Community>Cancer benefits local business owner

A local entrepreneur is battling cancer, and numerous businesses and individuals are doing what they can to help cover the cost of expensive treatment that could save his life.

On May 27, Vinny DeFrancisco, co-founder of Columbus-based Brightstar Interactive, went to the emergency room with very high blood pressure. He ended up spending a week in the hospital while doctors ran tests.

Upon leaving, he was told a  mass of cancer cells was not responsible for the downturn in his health. Then, a week later he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, or cancer of the blood.

After getting the news, DeFrancisco says one thought kept running through his mind− and still does: “I want to be around for my boys.”

He and his wife, Candace, have two sons: three-year-old Dominic and one-year-old Enzo.

DeFrancisco recently completed four rounds of chemotherapy at The James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University. However, he also needs a stem cell transplant, and his insurance will only cover $100,000 worth of the procedure’s cost, meaning the DeFranciscos are on the hook for $50,000.

“My friend, Shane Haggerty, and I were talking about wanting to do something to support Vinny and his family, but we both felt a little helpless,” says Keith Speers, a local entrepreneur who met DeFrancisco at a networking event almost three years ago.

Together he and Haggerty came up with the idea for Community>Cancer: A benefit for Vinny D. The fundraiser will be held this evening from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the rooftop bar at Callahan’s, at 520 Park St. in the Arena District.

Speers emailed DeFrancisco about six weeks ago to ask whether he would mind if they moved forward with the benefit. DeFrancisco was overwhelmed.

“I couldn’t even get through the entire email,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that someone would want to do this for my family.”

Speers says his parents have always stressed the importance of taking care of one’s own– family and friends.

“All my life, I’ve seen my parents set the example of reaching out to others in need, helping who they could where they could,” he adds. “I can’t cure cancer, but I can help alleviate some of the financial stress his family has, so he can focus on healing and not worry about the other stuff.”

All proceeds from Community>Cancer will go to the DeFrancisco family.

In addition to entertainment and drink specials, the fundraiser will include a silent auction.

The idea behind the event is that a community’s support and love are bigger than cancer, Speers says, adding that donations for the auction are proof.

“I thought I would have to do a lot of convincing,” he continues. “The truth is that people started contacting me once they heard about the event. They wanted to be a part of it. It’s bigger than we imagined it would be. We have donations from more than 50 different businesses and individuals.”

Items up for grabs include a week at a luxury villa in La Manzanilla, Mexico, complete with a personal chef, housekeeper and house manager; two autographed guitars− one signed by Kelly Clarkson and one signed by Daughtry; and dinner with Graham Rahal, a champion Indycar driver who will even pick up in his date in a Porsche Carrera GT.

Tickets for Community>Cancer are $30 per person, plus a $2.64 fee.

To buy tickets, visit