Gathering supports Make-A-Wish in late Miss RI Italia’s memory

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Ladies like Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian and Stephanie Paolissi know just how devastating it is to lose a love one, especially if he or she is of a young age and has lost a battle to cancer.

When the late Isabella Corcelli – formerly known as Ms. Rhode Island Italia 2014 – succumbed to the disease at age 21, Annamaria Angelosanto and Maria Manzi were heartbroken, as was Providence schoolteacher James Varone.

Her death also touched the business community, most notable DaVinci Restaurant on Providence’s Federal Hill, where dozens of people showed up last Wednesday night for a special fundraising event.

“Isabella is looking down at us, smiling,” said Stephanie Paolissi, a native Johnstonian and reigning Miss Rhode Island Italia. “She would be proud of what’s going on here this evening.”

The upstairs lounge and dining area at DaVinci were jam-packed with what Sabitoni-Arakelian – who coordinated the ambitious fundraiser – said were “very, very generous people who remember Isabella and her many, many talents.”

Those on hand purchased raffle tickets for upwards of 30 prizes, ranging from restaurant gift certificates and jewelry to professional sporting event tickets and visits to salons.

“Each and every business that donated to the night really went above and beyond,” Paolissi said. “Take Basta Restaurant [of Cranston] – they gave us a four-course meal for eight with wine pairing that’s valued at $1,000.”

Sabitoni-Arakelian – who is Mrs. Rhode Island Italia, lives in Johnston, and has long been active in civic and charitable works – added: “We are very, very pleased with the outcome tonight. Everyone here has been very generous. By night’s end we will have raised upwards of $2,300 in Isabella Corcelli’s name.”

The money will be given to Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island in Corcelli’s memory. The non-profit, based in East Providence, grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

“Make-A-Wish Foundation has always been one of my favorite charities,” Paolissi said. “I have seen how they take people in the worst and most vulnerable situations of their lives and create experiences that add joy, hope and strength. When I learned about the passing of our own Miss Italia titleholders, both Gina and I wanted to do something to both honor Isabella and give back.”

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