Shelton riverfront festival to memorialize former resident who battled deadly illness

When Carlo Minasi became ill in Rome during his junior year in college abroad, it was an unexpected blow.

Carlo was a student at the University of Connecticut and had always been athletic, playing soccer and basketball.

He loved to drive his Subaru WRX and was licensed to drive a shuttle bus at college.

“My kid was the healthiest kid,” said Carlo’s mother, Leslie Minasi. “He never missed a day of school. He worked hard and he played hard.”

The Minasis lived in Shelton when Carlo was born and later moved to Easton, where they’ve lived for 20 years. Carlo was a member of the ski team at Joel Barlow High School.

After falling ill in Italy, he was airlifted back to the United States and was diagnosed with a form of cancer called osteosarcoma, which was localized in the sacrum, the bone at the base of the spine.

Under the care of Dr. Robert Dawe in Fairfield, his sacrum was removed during a grueling two-day surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“We lived in hospitals for three months,” Leslie Minasi recalled, and Carlo was eventually transferred to Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. “They’re amazing there,” she said.

Joined wheelchair basketball team

Carlo had to use a wheelchair to move about, but with help from physical therapists “he was getting better and stronger,” his mother said. “The surgery compromised his ability to walk, and he needed to learn how to walk. He was using a walker.”

Under the mentorship of Todd Johnson of the Dana Reeves Foundation, Carlo joined Connecticut Spokebenders, a wheelchair basketball team.

But his recovery was short lived, and despite 14 months of chemotherapy treatments, the cancer reappeared. “We still had hope,” Leslie Minasi said, “but it didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.”

Carlo died in August 2013 at age 22.

Bike ride and band performances

“The most important thing in my life right now is honoring my son,” his mother said, and the Bike for Hope event in Shelton will take place in Carlo’s memory on Saturday, Sept. 6.

“It helps us to keep his memory alive,” she said.

The bike event will be run simultaneously with a Down By the River music festival at Veterans Memorial Park (the Riverwalk) on Canal Street.

Both events will benefit Moving with Hope, a Shelton-based nonprofit organization founded by Tad Duni, who is Bike for Hope Committee chairman and owns Life Designs, a Shelton therapy and exercise center.

Moving with Hope funds services for survivors of brain and spinal cord injuries, and “helps people rebuild their lives,” Leslie Minasi said.

The nonprofit organization’s services include physical therapy, socialization, and locating appropriate living facilities.

Before such help was available, “people were shut-ins,” Minasi said, and medical insurance doesn’t cover all  rehabilitation costs.

‘Quality of life’

Moving with Hope “helps them get a quality of life,” she said. “My son had a lot of friends, but even with that, it can be very isolating.”

Minasi knew Duni years ago when she belonged to a gym he owned and Carlo would tag along.

After Carlo’s death, she was “reconnected” with Duni, a man she calls “altruistic.”

Duni said he found himself “spending tens of thousands of dollars out of my salary” to help the patients at his health facility, and he decided to found Moving with Hope. “Patients are struggling for money,” he said. “You can’t cut back services.”

'He was wise beyond his years'

Carlo would have wanted to help the people the Sept. 6 event will benefit, his mother said, and he would have loved the concept of a bike ride and music festival.

“He was a great kid and a wonderful person,” she said. “He was very empathetic. He was there when his friends needed help. He was wise beyond his years. He was a big music lover and a festival-goer.”

The music festival will run from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and live bands will include Shakedown, a Grateful Dead cover band; The Bernadettes, playing electric rhythm and blues, and Shameless.

There also will be a beer garden; food, arts and crafts vendors, and children’s activities including face painting and an inflatable bouncy house. Admission is free.

The event also features the fifth annual Doc Dowling Chili Cook-Off, with a $10 fee to sample the chili.

Bike rides of many lengths

Bike for Hope runs from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and will occur in “three or four waves,” starting at the corner of Howe Avenue and Cornell Street, Duni said.

There’s a 50-mile ride to Waterbury and back; a 25-mile ride to Oxford and back; a 10-mile ride on the Housatonic River Greenway, and a 1- to 5-mile event for families.

Rides for hand cyclists are being planned for 5, 10, 15 and 30 miles.

Bike riders may join Team Carlo, headed up by Carlo’s father Giuliano Minasi, or they can join another team or form a team.

Registration is at, and riders will find personal donation pages at the website.

The top fundraiser will receive a $1,500 Cannondale CAAD Bike donated by Class Cycles in Southbury.

'It's going to be a great day'

For each $35 gift to Moving with Hope, donors receive a Team Carlo T-shirt designed by the Minasi family.

“People are buying T-shirts all over the world,” Duni said. “We’re hoping 500 to 600 people will wear his shirt at the festival. It’s going to be a great day.”

Leslie Minasi hopes the event continues every year. “I’m hoping a lot of people turn out,” she said. “I’d like to see a sea of Team Carlo shirts.”

To register for the bike ride or donate to Moving with Hope, visit