Two thirds or 66% of this fund will be donated directly to two (2) charities which support causes close to Phyllis’s heart: protecting elephants, and child hunger.
Phyllis was an extraordinary woman who left an indelible mark. We can't help but feel inspired as we reflect on who she was, how she lived, and all she did to improve the lives of those around her.
In lieu of flowers and gifts, we ask that you show your love and support through this fund. And for those who did not know Phyllis, you can learn about this woman’s legacy through the lives she touched, and your generosity will pay it forward to worthy causes in her honor. All money we raise will be split three ways: ⅓ Elephants, ⅓ Child Hunger, ⅓ Medical.
Any contribution is sincerely appreciated. No donation is too small. You can help simply by reading, re-posting and sharing.
We want to honor Phyllis by telling her story in hopes she will continue to have an impact, bringing comfort, assistance and inspiration to those in need.
Who was Phyllis DeLorenzo?
We asked this question amongst her closest friends. Although difficult to answer concisely yet accurately, we agreed that Phyllis’s customer turned dear friend, Joy Bucci, said it beautifully. Click here to listen, or read transcription below:
“My friend Phyllis… Oh, where do I begin? Small in stature but a big heart, spoke what was on her mind, and was truly interested in her friends’ and her families’ lives. She would ask you a question and really want to know the answer. . . about how your trip was, how your day was. When she got sick, she didn’t speak about it in length. She just told me that she just was going to do whatever they told her to do, and don't give her the specifics. She was just going to be brave, and follow through. And she was brave. She was probably the bravest person I know. She went through hell and back. And I know there was times that she probably wanted to throw in the towel, but she didn’t . . .Because she really wanted to duke it out. She wanted to beat it for her kids, and her husband, and just live as normal life as she could. [She was] brave, spoke what was on her mind, loving, truthful. . . just a good person. Just a good person. And I will always cherish the times we had together, laughing. And her favorite words were “That is wild!” or “You are wild!” . . . I don't really— I never really thought about elephants— but now every time I turn around I see an elephant. It must be my friend trying to remind me that she's there. . . I hope so.” —Joy Bucci
Phyllis worked full-time as a wife, full-time as a mother, and full-time as proprietor of a children’s clothing store. She devoted her life to all three. She worked 6 days a week at her store; 7 days a week as a wife and mother.
Phyllis and her husband Jerry were a love story for the ages. They would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary this November 2018. They have been together for a total of 50 years.
During 30 of those 50 years, they also worked together, or side by side in adjoining stores. Their daughter describes their love like this: “They were the same soul, two bodies. I’ve never seen a love like theirs.”
This is a photo of their 1st-year dating anniversary, taken May 1969. Phyllis, 18, was just one month shy of her 19th birthday; Jerry, her future husband, was 20.
Phyllis and Jerry in Mill Creek Park, Ohio December 2014. This photo was taken one week after Phyllis was diagnosed with metastatic Stage 4 Cancer.
She had two children: daughter Dana; and son Jeremy. She was always a very active part of their lives; from attending every game and performance to sending monthly care packages once they left for college. Phyllis remained close to her kids no matter the distance between them — she talked to them nearly every day.
Phyllis showing off her quintessential "World's Greatest Mom" mug gifted by her kids in this photo, December 1990.
Phyllis was a woman who worked hard to live a modest life; but what she lacked in riches she more than made up for by enriching the lives of everyone and anyone in her peripheral. She was a sparkler who saw everyone else’s light, even when they couldn’t; she helped them realize their own importance, as well as their importance to her.
What Did Phyllis Stand For?
One Third or 33% — BE KIND TO ELEPHANTS
Elephants were more than just Phyllis DeLorenzo’s favorite animal—there was an undeniable connection between her spirit and elephants.
Elephants are highly social, family-oriented creatures who show compassion and sympathy. They are are playful, peaceful, powerful protectors. This was Phyllis.
No matter who you were or where you came from, you were cared for and protected as if you were her own.
Elephants have excellent learning abilities — and they really do have an incredible memory.
Phyllis had a remarkable memory for the meaningful details of people’s lives.
"Family is Forever" —One of the many elephant decorations that Phyllis displayed in her home. She also liked to don them; she was wearing her favorite elephant print coat in a photo above.
Elephants live in a matriarchal society. A female will only leave her herd if she dies or is captured by humans. Phyllis' perseverance and bravery were admirable; she never gave up, for her family's sake.
Elephants are extremely sensitive beings. Aside from humans, they are the only animals on earth who mourn their dead.
One third (⅓) of donations to this fund will go to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
This incredible organization was brought to Phyllis’s attention through Ellen DeGeneres's endorsement and social media campaign, offering to donate every time someone tweets with the hashtag #BeKindToElephants.
SheldrickWildlifeTrust.Org is the most successful anti-poaching, orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world today. But the heart and soul of the organization is the Orphans’ Project, which has achieved world-wide acclaim through its hugely successful elephant rescue. To date, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and has accomplished its long-term conservation priority by effectively reintegrating orphans back into the wild.
We want to build upon Phyllis' life-long love of elephants by donating one third of this memorial fund to this organization. We encourage everyone to share their generous donation as part of Ellen's campaign by re-posting on Twitter using the hashtag #BeKindToElephants.
One Third or 33% — NO KID HUNGRY
Phyllis was Italian and Sicilian, and she loved food. She loved to eat it, she loved to make it, she loved to talk about it. Much like her heritage, she especially loved to feed people. So it should come as no surprise that feeding starving children was a cause which concerned her deeply.
To know and love Phyllis was to be fed by her. Cooking for friends and family was her greatest expression of affection. Everyone loved eating her food. Her homemade sauce and meatballs were always a favorite.
Phyllis cooked dinner for her family every night, 7 days a week— even while working 6 days a week in her children's boutique. Food was the 5th family member in the DeLorenzo household. No matter how busy life became, she insisted her family eat dinner together, every night.
She passed her talents and love of cooking onto her son, Jeremy; she taught him how to make her favorite dishes, and beamed with pride when people praised his meals as they did hers.
Remarkably, Phyllis continued cooking for family and friends even while undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatments, no matter how weak or ill she was as a result. Food was that important to her.
Phyllis often said, “No child should ever go hungry.” The thought upset her deeply and weighed heavy on her heart. She became even more impassioned once the disease affected her own ability to eat.
One third (⅓) of donations to this fund will go to the No Kid Hungry Campaign.
No Kid Hungry.Org is a national campaign run by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. According to No Kid Hungry’s “Hunger Facts,” 1 in 6 children in the United States face hunger. No Kid Hungry’s mission is simple: all kids in America should have the food they need to grow up healthy and strong. Phyllis wanted exactly what this organization strives to provide: they help children access meal and food programs in the U.S. by providing school breakfasts, summer and after-school meals, food skills education, and more.
One Third or 33 % — MEDICAL
The DeLorenzo family is a close one, so when the matriarch was diagnosed December 2014, it became a family cancer. They put everything they had into the fight—in every sense of the word. A third this fund will be designated to help Phyllis’s family with the financial burden of medical expenses that accumulated over the last 3 ½ years during her valiant fight against cancer.
While going through her 1st year of aggressive chemotherapy treatments, Phyllis showed her extraordinary strength and continued working at Just Kidding, her children’s clothing boutique in Boardman, Ohio. As Phyllis’s battle with metastatic Stage 4 Cancer progressed, she was forced retire prematurely — closing the doors of her beloved store after 26 years in business.
During her 2nd year of chemo treatments, Phyllis fell and shattered her arm. This caused a ripple effect of Catch-22 complications. Chemo prevented the cancer from spreading, but it also prevented her bone from healing. It ended her daily activities like driving and cooking. But she never complained. Her arm never completely healed, and the cancer eventually spread. A third of the donations made will go towards the last 4 years of medical expenses, including: cancer treatments, surgeries, emergency room and hospital stays, end-of-life care, and funeral costs.
What is Success?
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Help us celebrate Phyllis’s life by honoring the woman she was and the lives she touched.
We welcome any additional anecdotes or thoughts you'd like share about Phyllis! Please feel free to share in the comments. If you are a friend of the family and prefer to share your message privately, you may do so by contacting the organizer directly from this site.
We appreciate your help in sharing Phyllis's story. We'll be posting updates and additional info as the campaign progresses.
We thank everyone for their donations, prayers, and support during this heartbreaking time.
* * *
This campaign was created by Amanda Strasik with the help of loving friends of Phyllis DeLorenzo in Youngstown, OH. Amanda is Phyllis's former employee and very dear friend.
DonationsSee top donations
- Kimmberly G
- Samuel Brown
- Michael Kryschuk
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more