The proceeds from the sale of a rare, limited-edition sports car are helping St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in its race to find cures for children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
The 1953 Fiat 8V Super Sonic was auctioned in 2011 for the benefit of the children of St. Jude by the oldest son of the late Benny Caiola.
Caiola, who was widely known for owning one of the world’s most extensive collections of Ferraris and other Italian sports cars, immigrated to the United States at age 17 from his small village in Sicily at the end of World War II. Benny worked his way up from construction work to owning one of the most successful real estate development companies in Manhattan. He never forgot his humble beginnings and remained a gracious and giving person to all who knew him.
Today, his sons and daughter operate the family business and continue their father’s compassionate and benevolent example. When Benny passed away from cancer in 2010, his son and namesake, Ben Caiola III, decided to honor his life by helping the children of St. Jude.
The rare Fiat was purchased at auction for $1.7 million, which Ben is using to fund and name the SIM CT suite in the St. Jude Chili’s Care Center, where children receive computerized tomography scans that help doctors to identify and analyze the most intricate details of a child’s cancer.
“I know my father would want me to do this,” Ben says.
In May 2013, he and his stepmother, Bettina, visited St. Jude to see the plaque honoring his late father and mother and recognizing his contribution.
“I have no words. It was overwhelming to see the children who are getting treatment, yet at the same time smiling, happy and playing. We love what St. Jude does. No costs are incurred by the sick child, and the families are taken care of, which is amazing to me,” Ben says.
The inscription on the plaque reads: “In honor of Benny Caiola, Jr. and Rose Caiola. May their compassion bring health and happiness to those who walk these halls.”
“My parents taught us that we are here to help people in need,” Ben says. “I feel so grateful that I am able to do this.”
Reprinted from Promise, Summer 2015