Leonard Bellavia spent so much time working at his father’s Buick dealership that growing up his family called him “Lot Boy.” It was no surprise that he went on to become a founding partner at Bellavia Blatt & Crossett in Mineola and Hauppauge, a law firm that represents car and boat dealers. It was a surprise when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal prostate cancer in May 2016. Doctors told the father of two to start planning his own funeral.
“It was a very, very terrible, horrible, depressing situation,” said Bellavia. “They said there was nothing they could do.”
Three weeks later, Bellavia was given a miracle or, rather, news of a misdiagnosis. After reviewing his slides, pathologists found that Bellavia’s prostate cancer was not terminal, but rather confined to his prostate and very easily treatable. He underwent surgery in September 2016 and is now cancer-free with a normal life expectancy. But he understands not everyone will be so lucky.
“[My misdiagnosis] was a wake-up call for me,” said Bellavia, who recently turned 60. “I wanted to be a meaningful part of the cure since this affected me so directly.”
Bellavia decided to combine his automotive expertise and industry connections to help find a cure for prostate cancer. Two months after his surgery, Bellavia began organizing a classic car show to benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
“The day of the procedure, my roommate, who was a musician, had the same procedure done,” Bellavia said. “I told him, ‘If I live and the operation was successful, I’m going to put together a classic car show.’ And he said, ‘Well if I survive, I want to be the musician that plays at your show.’ We both got good news, and we’ve been working together on the show ever since.”
The classic car show, Crusin’ for the Cure, will take place on June 24 at Windham Mountain Resort in upstate New York. It is the first ever classic car show associated with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and 100 percent of the proceeds raised at the show will be donated to the foundation. Bellavia said he is hoping to showcase between 700 and 1,000 classic, new and exotic cars such as Maseratis, Alfa Romeos and Ferraris. He also plans to bring up three classic Buicks from his own personal collection. Local Windham fire departments will not only be volunteering, but bringing in classic fire trucks for viewing. Additionally, there will be classic car judging, a children’s area, vendors, a live DJ from WRIP 97.9 and a hole-in-one putting competition for a brand new Corvette. But the most important part of the show won’t have an engine.
“From my experience, I learned patients must be their own advocate,” Bellavia said. “At the show, we’re planning on having a blood screening. We encourage men over 50 to submit to the PSA [Prostate-Specific Antigen] test.”
In addition to the classic car show, Bellavia has helped to establish a social media campaign called Many vs. Cancer. Launched on May 18, the campaign seeks to raise awareness and money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Bellavia will be leading two subgroups: Lawyers vs. Cancer and Dealers vs. Cancer. He hopes that dealers throughout Long Island will donate $20 for every car they sell on the day of the show. From there, his next goal is to get his campaign to go national.
“I went through an earth-shattering, emotionally damaging experience,” Bellavia said. “Perhaps, I got a message from above that I was spared to make a meaningful difference.”
The show will be from 10am-4pm and is open to the public.