Santa Cause – A Local Business Owner Creates a Holiday Gala in Support of Cooley’s Anemia Foundation

December 2, 2010


If you’re feeling jaundiced over the usual gamut of reasons why the holidays are an exercise is crass commercialism and unbridled greed, etc., imagine instead taking part in Christmas festivities with your friends and family and doing it all for a good cause. Cory Schifter, co-owner of Casale Jewelers, makes that happen with an annual event that supports Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, which supports people who are affected with various forms of thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder. The outcome of this disease is often anemia that lasts throughout a person’s entire lifespan. Although there are different forms of treatment, the most common is red blood cell transfusions, which give the patient a temporary supply of healthy red blood cells. According to information provided by the foundation’s website, “most patients with a major form of thalassemia receive red blood cell transfusions every two to three weeks, amounting to as much as 52 pints of blood a year.”

For more than fifty years, the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation has been a strong partner for families living with thalassemia. Although now national in scope, CAF began on a local level, a fact reflected in the continuing importance of its local chapters.

After attending the foundation’s annual dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island with his family and co-workers, it became important to Schifter to come part of supporting the cause. “The importance of support for those with the disease and their families were clear,” he said. “The treatment includes hours and hours of blood transfusions, which is maintenance therapy, but not curative. My sister-in-law carries the trait and I recently found out that my niece has it as well, further making me eager to help.”

In the past, the original Casale Jewelers had a holiday event for the neighborhood at his house every year. Schifter decided to bring his event to Dongan Hills in an attempt to do his part in creating support for awareness of Cooley’s Anemia. The store was covered in Christmas lights and decorations, including an oversized snow globe, and Santa’s playhouse, which created a pretty nice picture for passerby. The hour-and-a-half long event boasted live music, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, dancers and even a bike-riding elf! In addition to live entertainment Casale’s offered 50/50 raffles and a “Raffle for Rock, in which one lucky visitor won an Engagement Ring. Local businesses donated ten other prizes to give away to raffle winners as well. The event was a huge success and raised over $6000, all of which was donated to the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation in support of finding a cure.

The public reaction to this event was extremely positive and a number of local businesses were involved in contributing in their own ways, whether by donating prizes for the raffles or just giving their time and talent to help decorate the store, provide music, and much more. Businesses include Xtreme Houselifts and PH Pressure Washing for help with the lighting of the store, NYC Arts Cypher, DJ Mega Mix and Zumba by Angela.

In light of its huge success, Cory has made a commitment to hold this even every year in honor of this foundation. “I believe in supporting charities such as this one in order to relieve some of the suffering that children are faced with. It is a difficult world and we are all faced with challenges; it is our responsibility as members of a community to support each other.”

The store is lit and the big event raffle and entertainment will be held on Wednesday December 15th at 7 p.m. Click here to view the Facebook event page and be kept up to date on special guests, rainout date if necessary and more.

If you would like to contact Casale Jewelers for that special gift, please call Cory Schifter at (718) 351-8300. Casale Jewelers on Staten Island has been in operation since 1986 has been owned by Cory Schifter since August of 2009. Formerly the owners of Independent Jewelers, Casale Jewelers is a retail jeweler with a jewelry designer, licensed repairman and diamond setter, gold and diamond buyers, and a full staff of trained professionals with over 15 years of experience on site. The large showroom, located in Dongan Hills, features over 10,000 items in inventory including gold and diamond earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and bridal gifts. They also have a website where they design personalized jewelry including lockets, photo pendants & more. All can be ordered from the store location.

Click here to read how Casale Jewelers helped a customer receive a brand new Engagement Ring after it fell in a lake in Disney World.

Top brands include Swarovski, Benchmark Wedding Bands, Posh Mommy, Hershey Kiss, Kameleon JewelPops, ZABLE Beads & Charm Bracelets,, Adami & Martucci Fine Italian Jewelry.

Watch brands include G-Shock, Citizen Eco-Drive, Wenger Swiss Army, Skagen, Fossil, Pre-Owned Rolex & MICHELE (Not Dealer). We can get you any watch discounted so you save.

Article documented in the November/December edition of Industry Magazine Staten Island.


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Resident Continues Fight For Cooley’s Anemia Cure

November 24, 2010


At 88 years old, Garden City resident Concetta Paradiso continues to dedicate much time and energy to raising awareness and funds to find a cure for Cooley’s Anemia, a fatal, genetic blood disorder affecting thousands of children.

“People ask me sometimes, ‘Haven’t you had enough?’” Concetta said in a published interview. “Sometimes I’d like to quit, but then I think about it, about how we still don’t have a cure, and I decide to keep on. There are a lot of things going on now in the search for a cure. I hope they find it, and soon.”

Concetta and her late husband Edward had four children: Susan was born in 1949, Peter in 1950, Janice in 1954 and Paul in 1956. Susan and Paul were diagnosed with Cooley’s Anemia during early childhood; after valiant battles, they both ultimately succumbed to the disease, Paul at 17 and Susan at 28 years of age.

