Dining out 'for Pete's sake'
Members of the Island community have planned several events to raise funds for Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon and his family since learning the community resource officer is battling pancreatic cancer. The first event will be a pasta dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at St. Bernard Catholic Church.
Lannon said he hopes to attend the dinner, but if he is not feeling well due to medical treatment, his family will still come in his place.
Lannon said he is overwhelmed by the community's response after learning of his illness. "I feel like Jimmy Stewart in the movie ‘It's A Wonderful Life.' I feel like I just did my job every day and I wouldn't have thought I had so much of an impact. I feel really blessed."
Lannon has been on medical leave for two months from the Holmes Beach Police Department as well as his duties at Anna Maria Elementary School as the Drug Awareness Resistance Education teacher.
Lannon said he has a good health plan through the city and that his coworkers have "been fantastic." Soon he will begin chemotherapy treatments to shrink the golf-ball-sized tumor that has been pressing against his spine, causing low back pain.
"My wife has been my rock. I don't know what I would have done without her," Lannon said. "She is an incredible woman and I would have given up if it weren't for her." His wife is a nurse and Lannon said she has been a great strength to lean upon, especially during the months spent seeking a diagnosis for his back pain and then upon the shock of learning the cause.
Lannon said his children are also taking the situation in stride. His son Pete Jr. is maintaining the two properties the family is trying to sell, and daughter Jesse keeps dad stocked with Starbucks coffee and pumpkin cake.
"Jesse has my sense of humor," said Lannon, "so, we're able to crack jokes no one else might find funny."
Lannon also has a 10-year-old son, Mathew.
Doctors have not given Lannon the "all clear" to return to work, but have not ruled it out as a possibility. Lannon said his biggest worry is providing for his family.
"I hate to be in a position to ask for financial assistance, but what my family needs now is help with our bills," Lannon admitted. "It's the last thing I'd ever want to ask for, but just not knowing what the future holds and if I'll be able to help is worrisome."
Lannon said although he has a good health plan, insurance only covers so much. In addition Lannon is not yet entitled to full benefits through the police retirement plan.
According to Holmes Beach Lt. Dale Stephenson, Lannon has only been with the department six years and therefore is only partially vested. Officers become fully vested after 10 years.
The pasta dinner is the first of several events planned to raise money on Lannon's behalf. The dinner is sponsored by the Chiles Group, Island Gourmet, Beach Bistro, Publix, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, St. Bernard Catholic Church, J&J Graphics, Pyrates of the Gulf Coast, The Islander newspaper and many friends.
The evening menu includes Caesar or tossed salad with fresh mozzarella; alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, and meatballs over your choice of bow tie, angel hair or penne pasta; and bread. Tickets for adults are $10 and $5 for children. Organizers have asked that everyone bring a favorite dessert to share for an old-fashioned bake sale.
Jimi Gee and the Edison Rhythm Cats will be providing music.
Volunteers are welcome to help set up the church activity hall anytime after noon on Thursday. Auction items are being collected for that evening. Advance tickets will be sold until Wednesday at St. Bernard, Holmes Beach Police Department, Time Saver and Anna Maria Elementary. Take out is available and remaining tickets will be sold at the door.
Also coming up is a spa fundraiser at Danielle's Day Spa, 103 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22. Dina Stewart and Danielle Sewall will host a day of massage, manicures, pedicures and facials at discounted prices and all proceeds will go to the Lannon family.
At Holmes Beach City Hall on Oct. 22 there will also be a car wash by members of Southeast and Manatee high's service clubs. The wash will be running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and donations of extra towels and sponges are appreciated. The group has a collection box at the School for Constructive Play on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.
In the meantime, Lannon is determined to get through this hurdle. "I believe in the power of prayer and I believe in miracles."