Tony Epifani, a World Class soccer player and father of two, was diagnosed with ALS in 2008 at age 39. Although his disease progressed slowly, after 6 years Tony was confined to one room, sitting in a recliner, day after day. As a result, he felt lost and disconnected from the world. Upon moving into the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCL) in 2016, Tony was given a new lease on life. Due to the revolutionary technology at the Center, along with the caring, compassionate staff, Tony, who has been on a ventilator since 2018, resumed many of the activities that were so important to him. He was able to produce music videos, write poetry, and even paint again. Recently Tony completed an online creative writing course. He is, in every sense, living life to the fullest.
As a way to express his gratitude to Chelsea Jewish Lifecare CEO Barry Berman, Tony painted a truly remarkable likeness of Mr. Berman. The painting also features fellow LFCL residents in the background. There are lifelike renderings of Tony’s friends – Steve Saling and Patrick O’Brien — as well as of Tony himself. It is a strong and vibrant portrait that conveys Tony’s deep affection and gratitude for both Barry Berman and the Leonard Florence Center.
Tony explains his inspiration for painting the picture. “The Leonard Florence Center for Living is more than a place for disabled people. Rather it is a safe place that I am proud to call my home,” said Tony. He comments upon the excellent care he receives on a daily basis. “To me, the people who work at LFCL are not merely staff members; they are my friends, “explains Epifani. “The Center allows me to live independently, providing me with the freedom to enjoy a high quality of life.”
When asked why he chose to paint a picture of Barry Berman, Tony is quick to respond. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without people like Barry by my side,” said Tony. “As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be alive today without him.” Added Epifani, “I’m happy and enjoying my life here. So I thought, why not paint a portrait of Barry to show my gratitude?
“This painting is one of the most touching gifts I have ever received in my life,” said Chelsea Jewish Lifecare CEO Barry Berman. “I was literally speechless when Tony gave it to me. It is a gift I will cherish forever.”
In addition to the extraordinary painting, Tony also wrote a heartfelt poem about Barry Berman and the Leonard Florence Center. It is a fitting tribute about how they have impacted his life. As Tony notes, “Barry Berman not only changed my life, but his generosity has forever changed the lives of the other LFCL residents. Now tell me, are words really enough for what Barry has done for me? I think not.”
Sunrise wide eyes I realize what a prize
My residence Leonard Florence Center is, no surprise
Such allies, they empathize, needs never compromised
Here I praise, eulogize, and idolize
My body, mind, soul flies in the skies free like butterflies
They keep me Alive, to love, think, create, enjoy life full-size
I love it here, they love me, likewise
Tony Epifani, 2021