In 2014, Mill Creek High School student-athlete Gino Vizzi was diagnosed with a form of cancer that rarely occurs in children and young adults. While spending time in the hospital, he took notice of a fellow patient, a young girl, who was also receiving treatment.
“I saw a little girl sitting by herself every single day and wondered where her family members were,” said Vizzo, now 22. “Apparently the father wasn’t in the picture and the mom had other kids she had to look after and was working, and it hit me that I wanted to be that hope for that little girl and somehow help this family. “
Later that same year, Vizzo – with counsel from his father David and mother Toniann – established the P4 Foundation, which since that time has assisted more than 60 families throughout the Southeast who have young family members that have been diagnosed with cancer. The foundation also provides faith-filled encouragement and advice for maintaining and improving wellness before and after treatment.
David Vizzi said the resources the P4 Foundation provides includes financial help on rent or mortgages, power bills, insurance premiums and hospital bills, among other things. And each family gets a special gift from the foundation, courtesy of the Vizzi family.
“A home-cooked meal from Toniann, to give them that sense of specialness,” said David Vizzi.
Like many foundations, P4 has experienced a dearth in activities and fundraisers for much of the year (although a recent golf tournament was held), but the Vizzis are springing back into action as one of the beneficiaries of a an inventive yard sale hosted by Shawn Stevens, a speech-language pathologist for Duncan Creek Elementary School whose daughter Erin Stevens Fowler died in 2015 after being diagnosed with cancer.
The community charity sale will be held this week in an empty rental house on Fontana Lane in the Fountain Glen neighborhood of Lawrenceville on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The philanthropy committee at Duncan Creek Elementary School has been collecting items for the sale, which began during the Oct. 9-11 weekend, and the beneficiaries are Relay For Life and the P4 Foundation.
The Vizzi family got to know Shawn and her daughter, and Shawn Stevens serves on the P4 Foundation’s board of directors. It is clear that Erin Stevens made a big impression on them.
“We started the foundation in November 2014,” said Toniann Vizzi. “Somebody knew Erin and knew what we were doing and we were asked if he could help her because she was raising money for some kind of treatment. We sent her $50 and a card and said we were praying for her. Three months after that, I saw she was having a fundraiser at Buffalo’s restaurant. So our family went to offer support and when we got there, Erin was there, which I never expected. It was an amazing experience when Gino got to meet her.”
“When we showed up at the event, you wouldn’t know how sick Erin was because of the way she carried herself,” said Gino Vizzi. “She was so positive and it helped me in my life and provided inspiration for me and what I’m dealing with. Seeing how she carried herself, I feel I should walk in those same shoes and it helped me grow as a person.
“She was an amazing woman. Even when she was so frail and sick she showed up at a P4 event, the home run derby we had. She was so sick, but she showed the passion that she had. She was an amazing person in my life.”
The P4 Foundation, which has helped families with sick children in Georgia, Florida, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina, established a scholarship in Erin Stevens’ memory and monies realized from the sale will go into the scholarship fund, which is given to multiple Gwinnett County students each year.
“It’s all about remembering the legacy of someone who was so special to our founder and to keep her memory going,” said David Vizzi, who added that student-athletes from Mill Creek High have volunteered their time and talents to work at the sale through the school’s NG3 organization. “There’s so much synergy here the community needs to understand what we’re dealing with.”
For more information about the community charity sale, call 678-485-1495 or 770-519-8451. For more information about the P4 Foundation, visit www.p4foundation.org.