About the Foundation
Laurie Mezzalingua, a breast cancer patient for 12 years, established the Saint Agatha Foundation in 2004 to provide financial assistance to individuals in Central New York State who are afflicted with breast cancer. The Foundation is dedicated to providing support, comfort and care to breast cancer patients through financial assistance programs. The Saint Agatha Foundation provides support, allowing patients to focus on their treatment, not their bills.
The Saint Agatha Foundation provides financial support to breast cancer patients in Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, Madison, Oneida, and Oswego Counties in Central New York. The city of Syracuse is one of the 10 poorest places in the United States, according to data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau. Watertown has a 40% poverty rate, compared to 18% in NY State overall.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in New York State. Each year in New York, more than 15,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 2,600 women die from the disease. About 150 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in New York State. The economic impact to breast cancer patients and their families can be devastating.
In 2019 alone, the Saint Agatha Foundation assisted more than 830 women and their families by providing grants to hospitals and organizations in six counties.
in the past decade
Over the last decade, the Foundation has provided financial assistance to more than 6,750 breast cancer patients by providing grants in excess of $12.5 million to local hospitals and partner organizations.
The Boxing Gloves
In 2002, Laurie created an ad for The Susan G. Komen Foundation using pink boxing gloves to represent the fight being waged by all those touched by the disease. She would often give pink boxing gloves to other women who were facing the same challenges. The message was always the same: “I’m in your corner. Stay strong and keep fighting!”
After reading the story of Saint Agatha, Laurie felt a strong personal connection to her. She chose to name her foundation after this strong and brave woman. In a modern twist, Laurie gave Saint Agatha pink boxing gloves in hopes that this logo would inspire those with breast cancer to keep fighting and never give up.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer. Born in the third century to a noble family in Sicily, Agatha was a great beauty who attracted a bevy of suitors. However, Agatha had dedicated her life to God at a very early age. She refused many marriage proposals in order to commit herself to her faith. The magistrate Quintianus believed himself high enough in rank to be worthy of Agatha’s affection, but she rejected even his advances. Furious, Quintianus reported her to the highest authority in the region – who happened to be Quintianus himself. In his capacity as magistrate he threatened her with torture and possible death. Still she rebuked him, reaffirming her devotion to God. Although Agatha was imprisoned and abused by her captors, her faith never wavered. Her death in 251 AD was the result of immeasurable and unimaginable torture, including the removal of her breasts.
Saint Agatha is celebrated with a feast day every year on February 5 and is considered to watch over and protect all breast cancer patients. Our foundation is named after her in dedication to her grace and her steadfast commitment to the fight. Her final prayer was: “Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul.”
Born in Manlius, NY on June 10, 1968, Laurie Mezzalingua was the third of six children. A lifelong learner, she graduated from Manlius Pebble Hill in 1986 and Boston University, where she double-majored in Chinese History and Communications, in 1990.
Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Laurie was active in PPC, her family’s business. She served in a variety of roles and was most proud of being the founding president of Kajola Kristada, a manufacturing company based in the Caribbean on the island of St. Kitts, W. I.
In 1997, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. As she battled the disease, she became a passionate and vocal advocate for patient support. Her voice and sharp leadership skills were recognized and called to action when she became president of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She held that position for two years and served on its board for six, twice chairing the Race for the Cure event. Her involvement was so impactful that the national office honored her with the National Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2005.
Laurie loved music all her life and studied piano, with her first recital in 2005. She was a self-taught and gifted video editor who created landmark moments of her family and friends’ lives as moving tributes. Her favorite subjects were her nieces and nephews.
Laurie was a favorite among her family and friends as godmother to their children, earning that honor six times. She loved the authenticity and kindness of children and connected with them on all levels. This enthusiasm led her parents in 2005 to gift a building that houses all of the pre-K and kindergarten programs on the Manlius Pebble Hill Campus and was named The Laurie Mezzalingua Early Education Center.
She had an unusual gift for expressing herself in her speeches and in her writing, with grace, feeling and clarity. She was named 2005 Citizen of the Year by Temple Adath Yeshurun and was the 2006 commencement speaker at Manlius Pebble Hill School. On both occasions she spoke movingly about the ability to see the remarkable in her cancer diagnosis. She said “There is more beauty, triumph and truth in an infusion room than you will ever see on a stage, in a stadium, or in song.”
She was as loved as she was loving. “Everything she did was from the heart,” said Msgr. Yeazel, her pastor at Holy Cross Church. “I would visit to provide support in her final days, and she would ask ‘What is it that can I do for you?’ Her sense of humor and compassion resulted in instant connections with people she knew and those she just met.” Laurie’s devotion to God and her enduring faith brought her peace. Her daily prayers always began with an expression of gratitude for all her blessings and acceptance of her disease. She was comforted in the knowledge that she would be welcomed by her family and friends who went before her. Highlights of her life included her pilgrimages to Our Lady’s Shrine in Lourdes, France where she traveled and volunteered helping the sick with the Order of Malta.
Laurie’s departure on the Fourth of July, 2009 was symbolic. She was an elegant and independent woman who charted her own course in life. She had the courage to challenge her western doctors for more than they were able to give, the grace to accept their limitations, and the will to proceed into alternative Chinese therapies that extended her life by more than six years. She had a beautiful life.