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Mat Buono had never been to a Relay for Life event before a friend asked him if he wanted to attend one in 2008. After spending a few hours there that day, Mat knew he wanted to devote much more time to the cause, a fundraising event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
"I had never seen a fundraiser like that," recalls Mat, a lifelong resident of North Haven.
He quickly decided he wanted to see-and do-more. Mat says he received an email a few months after the event about becoming a volunteer and he knew that's what he wanted to do.
In 2009, he went to his first committee meeting. When he learned there was an opening for an entertainment chairman, he accepted the role.
"I thought I could join the committee and make a difference," says Mat. "I was in charge of coming up with a schedule of events all day long."
His first goal was to find a DJ and then find other activities for the event. He contacted a Zumba instructor who volunteered to teach a Zumba class. He also arranged for someone to teach Tai Chi. Mat says it typically wasn't difficult to recruit people to donate their time and services.
"People are really helpful," he says. "All you have to do is ask."
After serving as entertainment chairman, Mat took on the role of tri-chairman of the event, the Hamden-North Haven Relay, which will be held on Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24 at Hamden High School.
Mat says, as tri-chairman, he lends support to the other chairmen if they need help. Planning meetings typically begin the November before the event, and now, with just a month before the Relay, things are getting busier.
"A lot of it is fine-tuning details now," says Mat.
Relay isn't the only example of his volunteerism. Mat, who graduated from Quinnipiac University on Sunday, helped coordinate a Twister Tournament for his fraternity each November. Students paid to play with proceeds donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Mat served as co-chair of the tournament, which began two years ago.
As Mat continues to focus on the last-minute details of this year's Relay for Life event, he will also focus on his new job and career. After earning a bachelor's degree in computer information systems, Mat begins work on June 4 at Travelers Insurance in Hartford. He will join the company's IT leadership development program.
"I'm really excited about it," says Mat.
Even as his work life gets busier, Mat says he will continue as the event's tri-chairman next year.
"You can be a tri-chair for two years and I will continue in that trend," he says.
Mat stressed that it's not too late to volunteer for the Relay for Life. Registrations to participate are also accepted until the day of the event, he says. For more information about this local event, visit www.relayforlife.org/hamdennorthhavenct.