Teacher's inspiration leading to fundraising concert tonight at Fitch

Groton - Linda Ballato was in chemotherapy when she first had the idea: Hold a concert at Robert E. Fitch High School to raise money for the oncology department treating her for breast cancer.

The ninth-grade science teacher and musician with a degree from the Berklee College of Music told the Fitch High School choral director about it.

Then she put it out of her mind.

Choral Director John Frascarelli didn't. When Ballato returned - still undergoing radiation - in February, he reminded her about it.

Then he went to work organizing it.

Word spread. Teachers offered help. Student groups began making posters and planning decorations.

At 7 tonight, the Fitch High School women's choir will sing behind Ballato, in her first year of remission from cancer, in a benefit concert in the high school auditorium. The concert benefits the Program in Women's Oncology at Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, which treated her. Tickets are $10 for the public and $5 for students.

"I just mentioned the benefit concert, and the next thing I knew, he was rehearsing," Ballato said this week. "I don't even know how I'm going to thank all of these people."

Ballato said she wanted to raise not only money but awareness about being checked early. Her cancer was caught by a routine mammogram, she said.

She also said she wanted to give people hope that they would make it through a diagnosis and treatment.

"There were times when I wondered when the bad feeling would go away," she said.

Interim Superintendent Sean McKenna said although the concert is being held at Fitch, music teachers from across the district have become involved, and it is a community event.

Patti Brown, a science teacher at Fitch who serves as advisor to the school's humanitarian club, said students made posters and will help decorate.

"We love Ms. Bellato," Brown said. "And our love for Ms. Ballato has grown to her cause."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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