Surfing for a Cause

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365 waves to go: Fatello surfing every day

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, July 16, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Ralph Fatello stands with his surf board and good friend Buck Rowlee at North Beach on Thursday. Fatello will begin his "Catch a Wave for Molly" campaign on July 26, and surf every day for a year to raise money for the Molly Fund.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

HAMPTON -- Ten years ago, Ralph Fatello set off on a journey to surf every day at North Beach for an entire year to raise money for diabetes in memory of his father, Gus, who died of complications from the disease in 2000.

He surfed through the flu, a broken tailbone and recurring back injuries, not to mention snowstorms, ice floating in the ocean, and hail "that felt like a fire hose in my face."

But in the end, Fatello did what he set out to do and in the process raised more than $20,000 for the American Diabetes Association.

A decade later to the date, the 60-year-old commander of the American Legion Post 35 plans to do it all over again. But this time it's in honor of Molly Rowlee — who died last year at the age of 5 from cancer.

"Ten years ago I did it for my dad, Gus," Fatello said. "I'll do it again for Molly and everyone else who's dealing with cancer in their lives."

Calling it "Catch A Wave for Molly," Fatello will catch the first wave of what he hopes is 365 of them, one each day for the next year, starting on July 26 at 9 a.m. at North Beach.

All proceeds raised throughout the year will go towards the Molly Fund, which was established to help families endure the financial strain while they are helping their child battle cancer.

Fatello said this a way for him to honor Molly and keep her memory alive.

Its been a year since Molly Rowlee lost her battle to with anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Molly was diagnosed with cancer in February 2009.

She initially responded well to treatments, but in June the cancer made an aggressive return and took her life on July 12, a mere five months after she was diagnosed.

Fatello said he knows her parents, Buck and Meg, through surfing.

While he only knew Molly for a short period of time, he said blond and blue-eye little girl made quite the impression on him.

"Molly touched my soul," said Fatello.

Fatello said he first met Molly — who just started to take up surfing — at the Surf Family Robinson.

Fatello said it's an annual family event he hosts for all the kids in the local surf community at the beach during Labor Day weekend.

Every year at the event, Fatello puts on a show and battles a pirate, who believes that he stole a 100-year-old treasure map.

"Molly was the only kid who couldn't understand why this pirate or anyone would be so upset with me," Fatello said. "It was so sincere and honest. I remember we had long talk about why the pirate hated me so much. She was just the sweetest little child. We all miss her and nobody misses her more than her family."

Fatello said Molly's death impacted the local surf community, which rallied after she was diagnosed to raise money for her and her family.

"Her valiant fight against cancer captured so many hearts and souls," Fatello said. "I wanted to do something to honor her and this is something I can do. I thought I did this 10 years ago for diabetes and now I can do it for cancer."

For Fatello, its not only about honoring Molly. It's a way for him to honor other loved ones who have died from the disease.

He lost his best friend to cancer in 1978. His mother, Eva, died of cancer in 2007 and a good friend, Linda Paugh, who was one of the owners of Zapstix Surf Shop, on Dec. 6, 2009.

"Cancer has touched everyone of us," Fatello said.

Fatello says he knows the journey he is about to embark on will not be easy.

When he announced on Easter to his wife and children that he was planning to do this, his wife had one thing to say.

"My wife, Corey, kept reminding me that I'm 10 years older," Fatello joked. "But they were all excited about it."

Last time around, Fatello kept a journal of each day he surfed. This time around he plans to maintain a daily blog.

"The older you get, you forget stuff," said Fatello, who has been reviewing his journal entries to get him better prepared.

"There are going be days where it's a piece of cake," Fatello said. "When it starts to get interesting is when the first hurricane comes."

He recalled one day he surfed in the mist of 75 mph winds. Another day he spent four hours shoveling his drive-way in the dead of winter to just to get to the beach to surf.

"There were days so unbearably cold and the last thing you wanted to do is put a wet suit on and go to the ocean and go surfing," Fatello said.

Fatello said when the going gets tough he's going to think of Molly and others.

He's having a special surf board made that he will use. It will be a black long board and on the nose will be the names of Molly, his mother and others written in pink letters.

The reason why he wanted the board to be black is because that was the color of the board his best friend used to ride. His friend, Joseph G. Somogy, a Vietnam War hero, died from cancer at the age of 27.

Every time someone makes a donation, Fatello said he's is going to add their name to a pink long board. Pink, he said, was Molly's favorite color.

At the end of the journey, he intends to give the board to Molly's parents.

When asked how much he hopes to raise, Fatello said there is no goal.

"My goal is 365 days," Fatello said. "That's my goal."

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