For three or more hours, a dozen volunteers served up hundreds of plates of pasta and meatballs inside the crowded auditorium, raising forks and money for a very good cause. The guest of honor, Cory Burke, politely greeted those who stopped by to say hello.
Then, the cheerful 12-year-old went back to his group of friends, returning to more important topics such as schoolmates, baseball or their favorite video game, Mindcraft.
Cory and his friends, including Dillon Burns, Kyrik Cordeiro, Zachary Burke, Dylan Andrade and Matt DeFelice, were dressed in red t-shirts and wrist bands. So were hundreds of others in the crowd. Each carried the message: “Cory won’t fight alone.”
The fight that Cory has in front of him is cancer.
The disease was discovered during baseball season, when Cory, who pitches and plays shortstop, felt pain in his shoulder. The pain was due to a fracture. But it wasn’t until Cory’s slow recovery was it discovered that a tumor was to blame for the fracture.
“Once they saw a tumor, two days later he was up in Boston for more tests and MRIs,” said Jerry Burke, Cory’s father.
Although the news that their son had cancer was shocking, Jerry and his wife Sue are determined to stay positive for their son. So to is everyone around him.
“We have the best doctors in the world up there,” Mr. Burke said.
Three of Cory’s baseball coaches, Joe Simeone, Corey Santerre and Tim Serbst, decided to help the family the best way they can, by hosting a fund-raiser to help offset the costs of travel to and from Boston and time out of work that the Burke’s will face while their son is undergoing treatments.
“We pulled this together in two weeks,” said Mr. Simeone.
Helping the family quickly became a community project with many local businesses donating toward the efforts.
“Everything we have tonight is donated. It’s incredible,” said Dawn Rego who was busy selling shirts and raffle tickets throughout the night.
Cory will spend this week in Boston, getting chemotherapy at the Dana Farber Institute. It’s a trip that will become routine for the family as they battle the disease together.
“They are very nice,” Cory said of the staff he has already met during his visits to the hospital.
During the day on Saturday, Cory’s friend Dillon showed his support, knowing that one of the side effects of chemo can be hair loss. Dillon came to the pasta fund-raiser sporting a shaved head.
“I shaved it for Cory,” he said. “If he loses his hair, we’re all going to do it.”
It was a topic that Cory also talked to his father about. Mr. Burke relayed a concern that Cory had, once baseball season rolled around in the spring.
“He asked me if his wig would come off when he slides into home,” Mr. Burke said.
Mr. Burke was overwhelmed by the turnout, humbled by the efforts of the entire community.
“I see kids here that I coached in 1996,” Mr. Burke said. “I have friends from high school here. It’s amazing.”
Having lived in Bristol his whole life, Mr. Burke said that when you’re living in a small community, sometimes everyone knows your business.
“Then something like this happens and everyone comes together for you. I can’t thank everybody enough,” he said.
Before the event began, Mr. Burke sent a heartfelt text to his friends who organized the dinner.
“I am the luckiest guy in the world to have friends like you,” he typed.