Where it began …

As the Terri Brodeur Foundation celebrates its milestones, we are taking a look back and talking with those who helped get the foundation started and who have continued to support its mission over the years of raising money and designating every dollar donated toward breast cancer research. This year marks the 15th anniversary of TBF, which was established in February 2006. We held our first walking marathon fundraiser in October 2006 and this year we are celebrating our 16th walk.

Phil Maniscalco

Phil Maniscalco is one of those guys who never sits still.

TBF founding leader, Phil Maniscalco
TBF founding leader, Phil Maniscalco

He’s preparing for a flag folding ceremony to honor a local veteran or helping out at an acupuncture clinic for veterans. He’s organized two national reunions for the Society of the 5th Division, U.S. Army. He was on the board of the historic Westerly Armory. He’s been president of the Mystic and New London Rotary clubs. He’s growing tomatoes on his deck. He’s training to get back to running after a medical setback – he’s run 17 full marathons and 20 half marathons. He’s active in the Westerly VFW attending monthly meetings and participating in many events including taking responsibility for parade marching honor guard and these days, helping assemble poppies which are used for annual fundraisers around Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veterans Day.

Maniscalco, husband of the co-founder of the Terri Brodeur Foundation Sandy Maniscalco, has also been the hydration king for more than 15 years for the foundation’s annual walking marathon fundraiser. Captain Hydration, as he’s been called, has provided ice cold water to walkers along the 26.2-mile route since 2006. He has no plans of giving up his volunteer position.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said during an interview in his air-conditioned living room in Westerly. “And where Sandy goes, I go,” he added with a chuckle.

He also knew Terri Brodeur’s husband, the late Tim Brodeur, who helped him when later in life he began a new career in finance at Pfizer Inc. “Tim mentored me, this old guy,” Maniscalco recalled. “I would have traveled the world for him.”

Maniscalco at the 2006 Walk Across Southeastern CT
Maniscalco at the 2006 Walk Across Southeastern CT

Maniscalco remembers the first TBF marathon opening ceremony in Old Saybrook in 2006, when he was moved to tears listening to breast cancer survivors speak. He was in awe of the passion of the participants who were determined to walk and raise money for breast cancer research.

“Every time I wept,” he said, recalling watching the sun come up and walkers heading out on their journey to Harkness Memorial State Park. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Maniscalco also knew the other co-founder of TBF, Norma Logan, and walked in a three-day marathon in NYC in 2004 on Norma’s Bust-a-Move team to raise money for breast cancer. The following year he planned to walk with the same group in a marathon in Boston but when the organizers put out a call for volunteers, he stepped forward.

After the New York and Boston fundraisers, Norma Logan realized a large chunk of the money her team raised was not directly benefiting those with breast cancer. She called all her smart friends together for a meeting in her living room.

“She commanded the meeting,” said Maniscalco who attended the gathering where Logan outlined her idea for a foundation in which all donations would be put into research grants and every year awarded to doctors and scientists searching for a cure for breast cancer. The organization would be run with volunteers and with money from sponsorships.

“Norma was remarkable. She had so many skills,” he said. “She was confident. She knew how to give direction and she knew she needed a staff to make it all work. Most important was that every dollar raised would go to research”, he said.

Norma died from breast cancer just a few months before the first walk.

Maniscalco volunteered to be in charge of the hydration team, he said, because of his experience during the Boston fundraiser. John LaMattina, an original member of the board of directors, is his assistant. In 2014 Max Logan joined the walk leadership team and the two co-chaired until 2017 when Max took over as Walk Leader.

Maniscalco, who is nearing his 80s, has no plans to slow down. His volunteer work is part of his self-actualization.

“It may be genetic,” he said. He grew up in Norristown, Pa., outside Philadelphia in a family of hard workers. He had five uncles who started a fruit and produce business and all volunteered in their communities. He said he finds value in helping others.

What keeps him going, he said, is the hope that someone will find a cure for breast cancer and that the money the foundation has raised over the years helped. TBF has raised $5.2 million since 2006 and has awarded 52 research grants.

He hopes the foundation can find a way to increase the number of walkers who participate each year, thus increasing the amount of money that will go to research.

“I’m going to continue this thing into infinity,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *