East Bay business owner honors father by raising funds for Walk.
When Chris Lofaso was a young man, his father, Giuseppe, died with dementia. Thirty-five years later, Chris found the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® and encouraged his company, Legacy Mechanical, to participate. In just two months, they raised nearly $14,000 for Walk. This year, Chris joined the Walk Committee and shares why he thinks it’s so important for companies to give back to the community.
Everyone knows Giuseppe.
Chris Lofaso’s father, Giuseppe Giovanni Lofaso, was born in 1911. A Sicilian immigrant, he came to the United States through Ellis Island and moved into the tenements of Little Italy in New York City. Eventually, he managed a pool hall in lower Manhattan. He was also a fantastic card player and rumor has it, he may have also taken in some local bets.
In his late 40s, Giuseppe met Chris’ mother, who was 20 years younger than him and together they moved to Queens to start a family together. Chris was the middle child and was born when Giuseppe was 50 years old.
“The best memories I have with my dad were my early teen years,” said Chris. “He loved to go fishing so we’d get up at the crack of dawn and go surf fishing on Long Island. We even built our own fishing rods from scratch.
On other weekends, all of us siblings would get into the car with our dad and drive to Manhattan on Saturday’s. We would visit his old neighborhood of Little Italy and make the rounds at all his friends’ shops; Mikey the butcher, Mooney at shoe store, Veniero’s pastry shop, etc. Everywhere we went, my dad was welcomed with open arms. He was very popular, friendly and just a super nice guy. I remember meeting Rocky Graziano one day with my dad (former boxing champion) and my dad telling me that he was always getting into street fights as a kid.”
By the time Chris graduated high school, Giuseppe, who was now 68, had begun to show signs of dementia. However, it wasn’t until Chris left for college and returned home for breaks that he really noticed the big setbacks in his father’s memory and behavior. It troubled him greatly. By the time Chris graduated college his father no longer recognized him or his siblings.
“I went to college and came home, and I would notice these huge shifts in his personality,” said Chris. “It made college quite a challenge for me. As an immature young adult, I just didn’t know how to deal with it emotionally. I was in a dark place psychologically.”
Chris came from a blue-collar family. As the disease progressed, Chris’ mother, who was working full time to support the family, had to find someone to look after Giuseppe during the day while she was at work as he was unable to care for himself. Because this was the early 1980s Chris’ mother didn’t know where to get help. There weren’t many resources on dementia available and she had to rely on the support of family and friends.
Sadly, Giuseppe passed in 1987 at the age of 76.
After his father’s death, Chris followed his best friend out to San Diego and eventually moved to Northern California in 2006. He purchased Legacy Mechanical and Energy Services Inc. in the Bay Area in early 2022 and quickly realized that giving back to the community was going to be a foundational principle for Legacy moving forward.
First Chris joined the local Rotary Club. Then he found an advertisement online for Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the East Bay and went to their information session. He immediately formed an emotional connection with the Alzheimer’s Association and decided that this would be his company’s primary focus for giving back.
Just two months before the event, Chris started a company Walk team and encouraged his employees to join. “I got my organization excited about it,” said Chris. “We had 20-25 participants. A lot of employees came up to me to talk about their stories and I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how many employees’ lives had been affected by this horrible disease.”
Chris asked his son Joseph, who is named after Giuseppe (the translation of Giuseppe from Italian to English is Joseph), to become the team captain. “It’s cool to have him involved with me,” said Chris. “It makes it feel extra special. My wife and the dogs walk with us. The rest of my kids are all over the country, but it just adds extra meaning having my oldest son, Joseph, as Team Captain.”
Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest fundraiser working to advance care, support and research across the world. From face-to-face support to online education programs and promising worldwide research initiatives, the money you raise makes a difference in the lives of those facing Alzheimer’s.
To raise funds, Chris reached out to his company’s vendors, friends from college and even friends from a basketball pickup game he is part of. “I reached out to so many different groups and social circles,” said Chris. “What was cool was when I sent story to Cornell Alumni friends. [They said,] ‘I had no idea you were going through this while in college. Thanks for sharing this.’ I think it really resonated with those people.”
In 2022 Chris and his team raised almost $14,000 for Walk, and his company made an additional $5,000 donation.
The importance of raising funds
Through his time with the Alzheimer’s Association, Chris has found there are many people who have been impacted by this disease. With the discovery of new treatments, he is even more passionate about finding a cure. “This whole era of treatment takes big money,” said Chris. “You’re talking about changing policy, influencing insurance companies and [funding] research. All that stuff needs money. We must get behind this politically, scientifically, and socially. The only way to do that is by raising money. It’s that simple.”
Chris believes that if you’re a business owner it’s your responsibility to give back to the community. “All business owners and their employees benefit from their ownership and employment,” said Chris. “I think it’s our obligation to give some of this back to the community, it’s that simple. I got great advice from an advisor: as a business, you have a large chunk of cash to cover expenses, park that in an account and use the interest towards charity. It’s an easy way to do it, and it’s the right thing to do.”
This year, Chris is even more engaged with his local Walk. Chris joined the Walk Committee and became the Executive Event Chair. His company is continuing to support Walk by not only raising funds but also by becoming a sponsor. “We’re trying to get other businesses involved,” said Chris. “It’s not as easy as I thought it would be but Maya [Director of Walk to End Alzheimer’s] and I are working on that together. She is awesome to work with.
“Everyone has a different reason for volunteering. Everyone has their own reason [or] personal connection. At the end of the day, it’s all about helping others.”