On September 30, 2009, Joe Restaino, a 2008 McCallie graduate, returned to the school he loved to deliver a chapel talk knowing there would be no cure for the osteosarcoma he’d been diagnosed with three years earlier. There, before students, faculty, his family and friends, he spoke eloquently about overcoming fear and being free.
Seated in the audience was my then 15-year old son John, who was about four weeks into his own McCallie experience. At the time, boarding school was all new to our family. We didn’t know then that our adventure at McCallie would span ten years, include all three of our boys, and bless us beyond measure. We didn’t know then the impact that Joe Restaino and his family would have on us.
Shortly after that chapel talk, I got a phone call from John. We were early enough in the experience that an unscheduled, daytime phone call certainly got my attention. When I answered, John spoke with a voice full of emotion telling me about listening to Joe’s talk and seeing the love of the community and all of Joe’s family and friends who had come to support him. It was at that moment, he said, that he could begin to truly grasp how special McCallie was. The words about facing fear gave him courage, he said, and confirmed for him that taking this risk and leaving home at such a young age was the right thing to do. I think for the first time in months, we all exhaled.
We never got the chance to know Joe. He passed away four months later in January of 2010. But for our family, his courageous chapel talk that fall is a treasured gift—a moment in time that inspired a young boy who went on to embrace his experience at McCallie and set an example for his younger brothers to do the same.
At the end of his life, Joe asked his family to work toward finding cures and improving treatment options for rare pediatric cancers. The Joedance Film Festival has been honoring his request for ten years and is going strong.
Today, I invite you to help us continue this life-saving work by making a small donation of $14.68 to honor the 1,468 days Joe fought his battle. Whether it’s a penny for each day, or more if you can, please help us remember Joe’s struggle while we continue to find a cure.
DONATE: You can donate to our 1,468 days campaign HERE
WATCH: You can watch Joe’s inspiring Chapel Talk HERE
Written by Kelly Crum, Joedance Board Member/ Secretary