Flaminia Assirelli, an Italian immigrant who owns Mama Fla Authentic Italian Restaurant in Idaho Falls, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and the community is organizing a fundraiser on her behalf. | Photo on left courtesy Flaminia Assirelli
IDAHO FALLS – A local business owner’s unexpected diagnosis prompted a group of women to organize a fundraiser on her behalf.
Flaminia Assirelli, a 50-year-old Italian immigrant who opened Mama Fla Authentic Italian Restaurant in Idaho Falls last fall, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.
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In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, her husband, Marco, explains that his wife is preparing for a mastectomy next month after getting a lump removed in May and months of chemotherapy.
Another lump has since returned and the couple opted for surgery rather than radiation treatment. They’re hoping this will be the solution for a full recovery.
“There’s a 90% (chance) there will be no need for further therapies after the surgery,” Marco says. “This should be the final step. You never know (for sure), but it will depend on the pathology report after the surgery.”
Though Flaminia is generally in good spirits and is doing her best to stay busy with the restaurant, Marco says she’s struggled with lack of energy and fatigue lately.
She’s stressed and a little scared going into this procedure, but Marco says “she’s a tough woman.”
Marco and Flaminia Assirelli inside their restaurant in October 2021. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
The Assirellis moved to Idaho Falls from Rome in 2019 and have awaited their final interview for U.S. citizenship for more than two years. Without being citizens, they’re unable to obtain health insurance, which means medical care is quite expensive.
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“Without (citizenship), you can’t get social security and without social security, you can’t get health insurance,” Marco explains. “In this situation without insurance, it’s not easy.”
Nari Ann Mendenhall of Idaho Falls reconnected with the Assirellis in 2020 after meeting them for the first time in Italy more than 30 years ago. She and Flaminia have since become best friends and the Assirellis are like family to her.
When Mendenhall heard about Flaminia’s struggles, she decided to help.
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She and others have volunteered their time at the restaurant over the last several months to keep it running during a labor shortage. Mendenhall says Flaminia was worried about “keeping the momentum” of the restaurant going through this ordeal and the help has been a blessing to her.
Mendenhall is now working with her daughter, Emily Heaton, and Heaton’s sister-in-law, Jessica Zaugg, on a fundraiser to help the Assirellis with medical expenses.
A Flock & Walk will be held on August 28 in downtown Idaho Falls. The event will begin at 11 a.m. in front of Mama Fla’s stand at the Farmer’s Market on Memorial Drive. Those who attend will walk “as a flock” to her restaurant at 385 River Parkway one block to the west.
Prizes and gift baskets from local businesses will be available, which will be awarded to the highest bidder during a silent auction.
Raffle tickets will also be for sale, which can be entered into a variety of prize drawings.
“All the money will go to Marco and Flaminia,” Mendenhall says. “Flaminia will be four weeks post-surgery at that time and so … it will be a fun environment for people to find out how she’s feeling.”
Flock & Walk event flier | Nari Mendenhall
Mendenhall anticipates it lasting until 3 p.m. She’s asking those who attend to wear a pink shirt or something with flamingos on it for breast cancer awareness.
Those who can’t attend can still make a donation to a GoFundMe account in Flaminia’s name.
“We love (the Assirellis) so much and know that many in the community do, too,” says Mendenhall. “This is an opportunity to show that love and support.”
As many have stepped in to help during this difficult time, the Assirellis are grateful for the kindness and generosity they’ve received.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Flaminia says in response.
“We are very grateful and thankful,” Marco adds.
Mendenhall is looking for businesses who want to donate a gift basket or raffle item for the event. If you’d like to contribute, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call her directly at (208) 403-6842.
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