WESTPORT, Conn. — Al DiGuido introduced Westport Sunrise Rotary to Al’s Angels, a nonprofit that helps make the holidays happier for needy families and children by donating meals and toys, and explained how he became passionate about the cause.
In his talk last Friday, DiGuido talked briefly about his early years: working as a 13-year-old counter boy in a neighborhood deli in Brooklyn; scoring “real success” in transforming Computer Shopper, the most widely read pre-Internet computer magazine, into an online business that was later sold as a part of a $1.2 billion package; and starting Saugatuck Sweets — even though “I knew nothing about the ice cream business.”
“Let me tell you a little about my passion,” DiGuido said. About 20 years ago, a friend invited DiGuido to a fundraiser in New Jersey that promised an opportunity to get New York Giants’ autographs. After an evening of hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and happy talk, a woman got up and spoke.
“My son is 7 years old and he’s dying of cancer. The money you raise tonight will help provide food for my family,” she said. Another woman said, “My 6-year-old daughter is dying of cancer. My husband has left us. The money you raise tonight will help us provide for the holidays.” And three more stood up, all telling the same story.
“What the hell is going on here?” DiGuido said. “How is it in the United States of America that mothers of children dying of cancer have to stand in front of strangers and beg for money for their kids?”
Deciding that “we gotta start doing something,” he and his wife hosted Trivial Pursuit parties and raised hundreds of dollars for the Hackensack Medical Center.
Broadening his efforts, DiGuido raised millions through the computer industry. Then 16 years ago he created Al’s Angels.
The first year he and his friends provided holiday meals for 40 families and toys for 100 kids.
His true “real success" is that his organization has raised almost $400,000 each of the last 10 years, and this year it will provide Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas meals for 3,200 families and holiday toys for 6,000 kids.
The Angels volunteers get into top gear Nov. 14, when 700 people will gather at 6 a.m. at Gault’s Bridgeport garage to assemble 1,600 Thanksgiving meal bins.
Then on Dec. 12, they’ll repeat the process for Christmas and Hanukah. Interested in learning more — or volunteering? Visit the group's website here .
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