Five fathers start charity to support families facing cancer

Anthony Lenza (far left) with his four friends who started the Five Fathers Children's Charity.
Anthony Lenza (far left) with his four friends who started the Five Fathers Children's Charity. Photo: Fivefathers.org

When Anthony Lenza’s two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia, he knew he needed support.

"It's probably the toughest thing that a parent has to hear when their child is given that diagnosis," the American dad told NBC’s TODAY show.

It was also tough for his friends to hear that Lenza’s son, also named Anthony, had cancer.

Anthony Lenza with his wife Antoinette, daughter Laura and now healthy son, Anthony.
Anthony Lenza with his wife Antoinette, daughter Laura and now healthy son, Anthony. Photo: Fivefathers.org

"[It] was probably one of the worst days of my life," Lenza’s friend Kevin Skirde tells NBC.

"Dealing with such a tragedy for my best friend, I was helpless. What do I do and how do I help him?"

Luckily Lenza knew he could rely on his close-knit group of high school friends, all hailing from New York, for support. 

The long stays in hospital also made him realise how important charity organisations are.

“From holiday toys to the children to raising money for families so they could stay in New York for their children’s cancer treatment, charitable giving helps on so many different levels,” Lenza writes on his website.

That was back in 2011. Young Anthony was successfully treated, and is now happy and healthy.

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Even though he can look forward to a good life with his son, Lenza wondered how he could make a difference to the lives of other children going through similar hardships.

His friends felt the same way, knowing there would be other people out there in need of support.

“They were trying to figure out what they could do to help,” Lenza says of his friends.

“And when we came up with this idea, we kind of all gelled and we all agreed that we should try to do this charity.”

So Lenza, Skirde and three other old high school friends -  Mark Scellato, Jason Langin and Nicholas Capogrosso – decided to create the Five Fathers Children’s Charity.

“… There are many people who can’t give to their children as much as they would like, who struggle to share strength when they have none left to share, who can no longer provide guidance for they have lost their way,” the fathers write on their website.

Their aim is to help provide families of very sick children with financial support through fundraising efforts.

"There's nothing special about us," Lenza says. "The only special thing is what we're trying to do for children who need help."

But financial support is no small thing. In a country with limited public healthcare, having a very ill child can cost thousands of dollars – as Lenza knows very well himself.

"Going through the struggle myself with my son, I know that financially, it's a big stress on the entire family," Lenza told NBC.

"We do our best to help financially the best we can."

One of the beautiful things the five fathers do, is personally show up to hand over the cheque to each family that needs  financial help.

"It's pretty powerful when you show up to somebody's house or a location and you meet these people ... the parents and the children in need," Skirde says.

"It's a sense of pride that you can impact and help somebody's life."

Lenza hopes their charity encourages other fathers to get out and do the same thing.

"I want to encourage other people, especially fathers," Anthony says.

"This is something they can get involved in and help with their own friends. Do something like this or come along and join our charity and we'll help you along."