By: Joleene DesRosiers Moody
OSWEGO, NY – Larry Lombardo has been in business for 25 years.
A week after Bridie Manor opened its doors, Lombardo was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive disease that affects the central nervous system, brain, spinal cord and optic nerves: Multiple Sclerosis. Now he’s ready to celebrate a dual milestone that has more than opened his eyes to a world where blood, sweat and tears are much more than a metaphor.
“I’m 58-years-old and I’ve had MS for over two decades,” he said. “I’ve owned this place just as long. What better way to celebrate our anniversary together than educating people in our community about this disease? We’ve reached out to Multiple Sclerosis Recourses of New York to help us with a fundraiser that will do just that.”
Multiple Sclerosis Recourses of New York of East Syracuse has teamed up with OswegoCountyToday.com to spearhead the event.
On Saturday close to 250 people are expected to take part in the Poker Run.
Participating business are:
The Press Box
Murdock’s Bicycles and Sports
Cider Moon Coffee and Café
Maria’s Family Restaurant
Harbor Towne Gifts
Man in the Moon Candy
The idea of the Poker Run is to visit all of the business (on foot, on wheels or in your car), collect five playing cards and two tokens, and return to Bridie Manor to claim prizes, play a 50/50 raffle, enter tickets into a silent auction, and eat plenty of food – all while raising awareness about the debilitating autoimmune disease.
“Raising awareness is, I think, the most important thing,” said Annette Simiele, associate director of MS Resources. “When people see a man like Larry and learn about his story, it opens their eyes. I mean, this isn’t an easy business. Running a restaurant is difficult. When people see someone like him day after day managing a business, going through treatment, all while creating an environment in which he can be successful, they become inspired. He is able to inspire others and show them anything is possible.”
Lombardo proves it as he moves toward the piano in the corner of the dining room.
His friend Ron Kaplewicz has asked him to play the theme song to the movie Titanic.
He does, and his fingers move fluidly over the keys, leaving any thoughts of his struggle somewhere else in the room.
MS has many symptoms, one of them being the loss of muscular strength in the arms and legs as the disease progresses.
This is happening to Lombardo. But it is far from evident when he plays.
“I was diagnosed when I was in my 30s. The doctor said I’d probably be in a wheelchair in five years and I was pretty down in the dumps about that. I didn’t like hearing that. But one day I was downtown and noticed everyone was walking forward. Not one person was walking backwards. I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to go backwards. I wanted to keep walking forward. And I am,” he said.
Researchers say MS happens when something triggers the immune system to attack the body.
Roughly 400,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with MS.
Nearly twice as many women as men have it.
Despite these statistics, Lombardo forges on to live the best life he can.
You can join Lombardo and others in the community in October for what they hope will become an annual event.
For more information:
Annette Simiele at Multiple Sclerosis Resources – (315) 438-4790
OR Fred Reed at OswegoCountyToday – (315) 593-2520