Shelton gym's fundraiser adds fuel to Capalbo's cancer fight

Capalbo, now 22, was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoblastic lymphoma T-cell Stage 3 soon after completing his senior season as a goalie for the Fairfield Ludlow-Fairfield Warde co-op hockey team in 2017.

Capalbo, now 22, was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoblastic lymphoma T-cell Stage 3 soon after completing his senior season as a goalie for the Fairfield Ludlow-Fairfield Warde co-op hockey team in 2017.

Contributed photo

SHELTON - A cadre of local fitness buffs is taking exercise to a charitable level.

Jill Bodach, a Shelton resident and professor at Fairfield University, has helped organize a fundraiser for one of her students, Charlie Capalbo, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia for a third time.

Capalbo, a Fairfield resident, was a standout hockey goalie until first diagnosed with leukemia in 2017.

“Charlie’s fight really struck a chord with me,” said Bodach, a mother of four.

Bodach said she wanted to help Capalbo — and what better way than raising money while exercising?

She has teamed with Laurean Vazquez-Limauro, owner of Leading Level Fitness off Bridge Street in Shelton, of which she is a member, and is asking people in their fitness community to commit to running, walking or biking 100 miles in May in honor of Capalbo.

Participants in “100 Miles of May” recruit sponsors for the miles, with the money raised going to purchasing UberEats gift cards for Capalbo and his family.

“Laurean had asked us all to run 100 miles in May … and I thought, what if we used this as a way to raise money for Charlie and his family during this tough time?” Bodach said. “I’ve never done this before, so I did not know what to expect.”

Bodach — who had been Capalbo’s creative writing teacher this past spring semester — said she created a Facebook page to promote the fundraising effort with a personal goal of $1,500.

Jill Bodach, left, and Laurean Vazquez-Limauro, owner of Leading Level Fitness in Shelton, have organized a fundraiser Fairfield resident Charlie Capalbo, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia for a third time. The pair are asking people to commit to running 100 miles in May in honor of Capalbo, collecting pledges for each mile run in the process.

Jill Bodach, left, and Laurean Vazquez-Limauro, owner of Leading Level Fitness in Shelton, have organized a fundraiser Fairfield resident Charlie Capalbo, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia for a third time. The pair are asking people to commit to running 100 miles in May in honor of Capalbo, collecting pledges for each mile run in the process.

Contributed photos

In the first 10 days alone, Bodach said, the runs had raised $5,000. As the month nears its end, Bodach said the fundraiser had collected some $11,000.

“This just blows my mind,” Rebecca Wilde Goldberg Jarit, Capalbo’s aunt, said about Bodach’s fundraiser. “She has never even got to meet him.”

Charlie’s family has been in Massachusetts with him since he was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital some 75 days ago.

His parents had to pause their work to focus on Charlie’s care. As a result, the family pays for all expenditures, including food, out of pocket. They often purchase food for Charlie as well since Charlie’s medications make finding foods he can tolerate challenging.

While Bodach only worked with Charlie for a little while — classes were virtual at Fairfield University for a portion of the past semester and she was notified near the beginning of the class that he was leaving for medical reasons — his story touched her, she said.

And her drive touched others.

“She inspired me to get off my couch and do something,” Jarit, a longtime runner, said about Bodach. “I was struggling myself … what can I do for (Charlie). This was a really great idea.”

Bodach had run 87 miles through Monday, and Jait comes in at some 70 miles as the month comes to a close.

Capalbo, now 22, was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoblastic lymphoma T-cell Stage 3 soon after completing his senior season as a goalie for the Fairfield Ludlow-Fairfield Warde co-op hockey team in 2017.

With a softball-sized tumor in his chest, the then-18-year-old underwent 36 months of chemotherapy. He began to regain his health and enrolled at Fairfield University in 2018.

But four weeks into the school year, new cancer cells were found in his spinal fluid. He was admitted to Boston Children's Hospital. In 2019, he received a bone marrow transplant from his younger brother, William Capalbo.

On a GoFundMe page established for the family, it states Capalbo has “beaten” lymphoma and leukemia but was diagnosed with leukemia yet again earlier this year.

“I hope (Bodach) is able to meet him one day,” Jait said. “He is just an incredible human being. He’s conquered cancer twice, been to the brink of death and back so many times … the grit, the determination he always shows … it is incredible, inspiring. He’s faced so much, and he never complains. He is an inspiration for so many.”

To participate or just donate, visit https://www.facebook.com/donate/299301311594504/. For more information, email Bodach at jbodach@gmail.com. Bodach is also seeking a local company to match whatever donations received on May 31.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com