A day to give back to a giving person
KNOX — Jean Forti said the idea of a day celebrating her was enough.
“I think of all the other people that really deserve stuff. I think it should be a celebration-of-life day,” she said of “Jean Forti Day,” being held this Saturday in Knox Town Park. “You could take my name off. That would be kind of nice, you know.”
Forti was diagnosed with primary liver cancer on her 51st birthday, when she visited her doctor with what seemed like an ulcer on May 7. She’s scheduled for surgery at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany on Wednesday, when 70 percent of her liver will be removed.
“Jean is literally the best person I know on the face of this Earth,” said Mary Ellen Nagengast, one of the day’s organizers. “If anything needs to be done for someone, she’s the person there.”
Nagengast and Tammy Fisher starting to plan the day by making phone calls from the sidelines of a travel soccer game. She said more people have stepped forward in a week and a half than they have work for.
“We felt like, for a change, that we would give back to her,” Nagengast said of Forti. “It’s like throwing a party for her just to show how many lives she’s touched, how many people love her.”
A prominent volunteer in the Hilltowns, Forti is involved with Girl Scout Troop 1758, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Parent Teacher Association, on the Fox Creek farm, 4-H, St. Lucy/St. Bernadette Church, Knox Youth Council, Sierra Club, Crop Walk, Altamont and Berne libraries, Meals on Wheels, and food pantries.
Since her diagnosis, Forti said she has focused more on herself and asked other people to fill in for some of her volunteer roles, “which is not what I like to do.”
“It seemed very surreal,” Forti said of when she found out in May. “And it seemed it’d be nice to just wake up and think ‘Oh, that was a bad dream.’ It just made us all get really close. Everybody all of a sudden realized every day was a gift. All of a sudden, family really mattered.” She and her husband have three children.
She is expected to stay in the hospital for a week and won’t know until then whether she’ll need more treatment. Nagengast said the party Saturday will raise funds to help the Fortis with the costs the cancer will bring, but Jean Forti wanted any money raised to go to a charity.
“We really had to talk her into that,” said Nagengast. “But you don’t know what the future’s going to hold. Whatever’s raised, we’ll put it in a bank account and, if they need it, it’s there for them. Hopefully, she won’t need it and she could give it to charity after, if she so chooses.”
Forti said she is humbled by the prayer shawl from church, cards, and stories and thoughts people have shared. She said it was difficult to tell people about her diagnosis, to see their shock, over and over again.
“I think it’s kind of taken the community a little bit by surprise,” said Forti.
“Jean Forti Day” will start with a walk and run beginning at 9 a.m., from the intersection of Knox Cave Road and Route 156 in Knox. The race fee is $15. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share, their own beverages, and a canned good for a food pantry.
In the town park, the Knox Town Band will play, and caller Paul Rosenberg and Tamarack will perform for contra dancing at 2:15 p.m. Food will be available, with hamburgers and hotdogs, a potluck picnic, and a bake sale, as well as activities for kids, like pony rides and a petting zoo. A basket and silent auction will be held at 6 p.m.
Organizers are accepting donations of silent auction items, baked goods, and gift baskets.
Volunteers are invited to bring meals to the Fortis. A meal schedule is available online to coordinate volunteers.