Kidney Donor Honored For Gift of Life

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Rick Bellando

Donating an organ is one of the most inspiring acts of generosity a person can perform, and a local man who did just that is set to be honored for his benevolence.

Rick Bellando of Farmingdale, who donated a kidney to a friend in 2007, is an honoree at the 14th annual New York Golf Classic at the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove on August 5. The event is a fundraiser that supports the mission of the American Kidney Fund (AKF), which helps to fight kidney disease.

“I just wanted to make a difference at that time and I never really thought about it,” says Bellando, a sales manager at Oheka Castle who donated a kidney to Mathew Fulgieri after booking Fulgieri’s wedding, when the two became friends.

Bellando found out that Fulgieri was suffering from polycystic kidney disease. Fulgieri lost his grandmother, mother and brother from this disease as well. Fulgieri had two young sons at the time, and Bellando said that he couldn’t help but think about those boys growing up without their father.

“He’s such a nice guy, his kids might not have had a chance to have their dad… I had little girls at the time,” says Bellando. “That’s what really got me, was the kids.”

After Bellando found out he was a match, he decided he wanted to donate his kidney. The doctors told him that there were risks involved with the procedure, and although that did worry him, it didn’t stop him from saving Fulgieri’s life.

Maria Grasso, a Flushing Bank senior executive vice president and chief operating officer who co-chairs the New York Golf Classic and is a member of the AKF National Board of Trustees, says that not many people are aware of the effects of kidney disease, but the golf classic works to change that.

She says that if every Long Islander just didn’t buy a coffee one morning and instead donated to AKF, that would make a huge impact.