SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 20, 2012

Annual Mike's Wish Foundation Benefit to be held Nov. 2 in Peabody

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — The 12th annual Mike’s Wish Foundation Benefit will take place Friday, Nov. 2, at the AOH Hall on Lowell Street in Peabody. The event takes place every year to help find a cure for juvenile Huntington’s disease, a genetic and terminal illness that took the life of Peabody resident Mike Visone in April 2008.

Visone battled the disease with courage and determination. He would have been 28 years old if he had lived, and this benefit is carried on by his mother Gayle Eason, who is keeping her son’s memory alive.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and there will be a live band, food, raffles, and auctions. Tickets are $25 and will be available at the door.

Visone was an avid sports fan who played youth baseball before the disease set in. But above all else he loved hockey and collected sports jerseys of various teams and players. He went to Bruins games whenever he could, and during his playing days in Boston several years ago Sergei Samsonov befriended the young man.

Peabody Youth Hockey retired an honorary hockey jersey with Mike’s name; it’s now framed and hanging at the city’s McVann-O’Keefe Rink.

Visone also took karate seriously and earned a black belt.

Visone’s father had Huntington’s disease, and at around age 7 his mother began noticing worrisome symptoms in her son — even though the diagnosis was not made until a few years later.

“We want to spread awareness,” said Eason. “People think of Huntington’s as an old person’s disease, but Mike was only 23 when he died.

“We’re a small group, but we do what we can. We also assist families with terminally ill children, not necessarily suffering from just Huntington’s. My Mike would want to help them, and our promise to him was to always do this.

“It’s been harder since he died because this was always Mike’s night. He was the star,” continued his mother. “He even did the North Shore Cancer Walk when he could hardly walk because his grandmother had cancer. He wanted to raise money to fight cancer; that was the way he always was.”

Olive Garden is donating all the food; Hannaford Supermarket is supplying pastries, and D’Orsi’s Bakery is providing the cake. Visone worked part time bagging at Hannaford, and each year they donate money to Mike’s Wish from a chowder booth they set up at the Peabody International Festival.

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The Beverly Parks and Recreation Department is running a 5K Road Race on Sunday, Nov. 4, at Lynch Park. The race, which begins at noon, will follow the Beverly Homecoming race course (i.e., starting and ending at Lynch Park).

This event allows runners to see where they are in their training compared to August, when the actual Homecoming Race took place. It is open to all ages and local high school and college runners looking for a competitive format as they get ready for the transition to indoor track.

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What better way to start your women’s college hockey career than by scoring the game-winning goal in your team’s home opener? That’s exactly what freshman Dakota Woodworth did in Boston University’s 3-2 win over Renssaeler in the home opener at Walter Brown Arena last weekend.

Woodworth, who lived in Ipswich growing up, is the daughter of former Peabody resident Richie Woodworth, who had an outstanding pro skiing career.

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St. John’s Prep football coach Jim O’Leary said that his team’s star running back, junior Jon Thomas of Peabody, was offered a scholarship by UMass-Amherst this week. It is the first of many offers that should come his way.

An interesting note on this bye week for the Eagles is that undefeated Barnstable High — the team that beat Everett in overtime the week after the Prep lost to the Crimson Tide — also has a bye. O’Leary tried to arrange a game between the two before the season started and even offered to make the trip down to Cape Cod, but couldn’t set up a game. For many years Barnstable and St. John’s had a good non-league rivalry.

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Speaking of the Eagles, they have certainly benefitted nicely from Masco Youth Football over the years. A while back the sixth-grade Masco team that was coached by Tom Mathers included his son, Tucker Mathers, as well as Alex Moore, Lucas Bavaro and Natty Cabral — all of whom are key senior contributors at St. John’s Prep right now.

That same year, the MYF fifth-grade team was coached by Mike Smerczynski with his son, Sean Smerczynski, and teammates Dom Hooven, Kent Blaeser and Dave Caputo on the squad. Again, they’re all current Eagles playing key roles as juniors.

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.