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East County Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 8 years ago

Couple finds new angle for fundraising efforts

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

EAST COUNTY — The challenges John and Fran LaCivita have faced over the last five years have been difficult, to say the least.

But the East County couple is moving forward and hoping to help others in the process. And now, their story — or at least an Italian mob-themed version of it — has come to life online.

John LaCivita, vice president of Lakewood Ranch-based Willis A. Smith Construction, and his wife, Fran, are co-chairing the 2010 “Night of Hope” fundraiser in March for The Wellness Community, an organization that provides counseling, nutrition classes, support groups and other services free of charge to cancer patients and their families.

To put some “muscle” behind their fundraising efforts, the couple has partnered with public-relations firm Grapevine Communications to create a virtual adventure series called “The Linguini Family Goes Legit.”

As the story goes, Johnny — a mob boss — decides to start a “mob-free” construction company in Sarasota, after both he and his wife are diagnosed with cancer. The couple are starting anew, having cooperated with the Feds, and now are chairing the 2010 “Night of Hope” fundraiser for The Wellness Community to give back to their community.

The story will unfold virtually on social networking site Facebook over the next two months. And aside from the mob connections, the LaCivitas bear a remarkable resemblance to the family’s main characters.

In reality, both the LaCivitas have battled and survived cancer over the last five years, but the marks of the disease are still fresh in their minds.

Fran LaCivita was the first to fight the disease, after finding a lump in her breast more than five years ago.

And about a year after Fran LaCivita had completed chemotherapy and other treatments, her husband noticed a speck on his arm — a rare stage-three melanoma that required a full year of basic interferon therapy.

“It was terrifying,” Fran LaCivita said. “We didn’t know if we’d be here to raise the kids. The emotional aspect of it was awful. It takes a long time to get back to normal.”

The couple had celebrated John’s 40th birthday while he was battling cancer. Fran LaCivita took her inspiration for the affair from the off-Broadway production “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” which she and John and their friends David and Amy Sessions had gone to see in Chicago after Fran LaCivita completed her breast-cancer treatments.

“It was such a smashing success, when we were asked to chair The Wellness Community event we wanted to liven it up,” Fran LaCivita said. “We thought ‘the family’ could bring it.

“Because we really had seen the light, we could do this,” she said.

Although neither John nor Fran used The Wellness Community’s services during their treatment or recoveries, both are passionate about The Wellness Community and the services it provides.

Over the coming weeks, as their based-on-a-true-virtual-story unfolds, the couple hopes the bantering and activities between the Linguini family characters will generate an extra buzz for their upcoming Italian mob-themed event and get more people involved.

The story will have many twists and turns, much like the fundraiser itself, although the LaCivitas remain tight-lipped about what will happen the night of “The Family Goes Legit”-themed event, saying only they’ll be equal offenders with their mob-style jargon and incite plenty of laughter.

“We want people to walk away and say this is something they’ve never experienced,” John LaCivita said.

To follow the Linguini family’s story on Facebook, visit and become a fan of “The Linguini Family.”

For more information about The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida, visit the organization’s Web site at

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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