ROBBINSVILLE – Tickets are on sale now for the March 9 benefit concert, starring Broadway singer and actor Ciaran Sheehan, who is lending his star power to raise funds for a local teen battling cancer.
Melissa Ferrono, 19, who graduated from Robbinsville High School in June, has Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone and connective tissue cancer. She is scheduled for a second surgery in early March, and although she won’t be able to attend the concert, her family is grateful to everyone involved, her mom, Roseanne Ferrono, said Feb. 18.
“The Robbinsville community has really rallied around our daughter and our family and I can’t begin to tell you how much that has meant to us,” Ferrono said. “We are always amazed at all the people who don’t even know us that want to help.”
Sheehan, the brother of Sharon School kindergarten teacher Ann Marie Delle Grotti, has performed in more than 1,000 Broadway shows, including the role of Phantom in the “The Phantom of the Opera” and Marius in “Les Miserables.” He has previously sold out performances at Carnegie Hall and the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland. Organizers are hoping his concert in the 1,000-seat Robbinsville High School Performing Arts Center, an event that will be emceed by New Jersey comedian Joe Piscopo, will also be a sellout.
All proceeds from the concert, which is sponsored by Roma Bank, will go to defray Melissa’s mounting out-of-pocket medical expenses. Even though her family has health insurance, the deductibles and prescription co-pays for the expensive chemotherapy drugs over the past two years are easily approaching $40,000, her mother said.
“I have a 50 percent prescription co-pay and, just as an example, five chemotherapy pills cost $3,000,” Ferrono said. “Money is not the issue because we’ll do whatever it takes, but the community’s support in all this, with all these fundraisers, is very much appreciated.”
Melissa was first diagnosed with cancer in July 2011 and missed most of her senior year in high school as she underwent surgery, 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation, Ferrono said. After the treatments ended in April she was well enough to attend her senior prom in May and start her freshman year of college at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in the fall on a four-year scholarship.
However, in October, the tumors returned and she needed to withdraw from the university in order to undergo more chemotherapy. Ferrono said her daughter is scheduled to have another operation in early March to remove lining from her chest wall, lung and heart and then will have photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatments which use drugs activated by beams of light to target and destroy cancer cells.
Melissa, who plans to return some day to college and eventually earn a law degree, doesn’t dwell on her medical issues and doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, Ferrono said.
“She’s brave, composed and just handles everything as it comes along and does what needs to be done,” Ferrono said. “She’s my hero.”
Tickets for the benefit cost $25 (cash only) and can be purchased any time during normal business hours at Roma Bank’s Robbinsville headquarters at 2300 Route 33, or at Jim’s Bagel Loft at 34 Robbinsville-Allentown Road.
Tickets will also be available at the high school on the night of the concert. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert will start at 7:30 p.m. Organizers urge people to buy their tickets in advance, if possible, to avoid waiting in line on the night of the concert.