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Youngstown community shows support to help local business owner fight cancer

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The greater Youngstown community is showing a business owner and retired Youngtown State University head equipment manager that he's not alone in his fight against cancer.

This family owned business has been a Youngstown landmark in the Smokey Hollow area for 86 years and the family inside who runs Cassese's MVR are like family to many in the city.

"The Cassese family represents everything about Cardinal Mooney High School and Youngstown, Ohio.  I mean they're a giving family.  They'd do anything for you that's why we enjoy coming down here," said customer Tom Clarke who has been going to the restaurant since 1981.

So when third generation owner 57-year-old Carmine Cassese was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his pancreas on February 6th, friends and family rallied to support him.

The surgeon at James Cancer Hospital at the OSU Medical Center told the family it was the largest group of people he had ever seen come in.

"We are in the lucky eight to 10 percent, where we found it early enough that a successful operation has happened.  He had a surgery on February 27th and the cancerous tumor was removed and since that day we started the process of recovery," said one of Carmine's sons Joe Cassese, who is also the general manager of the business.

The family had 150 "Carmstrong" t-shirts made that read "No One Fights Alone."  The blue vase on the back symbolizes Carmine's friend and former co-worker at YSU Jim Tressel's motto to find a way to get things done no matter the odds.

Proceeds from the $10 shirts go to a scholarship fund in Carmine's name at YSU, that was already in the works, and to pancreatic research where Carmine received his care.

In just two weeks, more than 750 shirts have been sold across the country. 

Joe said some of the first people who reached out to him were former equipment managers at YSU, former football players and former employees of the MVR.  In addition to selling the shirts at the restaurant, Joe sent shirts to California, Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

"It's just amazing to see these people reach back out.  It really means a lot when you hear from these guys and they're emailing you and they're calling you and they're trying to get in touch with you and it just lets you know it kind of opens your eyes a little bit to the person that my dad is and really I hope that I can work hard and some day be half the guy he is, there's no doubt," said Joe.

The family is very appreciative of all the support.

"It's [the recovery] going to take a long time there's no doubt but there's no doubt in my mind that through all the prayers and the strength that this community has given us to be a great restaurant, that I also know they'll give my dad the strength to get back down here and sit with his customers. There's no doubt in my mind," Joe said.

If you're interested in donating to the cause or purchasing a t-shirt, contact Cassese's MVR.  The phone number is (330) 746-7067.  The restaurant is located at 410 N. Walnut Street in Youngstown. 

Also Joe said he's in the process of planning a large bocce related fundraiser.

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