Cooley’s Anemia, also known as thalassemia, is the name of a group of genetic blood disorders. Red blood cells consist partially of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin consists of two different proteins, an alpha and a beta. If the body does not produce enough of either of these two proteins, the red blood cells do not form properly and cannot carry sufficient oxygen. The result is anemia.

Treatment involves blood transfusions every two to three weeks and folate supplements. The disease is fatal because transfusions increase the level of iron in the body. The excess iron collects around organs, including the heart, and ultimately causes them to fail.

The hope for a cure is getting closer each day. Through the years there have been several medical breakthroughs that have made it easier for patients to manage the disease. Many now survive into their 50s.

“The Foundation has research projects that are very promising,” said Janice Cenzoprano, Concetta and Edward’s daughter and member of the local foundation’s executive committee. “They need the funds to continue the research. For the past 40 years, the Garden City community has been generous in donating the funds needed for research, which has added 10 to 15 years onto the lives of children born with Cooley’s Anemia.”

Concetta and Edward joined the national Cooley’s Anemia Foundation in 1956 when Paul was four months old. They became involved in fundraising and organizing blood drives. Concetta served as secretary and Edward became president, a post that Concetta also later assumed.

Eventually, they were two of the primary founders of the local CAF chapter based in Garden City. Concetta continues to raise awareness and funds for research and development. The local chapter hosts four major events a year: a brunch in March, a walkathon and a golf outing in May and a dinner dance in November

Honoring Sophia

March 11, 2010

Courtesy by:

Thirteen-month-old Sophia Stagnitta, of East Syracuse, will grow up receiving blood transfusions.

Little Sophia was diagnosed with Beta-Thalassemia Major, also known as Cooley’s Anemia, when she was 11 days old, her mom Jennifer said last week at Skaneateles High School. Jennifer and Sophia were in town for a blood drive being held in Sophia’s honor at the school where her dad, Scott Stagnitta, is a middle school teacher.

Beta-Thalassemia Major is a genetic blood disorder that prevents or greatly reduces the body’s ability to produce adult hemoglobin and causes anemia, which is a lack of iron.
Jennifer said Sophia thankfully has not had to have any blood transfusions yet, but each month the family goes to University Hospital’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology department to have the toddler’s hemoglobin level tested.

“Her hemoglobin level has been up and down, but in the normal range,” Jennifer said.

While Sophia’s levels have fluctuated between 10 and 11, once the levels drop to a 6 or 7, she will need at least one transfusion each month. But with transfusions also come more concerns as receiving blood can cause an iron overload, which in turn will mean Sophia will have to endure therapies to remove iron from her blood. The two methods of removing iron are either through taking a pill orally, but not everyone can take it, or through a method called Chelation Therapy, which requires a needle to be inserted into the body to aid in removal of heavy metals.

“The only way to cure this is a bone marrow transplant,” Scott said, but even then the marrow has to be an identical match from a sibling.

The entire process for a bone marrow transplant would be seven months or more.

“If we were going to do it that way, they want to do it while she’s young,” Scott said.

The younger she is, the less likely it will be that her blood is overloaded with iron, and she would have to be closely monitored.

One issue that stands in the way of even looking into bone marrow transplant is Sophia is Scott and Jennifer’s first child — she has no siblings to be matched to.

“We definitely want another child,” Jennifer said, adding she and Scott have met with a genetic counselor and are aware there is a 25 percent chance of having a second child with Beta-Thalassemia Major. “It’s a lot to think about.”

According to Jennifer, after being diagnosed, her hematologist said Sophia may need her first transfusion at 6 months old but has been fortunate to come this far without having to receive blood.

“I think the hardest part is looking at her and knowing something is wrong,” Scott said.

But for the unknowing person to look at Sophia, she appears to be a normal, active and perfectly healthy 1-year-old. She’s full of energy and on target as far as height, weight and other such benchmarks.

“She’s very active. You’d never know what’s going on,” Jennifer said.

While the blood disorder is rare in the United States and Canada with only around 700 people being affected by it, Jennifer said that’s not the case in places like Italy where a large portion of the population has some form of Thalassemia. Both Jennifer and Scott are of Italian descent and therefore there was a chance they may pass the disorder on to Sophia.

There was no prenatal screening for the disorder or much reason for concern when Jennifer was pregnant, though, as both parents are young and in good health.

For the time being, the young family is living life as normal with a monthly trip to the hematologist.

“We’ll try to keep it normal for her,” Jennifer said.

One thing they have learned is not to dwell on it. Another is to be thankful for things like the Red Cross blood drive on Thursday, where there was an overwhelming amount of support from the community for Sophia.

Sophia may not receive blood donated last week by Skaneateles’ teens and teachers, but the donations will help replenish the blood supply and will go to those who need blood now.

According to statistics from the American Red Cross, at some point in our lives, 80 percent of us will require a blood transfusion and only 4 percent of eligible donors donate.

“We’re honored they would think of Sophia,” Jennifer said.

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