in Massapequa was filled with more than 100 friends and family members this past Saturday night in support of a Wantagh native battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) - a diagnosis all too familiar for the Sopack family.
John Sopack, 36, tested positive for AML Sept. 23 after seeing several doctors for what was thought to be pneumonia. Just six years ago, Sopack lost a dear friend, Michael Lutz, to the same strand of leukemia.
Close friends of the now Massapequa resident formed an alliance, Team Sopack, in efforts to bring their loved one home happy and healthy and support his family when they needed it most.
"The news that John was diagnosed with AML this past September, when we lost a friend exactly six years ago this same September, was beyond devastating," said Tia Beaumont, who has been friends with both Sopack and his wife since childhood. "It was surreal. Michael wasn’t supposed to lose his battle, and we certainly will not let John lose his."
Sopack's wife, Natalie, was due to give birth when her husband entered the hospital, and just two weeks later, their second son was born. While his wife was giving birth at Winthrop University Hospital, Sopack watched via Skype from his treatment at North Shore LIJ Manhasset Hospital.
According to Beaumont, no family is more deserving of such an outpour of love and support in a time like this.
"We knew they would do the same, if not more, for us in a time of need," she said. "We wanted to offset any costs they will have with a 20-month old, a newborn and medical expenses."
"I could write a book about John," said Beaumont. "From the moment I met him I knew he was a unique individual. He has always had such a big heart and put others before himself with 100 percent dedication."
As of Nov. 1, Sopack was deemed healthy enough to return home to his family, but his battle his far from over. After weeks of chemotherapy treatment, Sopack was told it will not suffice. The next step to his recovery will be a bone barrow or stem cell transplant.
"We wanted to bring everyone together to find a potential bone marrow match for John," Beaumont said of the fundraiser's primary concern. "It was simply amazing how many people reached out to be put into the bone marrow registry to help not only John, but possibly a stranger that needs a bone marrow transplant."
Between the number guests, bone marrow samples and raffle donations, Beaumont was in awe at Saturday's benefit.
"The turnout showed the Sopack family how much they are loved," she said. "It showed John that he has an army fighting this awful disease with him."
Natalie Sopack has started a blog timelining her husband's battle and accepting donations toward his recovery: www.caringbridge.org/visit/johnvsopack