After her father succumbed to cancer in December, Carol Hrbek, 55, went to her doctor and discovered that she had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She is now “pretty much bedridden,” her husband, Frank, says, and her family is now “trying to make her life as comfortable as possible.”
To help with those efforts, community members have been visiting Carol at her Elmont home and raising money to help with her medical expenses. The effort began with members of the Elmont Fire Department and their friends, but eventually they realized they could reach more people if they created an online fundraiser.
So, Maria Testaverde-Mellen, who has known Frank Hrbek since they were children growing up in the neighborhood, created a GoFundMe page for the family on June 18. Within the first hour she had raised over $1,000, and by that night, the fundraiser had reached $10,000 in donations. Three days later, it surpassed $15,000, and Testaverde-Mellen has since increased the goal.
“The more we get, the better off for this family,” she said, explaining that the website takes 30 cents from every donation, but if they raise enough money, the Hrbeks’ two teenagers, Samantha, 18, and Nick, 15, “don’t have to have any more turmoil in their lives.”
As of Monday, the campaign had netted more than $31,000 for the family, with two contributors, Abner and Berta Melendez, writing, “Carol, you are and always have been an amazing woman. Frank, you’re just a great guy, you’re an amazing, beautiful family, and we’ve been praying for you all since day one, and will continue to pray for you always.”
Eduardo Talero also wrote that Frank is “a tremendous person,” and that his family knows “how devastating the situation can be, so we support all efforts to bring some relief to him.”
Members of the Elmont F.D., where Frank is a volunteer firefighter and commissioner, also contributed, with Commissioner Ralph Esposito noting, “We’re a family in the fire service.”
Even people the Hrbeks know from out of state donated money to help them out. “It’s outrageous how people and good friends can come together,” Frank said.
He is the head custodian at Floral Park Memorial High School, a member of American Legion Post 1033 and a former Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader. Carol is vice president of the Sewanhaka High School Parent Teacher Association, a member of the Interschool Council of PTAs, and the former president of the Covert Avenue School PTA. She was a teacher’s aide at Elmont Memorial High School until her cancer was diagnosed six months ago.
Together, they work to improve their children’s education and help anyone in need, Esposito said. Carol helped ensure that every student was able to participate in school activities, Testaverde-Mellen said, and Frank even helped her mother after she returned to her car, which she had accidentally left in neutral, to get her cane. The door knocked her down, Testaverde-Mellen recounted, and the car ran over her mother’s ankles.
Her mother then called her, and Testaverde-Mellen proceeded to call Frank, who ran over to help her and call an ambulance to transport the woman to Long Island Jewish Valley Stream.
“They’ll take their shirt off their back,” she said of the Hrbeks, adding, “You want to help good people.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/hrbeck-family.