Organiser ‘overwhelmed’ by Northampton community raising £11,700 for his friend’s overseas cancer treatment

Justin Vanezi and his partner Becky Collinson at Vanezfest. Photo: Steve Addo.
Justin Vanezi and his partner Becky Collinson at Vanezfest. Photo: Steve Addo.

£11,700 has been raised by the Northampton community, who came together in aid of Justin Vanezi’s overseas cancer treatment appeal last Sunday (August 13).

‘Vanezfest’, a family day of food, music and games, was hosted at T’s Coffee in Pitsford and nearly 700 people showed up in support of Justin.

The event was organised by a long-term friend of Justin’s, Mario Chari. The two first met at upper school and worked together even before setting up their own street food company.

The event was attended by nearly 700 members of the community and £11,700 was raised. Photo: Steve Addo.
The event was attended by nearly 700 members of the community and £11,700 was raised. Photo: Steve Addo.

As soon as Justin shared that an online fundraising page had been set up for him, Mario knew he wanted to donate – but decided to use that money and his connections in the food industry to do something much greater.

Justin, owner of authentic Greek food business My Meze BBQ and a DJ for a number of years, was diagnosed with two types of cancer last year and “time is now not on his side”.

One is an extremely rare and aggressive form of blood cancer, called Primary Cutaneous Diffuse B Cell Lymphoma of the leg, and the other is Large B-Cell Lymphoma which grows daily.

He has undergone 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 15 rounds of radiotherapy and most recently CAR-T therapy – all in less than 12 months.

However, as all options on the NHS have been exhausted, his partner Becky Collinson set up an online fundraising page at the end of May to fund the only avenue left – overseas treatment and trials

When asked how he felt when he found out there was no more the NHS could do for his friend, Mario said he was “gutted”.

For him, Vanezfest was not just about raising funds for Justin’s treatment but creating the awareness of what he was going through and the fact that going overseas is the only avenue left.

Justin was able to attend Vanezfest and Mario described him being there as “the icing on the cake”.

“To see him was like Santa Clause arriving,” he added. “He had a smile on his face. He hasn’t been out for so long, so to see him socialising and catching up with people made it for me.”

With many businesses and individuals who gave up their time, effort and earnings to be at Vanezfest, Mario said “every one of you was truly amazing” in a social media post following the event.

He also thanked the venue, T’s Coffee and The Courtyard Creperie, for allowing them to use the space for such an occasion.

The social media post continued: “The generosity and love shown by all has truly humbled us, thank you Northampton. We have nothing but love and prosperity for you all.”

While talking to this newspaper following the event, Mario also wanted to thank JeydaCakes and The Dough Dept. for their continued support.

The businesses who helped on the day included My Meze BBQ, Bartella’s Coffee House, Moo Hatch, The Dough Dept., Gorge Platters, JeydaCakes, Bailey’s & Co., Crazy4Bouncing, Simply Sweetie, Latte Lady, Brooklyn Brownie Co., and The Occasion Bar Co.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Hundreds attend festival to show support for Northampton man’s overseas cancer treatment appeal

Those behind the scenes included Bloco for the online ticketing system, Si Vert for the artwork, Midland Scaffolding Services who powered the event, Stingray Events for the sound system, Steve Addo for capturing the photos, and 4d Collect for the videography.

When asked how it made him feel that so many people were willing to help, Mario said: “Very overwhelmed. I was lost for words at times at people’s generosity.

“People and businesses took time out and lost other jobs to support Justin.

“Each time I reached out to someone, they didn’t even have to think about it. It was a straight yes.”

Mario believes the day “came together brilliantly” and to come out of the fundraiser with a total of £11,700 was “so overwhelming for him”.

“Any amount would have been amazing,” he said. “I’m blown away.”

To visit Justin’s online fundraiser and make a donation of your own, click here.