By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — The last time Remi Gonzalez ran a fundraiser, the top prize was a free furnace.
Sunday, he and a few fellow contractors are offering something even more enticing — a whole new kitchen.
One of the winners at a fundraiser being held for Mark Farrell by his family and friends at St. Vincent DePaul’s Church, will receive 12 new kitchen cabinets donated by Kitchen World. The prize will also include a countertop and a new sink and faucet, Gomez said.
"We're going to come in and custom design this for whoever wins," said the Niagara Falls home builder and owner of Valery Construction.
Gonzalez has helped run many fundraisers and said he's always looking for new and different ways to help people help others. It's kind of a mission, he said, noting that he typically does about one a year since he got back from a trip to Rome in the 80s.
"I had a visitation with Pope John Paul II. I really got touched by that," he said.
Last year was unique as he was part of two fundraisers for people in need, including one for boxer Nick Casal, where the furnace was given away. "You never see that," he said of the uniqueness of the top prize. "Everybody was going nuts. They were just dumping tickets."
"That went over real nice," he said, of the furnace giveaway, which helped attract about 400 people to help Casal who was brutally assaulted in the Town of Niagara last year. Gonzalez is hoping Sunday's event for Mark Farrell is even more successful.
"When I heard about Mark it just tore me up," he said. "His brother, Mike, was in my wedding 40 years ago."
Farrell was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2011. He has received extensive radiation and has undergone surgery but the cancer returned. Currently, he is on a feeding tube and requires 24 hour home care. A recent fall caused him further setback, according to his family members.
"He's fought this fight so gallantly, and he's tried to stay strong the whole time, but it just keeps throwing him back down," said his sister-in-law Rita Farrell, noting that his uncovered medical expenses keep rising. "The cancer has recurred twice now and he's had to have more surgeries and hospital stays ... the insurance will only cover so much," she said.
The fundraiser will include food and live music, as well as other giveaways such as a 47-inch television, an iPad, a Blu-ray DVD player and a Nexus 7, among many other offerings in a basket auction.
In the meantime, people just seem to keep on giving to help Farrell, including someone who on Friday delivered 1,000 cookies for the event.
Kitchen World designer Tom Cheff said that whoever wins the top prize will also receive his design service, including computer renderings.
"I'm happy to do it," said Cheff, noting that his company and Gonzalez are very community oriented, and "I'm glad to be a part of that."
The top prize winner won't have to be present at the drawing to win the new kitchen. And if they don't happen to need a kitchen, they can pass the prize along to someone else, Gonzalez said. It's an exception he's learned from personal experience with raffles. "I hate it," he said, "when you win something that you already have."WHAT: Fundraiser for Mark W. Farrell WHEN: 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday WHERE: St. Vincent DePaul's (St. Leo Site) 2748 Military Road FOR MORE INFORMATION: Tickets are $20 for a spaghetti dinner and one sheet of auction tickets, with entertainment by The Mombrea Brothers Band. Call Remi Gonzalez, 622-5354; Joe Mombrea, 210-8696; Mike Hall, 285-3725; Rich Backlas, 285-8037; Linda Edwards, 471-9211; or Rita Farrell, 628-4320 for more details.