Joe Pillitteri has been organizing Team Pillsy for the Terry Fox Run, and raising large sums of money, for years, but each year, he tries to do more.
The faithful fundraiser for the Terry Fox Foundation, best-known for his one-liners and comedy routines, ups his ante every year with something new. For three years pre-pandemic, that was a major event for the stand-up comic at the Jackson-Triggs amphitheatre.
Last year, when the community run total over the years surpassed the $1 million mark, organizer Joan King said that could not have been accomplished without Pillitteri’s passion for the cause, his huge heart and increasing efforts to raise money for the foundation.
His skills as an entertainer have benefitted many community causes, but none more so than the annual Terry Fox Run.
Last year and this, Pillitteri had to find another way to raise money. Paul Harber, of Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, stepped in and offered his large tented outdoor patio, which could hold 100 people and still allow for physical distancing.
Pillitteri was able to do two sold-out shows, and raised more than $22,000.
He did the same Tuesday night, again with two sold-out shows, and raised $35,000, the support of Ravine, several local wineries who donated wine, some great prizes that were raffled, and some friends who offered to pay for the dinners.
Pillitteri, the owner of Lakeview Equipment, recently lent his good customers Heidi and Curtis Fielding of Fielding Winery a tractor, “for a short spell, as we would for any customer in need.”
The Fieldings, he says, “are awesome people. They look outward to see what is needed in the community, and then they look inward to see what they can do to fill that need.”
In response to the loan of the tractor, the Fieldings asked Pillitteri what they could do, and when he told them about the Ravine fundraiser for the Terry Fox Foundation they offered to cover the cost of the Ravine dinners, so that 100 per cent of every dollar from the show will go to the foundation.
He considers himself very fortunate, he says, to be surrounded by outstanding, generous people who are willing to contribute to the community and a cause that is so important to him.
Pillitteri has talked openly in the past about the reason behind his dedication to the Terry Fox Foundation.
In 2008, he had what he describes as a full nervous breakdown. The economy was tanking, he had just bought his business, and he thought
he would lose it. He felt lower than he ever had at any time in his life. He tells the story of his daughter doing a project on Terry Fox at the time, and although he knew about the Marathon of Hope, Pillitteri started reading one of the books his daughter was using for her research. What he read really spoke to him, he said, and continues to help give him some perspective on life.
The Fieldings weren’t the only couple to support Pillitteri with this year’s Ravine event.
A little nervous about performing after so long away from the stage, he recently mentioned his case of nerves to his golfing buddy David Mines, who invited him to use their backyard as a venue to try out some new material. They fed “an awesome little crowd, and passed a plate around for donations to the foundation,” says Pillitteri, and at the end of the night, had collected $2,200 from the event.
People like the Mines and the Fieldings, he says, “inspire others to help. I’m blown away by all of them.”