Friendship, philanthropy drive Warriors for a Cause

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Warriors for a Cause brought more than 300 people from Mineola to New York City for last year's Tunnel to Towers 5K honoring Stephen Siller, who died responding to 9/11. (Photo courtesy of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce)

Tony Lubrano wasn’t trying to build a big charitable foundation when he and some friends formed Warriors for a Cause two years ago, he said.

“I think we were just having a good time doing good stuff,” said Lubrano, president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce and the owner of the Mineola restaurant Piccola Bussola.

What started as a group of like-minded, philanthropic people has grown into a fundraising collective that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities.

Now, the group of about 40 members from across Long Island is planning to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit this year, a move that Lubrano and others hope will amplify its ability to do good.

“We play to win,” Lubrano said. “We enjoy making a difference and being able to show that difference. And it’s not about showing off or anything; it’s just that that recognition allows us to do more good things.”

They’ll also continue putting on or supporting the events that have helped them make a big impact, such as the April 6 Night on the Town gala to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Stephen Siller Foundation’s Tunnel to Towers 5K run in September, Lubrano said.

Piccola Bussola will also host a wine tasting event at 6:30 p.m. March 7 featuring performances by former Broadway singers to support the Carly Rose Foundation, a nonprofit that supports families with severely ill children led by Lisa Horner, a Warriors for a Cause member.

Lubrano, DiMarco and Horner were among 10 to 15 “like-minded” people who formed Warriors for a Cause in 2015 to support each other’s philanthropic events and recruit others to give money or volunteer, Lubrano said.

The “warriors,” as they call themselves, emphasize “doing more than just writing a check,” Lubrano said.

For example, they took more than 300 people to last year’s Tunnel to Towers 5K, an annual run honoring Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who died responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The only group larger was from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Lubrano said.

“It’s not always about money,” said Roy DiMarco, a marketing specialist from Wantagh who was one of the group’s original members. “It’s about a little blood, sweat and tears, just helping hands. Everybody does whatever they can do.”

Warriors for a Cause raised about $25,000 for the Stephen Siller Foundation last year, and has raised more than $500,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the past two and a half years, Lubrano said.

The group is also helping the foundation build an accessible home for a wounded veteran in Melville, its first on Long Island. The foundation hopes to break ground in the next few months, said John Hodge, the chief operating officer.

The members have demonstrated a long-term commitment to charity that’s unusual for small, informal groups, Hodge said.

“Normally you see that with a well-oiled national organization behind somebody, but they don’t have that,” Hodge said. “It’s just their heart and their passion, is what drives them.”

Incorporating as a nonprofit will allow Warriors for a Cause to keep a bank account and solicit donations from corporations and others who want their gift to be tax-deductible, Lubrano, DiMarco and Horner said.

And the tax-exempt status makes it cheaper to buy supplies and put on events, leaving more money to give to charities, Lubrano said.

“It gives us that flexibility to keep some type of earnings on hand for emergency needs and things of that nature,” DiMarco said.

Some members were hesitant about taking the step, but were convinced by the successes of members such as Horner, who incorporated the Carly Rose Foundation last year.

The foundation is named for Horner’s daughter, Carly, who battled leukemia twice as a child but is now in remission, she said.

It currently pays medical and other expenses for six families with children who are being treated at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, she said.

The food and wine for the March 7 Carly Rose Foundation benefit is all being donated, so the $40 ticket price goes straight to the organization, Lubrano said.

As it looks toward the future, Warriors for a Cause is always welcoming new members, Lubrano said.

“Our door is always open,” he said.

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