Adapting With Joe Satriano, Susan Satriano Memorial Foundation Leader
As part of the adapting series, I’ve utilized Rev transcripts to bring you another conversation of hope , with my guest Joe Satriano! Below is a partial excerpt of the transcript, listen to our entire conversation that aired December 8th here! (https://www.spreaker.com/episode/42390318)
Find out more about The Susan Satriano Memorial Foundation: (http://www.susansatrianofoundation.com/foundation.php)
Alex Garrett: I’m very excited to bring you a conversation with a very inspirational and influential person, Joe Satriano. I’m excited to bring you that because he has a story that this holiday season, I think could uplift people, believe it or not. It does involve losing a loved one to cancer, but he turned around and adapted to that loss and has improved the lives of children who have parents that are battling cancer, are in remission or unfortunately have passed on.
Alex First of all, Joe, thanks for joining me tonight.
Joe Satriano: Well, thank you so much, Alex, for having me on and allowing me to talk about my passion in my life. Thank you.
Alex: Well, your passion is your late wife, Susan, and tell us the story of the Susan Satriano Memorial scholarship foundation. And we’ll get into this further, but, but give us a elevator pitcher the basis for why you started this foundation.
Joe S: Thank you so much. Well, uh, Sue and I were both high school math teachers. Um, and by the way, do you know what the best part about being married to a math teacher was Alex?
Alex: What was that? Let me get the tip of the restaurant.
Joe Very good. Good try. But no, no, we got to multiply. Yes. It’s we have two boys born on the same day, five years apart, but life, life was beautiful. I mean, it couldn’t be more ideal, but you know, life tends to throw you a little bit of a curve. 16 years into a 29 year marriage. unfortunately Sue contracts breast cancer, and then 13 years after she does pass away. I was lost. I was totally lost for us for the first six months of after she passed away. I was laying in my bed in fetal position, crying all day, feeling sorry for myself. And I realized that’s not helping anybody. So I started the Susan saturate nano foundation. Now what it does is basically it helps, uh, uh, high school seniors will going to a college in the fall because it is a scholarship for their higher education.
Joe: The kicker to be eligible, unfortunately is that they have to have a parent who’s either passed away of cancer, presently battling or in remission. I could tell you this, Alex, these kids get lost in the sauce. They suffer just as much as the caregiver does that the patient. And so I give them their moment in the sun. I go and talk to every single child that gets the scholarship. Sometimes when we’re across the nation, for example, we, uh, we do Skype interviews or zoom interviews and those that I can get to, I drive to and I talked to them for 20 minutes and they open up to me like crazy. It’s amazing. It’s not because they like me. It’s because we’ve walked the walk, experiencing the death or watching the demise of a loved one due to cancer.
Joee: It’s been an amazing run. I can’t believe it as I just completed my 15th year. I just reached the after 15 years, I reached a million dollars in scholarships to well over 1900 kids across the nation and it continues to grow and leaps and bounds. And it started back in 2006 in Oceanside, Long Island where I live. I gave out, four scholarships to Oceanside high school kids who met those requirements that I mentioned before. From there it’s grown to where I just mentioned over a million dollars after 15 years and well over 1900 kids. It’s just amazing. I had no idea the impact it would have at that point when I started it.
Alex: I brought you on is because I feel like you can help bring some holiday spirit. I mean, we’re, we’re all needing some, right? I mean, this has been one hell of a year. And I think your story is only inspirational. You took your wife’s legacy and carried it with you through this foundation. And now I think you can love other people during the holidays. And I imagine that’s what the foundation does each and every December.
Joe S: Well, yeah, it does actually. I’m going to be helping about a hundred and 160 kids this year across the nation. And because of COVID, I didn’t let it stop me this year. We did phone interviews with every single child, even though even the schools that I could actually attend and go to, they were shut down. So, so we managed to kind of circumvent it and we did, we did the phone interviews and Skype sometimes and also zoom. And it was so rewarding. These kids are going to be getting their checks around Christmas time. So hopefully I’ll bring a little cheer that way to them. They’re not alone in this battle, that’s so important to realize that, you know, there’s help out there.
Joe S: I’d like to believe that the foundation helps in that respect a little bit to let them know that they are not alone. And, and also the fact that there’s hope that if there is light at the end of the tunnel, The epitome of that I was lost. I’m telling you when Sue died in June, 2005, I didn’think there was anything more to live for, but yet here I am thriving and surviving and managing to continue to help kids, which is my passion in life. That’s why I went into the teaching profession. So yeah. So I try to, help them out a little bit, especially in this crazy year, you know, which, which has just been just unbelievably wild.
Alex Well, I got to do the kids in a minute, but as you say that the teaching profession, your wife obviously said she was a teacher, how was, what was that like watching her passion for her students or her kids each and every year that must’ve been, so her, like, it probably lit up her face when she talked about school and being in that profession.
