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First Person

Bryan Finocchio talks about Open HeARTS

The event-planning nonprofit pairs the arts with good deeds — such as Thursday’s “Catwalk for BMC Cancer Care.”

Photograph by Erik Jacobs

Only 24, Bryan Finocchio is behind high-profile events like Thursday’s Catwalk for BMC Cancer Care at Boston’s State Room.

My parents being in the health care field and having alopecia inspired me to go into NURSING STUDIES AT UMASS BOSTON. Sometimes in school there’s that one professor you absolutely love and connect with. My women’s health and maternity professor was blunt, funny, and a REAL SPITFIRE. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, a rapidly growing stage three breast cancer, and it hit her like a ton of bricks. It was the first day of class when she found out, and she hid it so well. She started going through chemotherapy, then got a wig. I knew because I have no hair. When she told us, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

She’s good now, all better. My grandmother, one of my friends, and a cousin were also diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a passion for the arts and performing and fashion, so I thought, LET’S TRY A FASHION SHOW. Let’s get some of these survivors on board and make them feel more beautiful than they already are. Let’s raise some money. I don’t know how I even pulled it off. The first event was definitely successful — 225 people came.

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This year we partnered with Boston Medical Center to raise funds for the BMC Cancer Care Center. All this now is on a volunteer basis. The MODELS ARE CANCER SURVIVORS, DOCTORS, SURGEONS, and some volunteer professional models.

With the new Open HeARTS we’re planning to go beyond fashion, pairing various art-related events with PHILANTHROPIC FUND-RAISING. I recently obtained a job as a registered nurse at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Open HeARTS is also a full-time job. I do it morning and night, but I love it.

— As told to Tina Sutton

— As told to Tina SuttonInterview has been edited and condensed.
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