For 11-year-old North Jersey boy Vinny Accurso, dealing with pulmonary hypertension is nothing new. Vin was born with the life-threatening lung condition, which necessitates frequent hospital visits and treatments, and that he wear a backpack at all times through which he intravenously receives medication.
The boy and his family have made a big splash in their hometown, Mahwah, over the past few years – with Vin acting as an honorary member and coach of his big brothers’ high school football team. Now, he is adding non-profit founder to his resume.
The Accurso family has founded Baking for a Cure, a charity that raises money to support The Pulmonary Hypertension Center and the Babies Heart Fund at Columbia University Medial Center in NY in their quest to find a cure.
Vin joined his parents and siblings at a kickoff event at the Mahwah Senior Center Thursday afternoon to unveil the charity’s big fundraising goal – to purchase and operate a “mobile bakery” that will travel to hospitals across the country to give kids with life-threatening injuries cooking and baking lessons. The family has assembled a Board of Directors and has already compiled a cooking curriculum that will be implemented once they raise enough money to buy and operate the mobile kitchen.
“That’s our first main goal, to get the mobile bakery up and running,” Nadine Accurso, Vin’s mom, said at the kickoff. That will take about $100,000, the family said.
Accurso and her husband Frank have the baking experience to run the cooking side of the charity. Frank is the resident baker and Nadine the cake decorator at Lotito’s Deli and Bakery in Ramsey.
For the kickoff, the couple gathered more than 100 senior citizens at the Senior Center in Mahwah to introduce them to Baking for a Cure and its board members, give them a quick cooking tutorial, and some samples of the baked goods they hope to cook with kids at hospitals across the country.
Frank also shared with the crowd a story about his son that inspired the family to start the charity.
Two years ago, the NY Giants invited Vin and his family – all die-hard fans – to a practice at MetLife Stadium. Coach Tom Coughlin and the team members embraced the family, and even invited Vin into their huddle for some words of good luck before a game they were prepping to play against the Eagles.
“It was one of those experiences that really just changes your life,” Frank explained to the crowd Thursday.
After they left, to say thank you, the Accursos dropped off some of their crumb cake, a beloved specialty at the bakery. The team loved it, and won the game. Nadine offered the team to continue delivering the cake so long as they kept winning.
“We delivered cake every Thursday up until the week they left for the Super Bowl,” Frank said. “And you all know how that story ends, they went on to win.”
The Accursos continued to use the lucky “crumb cake of champions,” giving it the next season to Vin’s brother’s Mahwah High School football team. That year, the team won its first championship in over 30 years.
“That inspired us to start this organization,” Frank said.
“We figured, crumb cake was able to do some pretty amazing things, let’s use it to help find a cure for our disease and help out other kids like Vin.”
The crumb cake was one of the samples at Thursday’s kickoff, and will be one of the recipes taught out of the mobile bakery.
The Accursos joined with Baking for a Cure board members and Mahwah and Bergen County officials Thursday for the kickoff.
“I am honored to be a part of an organization that has such big goals,” Board Member Suzanne Curry said at the event. “It only takes one person to change things. And, in this case, that person is Vinny.”
“It is inspiring to see a young man possess this much power,” Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said.