Joe S: Absolutely. Uh, th the district that she was in, she was in Bushwick high school. Um, you know, unfortunately a lot of those kids really didn’t have much of a home life. I hate to generalize, but, you know, she was a role model for them. She was like a surrogate mother and they loved her dearly. And plus, I, I, I actually, w before I got my job at Roslyn high school, um, you know, I, I came, I went in to go visit her, which was, she was teaching. You could see the passion and the love that was, that was dripping out of her. Um, and the kids picked up on that. And, you know, I could just tell you for a fact, you know, at Christmas time they would, they would shower her with homemade gifts, whether it be a card or whether it be, um, you know, some trinkets that they made of some sort, it was just amazing. And, and she, she reciprocated in kind of, I mean, she really gave, gave to that school and, um, you know, but that was, I was sued. She, even on her dying bed, all she cared about was, was her, was Matthew, Justin, and me, and how we’re going to make it, whereas you could have, if you wanted to lament about your situation, uh, you know, and, and all of that type of thing, but she was always, she was always concerned about everybody else. Um, so I was blessed to have her in my life and, uh, you know, it was just, it was just an amazing, amazing 29 years.
Alex: I just love what you’re talking about, how The Christmas time was special for her. I think your message, as I said, is important, um, for people during this time, now, you said you were in the fetal position, and then you realize you can do something in her memory. W do you think it was Susan herself, or even God as well, tapping you on the shoulder saying, Hey, your journey is not finished yet. You’ve got to do something and do it in her memory.
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, um, it, it, and it took me six months to kind of get out of the funk that I was in. Um, I truly was, you know, uh, not going anywhere with doing anything truly. I mean, it was like a Morgan my house. Um, and I don’t know what did it, it was almost like a lightning bolt struck my head. And I said, this is ridiculous. I, I, I’ve got so much life to live and how can I, how can I do this? Well, I decided three different reasons. I started the foundation. Number one, it keeps Sue’s memory alive. That’s great. See people don’t, don’t see that. They only see likely, you know, I give out money. I talked to the kids, but there’s a lot that comes back in my direction, too, you know? Um, and, and, you know, bottom line too, is that I found a new way to help kids without being in front of a classroom.
And, and the foundation has just been remarkable. I have met over 1900, very inspiring children who, you know, have battles, things that you wish you never had to see in your lifetime, but they’re what nine 18 at 17 years old seniors in high school, you know, who have now had to face the worst in their lives and the fact that they have overcome it and are willing to move forward and go to college, by the way, here’s another thing. Cause I was a math teacher. I can’t help, but I do statistics on stuff about 90% of the kids who happen to be getting the award from me. And there’s no connection between what I’m telling you now and getting the award. They, they want to go into give back professions. So, uh, you know, like for instance, with nursing, PT, OT, teaching psychology doctor, and, and I’ll ask them that question at the quote interview, you know, that the talk that we have, um, I’ll throw the softball question up there and I’ll say, well, why do you, why do you want to be a nurse? Why do you want to do this? And inevitably, they’ll still come back with the answer that they saw, how these professionals help their parents. They want to get you give back and they want to do the same thing for others. So boy, if that isn’t painful, that’s amazing that these kids I’m telling you, if you ever met any of them, you would be so inspired by, by their journey and also have their dealing with it. And, and moving forward,
Alex: When we met last year, I felt the love you have for your late wife, Susan, The passion you have to carry on her legacy and yeah, you did it through a book and the book is called In Sickness and In Health, a memoir of love. Um, Tell us about the book itself.
Joe S: Well, thank you. I should first preface it by telling you and your loyal listeners that, you know, a hundred percent of the proceeds of the book does go to the foundation. And since the book has been out, the foundations grown by over $20,000, which amazes me because I know the author personally, and I’m not sure I’d be reading anything he wrote, but, uh, but people don’t know him as well as I do, whether it’s me. So, uh, that they, they buy it and it’s been amazing. Yeah. Um, the book is, again, I don’t know how old your listeners are, but there was a show once on called mash and mash was, was, um, a show where you could laugh and cry in the same seat. And that’s pretty much, that’s pretty much the way this book was written because Sue and I had so much fun precancer during cancer.
And that comes out in the book according to you know, people who come to my booktalks and whatnot. Um, but you know, so to write the fun stuff was easy. And by the way, I mean, the last professional thing I wrote was my math thesis. So little did I know that I had this in me to actually put, you know, pen some sentences together and make some sense out of it, but I surprised myself. It’s like being, you know, your back is to the wall. So what are you going to do? Are you going to fade into the wall? You’ve got to fight that. I guess I flipped that by starting the foundation and then writing, um, I will say this, the last chapter in the book is called the final page in the photo album. Um, that took about three months to write, because I couldn’t see the keyboard through the tears.
I’ll tell you one other thing about this first book though, is the love though the heart you pour out, it sounds like you would recommend it for a Christmas Hanukkah holiday gift because, you know, it’s, it might actually uplift people this holiday season.