Cranston resident Stephanie Buono had a healthy and active life. She frequently took part in fundraising events to support a variety of causes.
Then, after a serious car accident several years ago, a chiropractor found some troubling signs and referred her to a neurologist. Subsequent testing revealed a life-changing diagnosis – multiple sclerosis.
She lived without symptoms for a time, but the effects of the disease began to appear in the last three years. Spasms, she said, have been the most difficult.
“Spasticity feels like a zombie’s living inside you and punching to get out, like something’s taken over the inside of your body,” she said.
Despite the drastic changes in her life, Buono has not given up – and she wants to use her experience and story to assist others facing the disease.
“I’ve always had the attitude I’m going to beat it. There are some days I get defeated … I just want to help other people,” she said.
Part of that mission has involved serving as a resource for local friends whose lives have been touched by MS. Among them are Bobby Nicholson, also of Cranston, and his wife, Dawn, who was diagnosed in the last year.
“Your life’s not the way it was …I know now, because my wife is living with it,” Nicholson said.
Buono and Nicholson are also working to reach out to the broader community.
They are organizing the “Jammin’ for MS” outdoor dance party, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, at Platforms Dance Club, located at 165 Poe St. in Providence. Proceeds from the event – being produced by InsideOut Productions, which Nicholson owns along with attorney E.J. Terry McEnaney III – will benefit the Rhode Island chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“It’s going to be a great show,” Nicholson said.
Tickets cost $20, and admission includes a complimentary cookout. Buono and Nicholson plan to put a banner for the event across Park Avenue and are actively seeking sponsors. Each sponsorship costs $500 and comes with 10 tickets to the event.
The entertainment lineup for the event will feature Bobby Braciola – the “Italian Rapper” and stage persona of McEnaney – along with James “D-Train” Williams, Legacy, DJ Tommy Sacco and Alex “The Entertainer” Jackson.
D-Train, who is from New York, has performed since the 1980s. His career includes a number of Billboard hits and work as a session singer with major pop and R&B artists.
“He’s an unbelievable guy,” Nicholson said.
Legacy, a show band, performs throughout New England. Its sounds range from Top 40 hits to funk and soul songs.
“They really bring it,” Nicholson said
“They get the party going,” Buono added.
Sacco, owner of Tommy’s Pizza in Cranston, has a personal connection with the “Jammin’ for MS” organizers.
“He’s a good friend to all of us,” Buono said.
Jackson, meanwhile, will be providing a blend of live performance and video indoors at Platforms during the event.
“Everyone under that roof is going to have a smile on their face,” Buono said.
Nicholson and Buono also thanked Platforms owner Joe Manfredi for his support.
“He’s really helping us out in every way he can,” Nicholson said. “We have great friends who are there for us.”
For Buono and Nicholson, the cause is personal beyond their own experience with MS. Several of their mutual friends have also been affected by the disease, including Mike Matracia, a Providence Police officer.
“We can name right now six or seven people, all the same era in Cranston,” Nicholson said.
In addition to providing financial support for the MS Society, the duo hopes “Jammin’ for MS” – which is planned to be an annual event – helps draw the community’s attention to the disease.
“People think that MS is like muscular dystrophy, that I’m going to be in a wheelchair … MS isn’t that. It’s not a death sentence,” Buono said.
“There’s not a lot of awareness as far as MS goes,” Nicholson added.
For Buono, each day is a challenge. She is out of work and has required surgeries after falls stemming from her condition.
“I want to be me again. I want to work,” she said.
Still, despite what she confronts on a day-to-day basis, Buono remains focused on doing what she can to make a difference in the community.
“If I can help somebody, it’s worth it for me,” she said.
For tickets to “Jammin’ for MS” or information on becoming a sponsor, contact Ciara’s Restaurant & Lounge in Johnston at 354-8800, Platforms Dance Club at 781-3121, Nicholson at 209-9059 or Buono at 533-0846. Nicholson and Buono can also be messaged on Facebook.