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Allied volunteer gives back to those who helped him

Bill Tonti, who has RSD syndrome, helps others as a volunteer at Allied Services.

Members of the Villa Capri Cruisers, from left, are John Pendlebury, Jim Mulherin, Allied Services volunteer Bill Tonti, Mike Greenstein and George Caswell. Tonti has organized a car cruise set for Moffat Drive on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. to raise money for Allied’s programs.

shelby fisk / the times leader

SCRANTON – It’s the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Bill Tonti is an Allied Services volunteer and an Allied Services patient.

Tonti has reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) syndrome, a condition that does not currently have a known cure.

He found out that he had the condition in 1994 after suffering many injuring and being treated at multiple facilities, he was sent to Jefferson Hospital to confirm or deny that he had RSD.

It’s 10 times worse then fibromyalgia, Tonti said about the condition commonly known as “complex pain syndrome.”

Part of his treatment involved being in a therapy pool, which had to be closed for repair, but his doctor insisted that he needed water treatment.

“Why don’t you give Allied a try?” Tonti said that his doctor said and on Oct. 19, 1996, Tonti did just that.

Tonti said he was paired up with Lori Cavage in Allied’s pool.

“She did her thesis on RSD,” Tonti said.

Six weeks after working with Cavage, Tonti returned to his doctor for a visit. “‘Whatever they’re doing at Allied, this is the best your legs have been in more than two and a half years,’” Tonti said his doctor told him.

After competing therapy sessions, Tonti enrolled in the maintenance therapy program at Allied Services to maintain his progress. He is still a member of the program, visiting Allied Services regularly as a patient, and also quite often as a volunteer.

“One thing I found out about here…in this complex, people care,” he said.

“They really care. That above all has impressed me. You walk in this place, you’re not a number, they know you by name and they really care about your condition. They go more than the extra mile, that is one of my reasons why I decided to give back and volunteer here,” Tonti said.

Tonti primarily helps with fundraising at Allied Services, working with the Casino Night, Breakfast with Santa, Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, craft fairs and vending sales throughout the year. He noted last year $58,000 was raised for Allied Service.

“A lot of the volunteers had afflictions of one sort, form or another at one time and Allied has helped us and that just makes the bond that much stronger,” Tonti said.

Tonti spoke of one time that he said touched his heart.

Last August, he was having a hard time trying to get donations. “Things were just not coming through,” he said.

In the afternoon, he went to the cafeteria to get a drink, and on the way in, he said that he almost got run over by a little girl in a wheelchair. “She’s laughing and giggling,” Tonti said.

“I see her mother sitting in the booth with a painted smile on her face,” Tonti said. “and the little girl is going back and forth with her electric wheelchair.”

Tonti said that he noticed that the young girl was using a wheelchair without a joystick, but rather a tube.

“She was paralyzed from the shoulders down and she was just a little tike,” Tonti said.

“I thought to myself ‘that’s your inspiration’,” Tonti said. “Granted we have our own afflictions, but there’s always somebody who’s worse and there’s always somebody who needs that extra helping hand and after all, Allied and their people were here for me when I needed it, so the least I could do is be there to try to help others.”

Volunteers at Allied Services, Tonti said, include a man who had a stroke. “He comes every morning and pours water for the patients, I think at 7:30 in the morning. He brings them their water and newspapers. That’s his way of giving back,” Tonti said.

The greatest, current need at Allied Services, Tonti added, is for volunteers to come and sit with patients.

“Just talk to them,” Tonti said. It means a lot to them, he said.

As for volunteers, “it’s almost internal rejoicing when you see that that person’s coming along has been helped,” Tonti said.

“I try to help out where I’m needed,” Tonti said. “I don’t like to complain ( about RSD).”

“You find a way,” he added.

Car cruises are something that he brought to Allied Services and this year marks the fifth year for a car cruise at Allied Services.

A pre-Independence Day cruise will take place on Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Moffat Drive.

“It’s free to the public,” Tonti said. The public can also donate.

Food and drinks will be available and, aside from viewing cars, Tonti said there is a lot to do. Raffle baskets and different chance prizes will be available and a book sale, a bake sale and a small flea market will take place.

“Come and have fun,” Tonti encourage. The day’s activities will take place rain or shine.

Proceeds raised benefit Allied Services programs including free services for children with disabilities, sponsorship of Allied’s wheelchair sports teams, scholarship funds for the de Paul School for dyslexia, and support for vocational services for people with physical or mental impairments.

Upcoming car cruises at Allied Services are scheduled to take place on Aug. 9 and Sept. 27.

Bill Tonti

TOWN OF RESIDENCE: Mount Cobb

OCCUPATION: retired

HOW MANY YEARS: 13 years

CHARITIES, VOLUNTEER PROJECTS: Allied Services, St. Ann’s Basilica novena, Villa Capri Car Cruisers and Pocono Mountain Street Rods

FAMILY: older brothers, Jerry and Joseph. Aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

EDUCATION: Bachelors degree in education and sociology, with a minor in public security and law enforcement from King’s College, graduate work at The University of Scranton and master’s degree in math education form Marywood University.

HOBBIES, INTERESTS: Wood-working hobbies, putting together classic cars and socializing with people

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