Long Beach Island Resident One of Four
Nominees for National Survivorship Award
LONG BEACH ISLAND – A Long Beach Island man has been named one of four nominees nationwide for the Hero of Hope Patient Award given by the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+).
David Caldarella was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in April 2010. He learned his cancer was extremely aggressive and had already metastasized from his tonsils to the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck and down his throat.
“The news was upsetting on a number of levels,” says Caldarella. “I was in the best shape of my life and had never smoked. Beyond the physical, it hit me emotionally, socially, and financially. It literally changed my life.”
The next month he underwent a tonsillectomy and biopsy, a right neck dissection and transoral robotic surgery to remove the remaining tonsil and tumor. Chemo and radiation quickly followed.
“What got me through this was my family, friends, faith, the kindness of strangers, and the desire to create a legacy that would benefit others and make my nephew and nieces proud.”
That legacy took shape as David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing financial assistance to people who are battling cancer and can’t afford day-to-day necessities.
“I thought about the foundation constantly,” he says. “It would be 2 or 3 in the morning, and I would be trying to figure out how we would fund it, who we would help, and what it is we would do.”
In November 2010, Caldarella received the “all clear” from his surgeon and spent the next two years growing his foundation, which required overseeing four annual fundraising events.
“By 2013, we reached a breaking point,” he explains. “We surpassed our initial goal to help one or two families a year almost immediately. By the time I went full-time and became a salaried employee of the foundation in 2014, we were helping more than 100 people from across New Jersey annually.”
To date, David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation has helped 400 families and has given more than $400,000 in assistance.
As one of the nominees for the Hero of Hope Patient Award, Caldarella’s story will be featured in the August issue of CONQUER: The Patient Voice Magazine.
Voting to select the winner is now open. The winner of the Hero of Hope Patient Award will be announced in early October at AONN’s sixth annual Navigation and Survivorship Conference in Atlanta. The winner will receive a plaque recognizing his/her contributions to the cancer community as well as a donation of $1,000 made to the charity of his/her choice.
The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators, Inc. (AONN+) is the largest national specialty organization dedicated to improving patient care and quality of life by defining, enhancing, and promoting the role of oncology nurse and patient navigators. The organization, which has more than 5,000 members, was founded in 2009 to provide a network for all professionals involved and interested in patient navigation and survivorship care services in order to better manage the complexities of the cancer treatment process. For more information visit www.
CONQUER is the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators’ (AONN+) premier forum for patients with cancer. CONQUER features articles written by and for patients with cancer, survivors, nurse navigators, and other oncology team members. This magazine addresses the issues that patients, their family members, and caregivers face every day in an easy-to-read format. Issues include interviews with patients with cancer, information on access to care, and articles on lifestyle topics such as nutrition, stress management, personal finance, and legal and employer issues. CONQUER also features patient stories that are nominated for the AONN+ HERO OF HOPETM award, which will be presented at the AONN+ Annual Conference. All stories are compiled in a special issue of CONQUER at the end of the year. For more information visit www.
About David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation
David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that raises funds to provide financial assistance and services to families primarily in New Jersey affected by a cancer diagnosis. David Caldarella, Co-Founder and Stage IV cancer survivor, established David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation in 2010. His journey of living through Stage IV cancer inspired him to dedicate his life to helping other individuals, affected by a cancer diagnosis. David spends most of his time being with these families and has been an amazing support person in all their lives. To date, the Foundation has assisted 325 patients in 4 years, and donated over $300,000 to families afflicted by cancer. Donations are used towards a multitude of services for the family battling a cancer diagnosis including financial assistance for medications, treatments, transportation, rent, mortgage and utility bills.
For further information, please visit www.davidsdreamandbelieve.org.