered “mini organ” that mimics the function of the native pancreas, has seen great success in clinical trials. To read more about their efforts in curing the disease, visit