Sparta police, community help young cancer patient

No Shave November and UNICO event raise funds


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  • Melanie Russo Photos provided




  • No Shave November at Sparta PD. From left, front row: Ptl. Thomas Herd, Sgt. Joseph Pensado, Cpl. Scot Elig, Sgt. Adam Carbery, Ptl, Taylor May, Sgt. Robert Fraser, Lt. John Lamon, DSG. Keith Hannam, Chief Neil Spidaletto, Back row: Sgt. Frank Schomp, Cpl. Dave Pridham. Not pictured and also contributing to the No Shave donations were, Cpl. Mark Mastandrea, Cpl. Joseph Antonello, Cpl. Rick Smith, Ptl. Dan Elig, Ptl, Thomas Snyder, Ptl. Timothy Lynott, Ptl. Chris Favaro, Ptl. Eric Finley, Ptl. Steve Guido. Also contributing were Animal Control Officer Don Critchlaw, S.O. Phil Coleman, Gail and Alan Fraser, Janice Illingworth, Debra Carbery, and Charles and Barbara Collver.




By Rose Sgarlato

— The Sparta police stepped up and stayed hairy to help a young resident in her ongoing battle with cancer.

The Fraternal Order of Police Sparta Lodge #26 presented 14-year-old Melanie Russo with a check for $1680 at a UNICO fundraiser on Dec.16 at Rev. Brown School.

Russo is a freshman at Sparta High School and dances at Dance Dimensions by Michelle in Sparta. She is undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of bone cancer. The money raised by the men in blue was received through donations from No Shave November, an initiative dedicated to cancer awareness.

“We are proud and honored to be part of the UNICO fundraiser. We applaud Ms. Russo for her courage and tenacity in the face of such a grave disease,” said Lt. John Lamon of Sparta police. “We were able to raise the money through donations from our police officers during November. And our members also purchased another $140 worth of raffle tickets for the UNICO event.”

President of Sparta UNICO Ray Shupak said the evening was well attended by 120 people plus members of Melanie’s family. Comedian Uncle Floyd entertained the crowd.

“Spirits rose as we heard the positive prognosis for Melanie's future and everyone left in happy and seasonal spirits. Funds supporting the event and donations are still coming in, but the spirit of giving is alive and well in Sussex County,” Shupak said. “As many as 50 businesses participated with cash donations or gifts that were used for the tricky tray that was a big hit with the crowd.”

And Shupak was also grateful for the generous donation from the FOP.

“It was our pleasure to help a Sparta resident in need in addition to protecting and serving our community,” Lt. Lamon said.

Shupak said: “Since 1998, Sparta UNICO, a true service organization has been giving back to the people of Sussex County with a motto of ‘Service Above Self.’ We are about everything good in the Italian-American culture and promote its integrity and contributions to America. There are currently 50 local charities that Sparta UNICO has supported over the years and continues to reach out to new ones.”

Anyone who wants to find out more about UNICO or has an interest in joining, can contact the organization by mail: Sparta UNICO P.O. Box 328 Sparta, NJ 07871. Or can call Shupak directly at 862-266-7039.



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