Great Neck foundation fights for alternative cancer treatments

Janelle Clausen
Photo courtesy of Rachel Kasab.

Nearly thirty people from Great Neck donned umbrellas and white attire as they trekked through torrential rain on the Cross Island Parkway Trail in Bayside, Queens on Saturday, hoping to benefit a Great Neck resident and raise awareness for alternative cancer therapies.

The nonprofit Sheryl Donofrio Foundation‘s inaugural walk benefited Great Neck resident Sheryl Donofrio, a mother of four currently undergoing round six of an alternative treatment for lung cancer, and the foundation itself.

Jennifer Garris, Donofrio’s daughter and founder of the Sheryl Donofrio Foundation, described her mother as an amazing person who has led by example to make a difference in the world. Donofrio has been an advocate for individuals with disabilities for over 25 years, she said, and sits on the Town of North Hempstead’s Disability Advisory Committee.

“She has spent her life volunteering, spearheading food drives and sacrificing her own needs for the needs of others and her children,” Garris said. “My mom has always moved mountains for us and now she needs help.”

Garris, a Great Neck South 2008 graduate, started the foundation in December to help her mother battle cancer and raise awareness for different cancer treatments. She said that watching her mother go through such pain and being unable to help was the “worst kind of hell.”

“In September they [the doctors] told me my mother had three to five weeks to live, so start making plans,” Garris said. “I said we’re not accepting that answer. We’re going to fight with everything we’ve got.”

“It’s kind of a whirlwind of emotions,” Garris added.

The treatment Donofrio is undergoing is gamma delta T-cell therapy, which stimulates T-cells to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, tends to fight all the cells.

T-cell therapy, however, typically is not done through insurance, Garris said.

Still, Garris said, the treatment worked well for her mother the last six months. She described it as rather miraculous so far.  Her mother, after all, actually participated in the foundation’s walk.

“I hope that by sharing her story people will find it in their hearts to help save our mother’s life by providing her access to this miraculous, uncovered treatment while also helping others afflicted with this horrible disease,” Garris said.

Rachel Kasab, a longtime friend of the Donofrios who helped organized the event, said that she appreciated the outpouring of support, given the weather and that Mother’s Day would be on Sunday.

“It was honestly heartwarming,” Kasab said.

For more information about the organization, resources for cancer treatment or to donate, visit

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