MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Erin Bentivegna, the Mahopac High School senior who has fought an ongoing battle with cancer since she was 4 years old, passed away Monday morning, Jan. 30, at the age of 18.
Bentivegna might be best known for being named a Woman of Distinction when she was in seventh grade by then-state Sen. Greg Ball in 2012.
Ball said she was being recognized for her “indomitable spirit” and that she “served as an inspiration and role model for those facing difficult challenges.”
She was only 4 years old when she was first diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. After surgery to remove it and a year and a half of treatment, she was once again well. In November 2006, doctors told her that she had a cancerous kidney tumor. After her kidney was removed, she faced six months of chemotherapy. A short time later, she was told she had another tumor on her brain that entailed additional surgery and then months of treatment that prevented her from going to school. Having fought and defeated cancer three times, Bentivegna was once again back in school until eventually, the disease caught up with her.
In 2011, Community Cares honored her with the Light of Hope Award, citing her positive attitude, and spirit of life and for providing inspiration to others through her challenging personal experiences.
“I think she just wanted to be a normal kid,” said Amy Sayegh, founder of Community Cares. “She was such a sweet girl. At the gala that we had honoring her, she talked about her favorite movies and how she wanted to get her driver’s license and for her first car get a purple (VW) bug. She said she wanted to marry an Irish guy. She had all these hopes and dreams. She was in all the school plays and was part of the Drama Club.”
Bentivegna told friends she hoped to be a kindergarten teacher someday.
Tracey Walsh, chair of Mahopac’s Relay for Life—the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society—said that Bentivegna has become a big part of the Relay for Life family.
“We have known her since she was a young girl,” Walsh said. “She came to Relay every year. It made her feel supported and part of a group. She also came to the Relay in Patterson every year. She lit the torch in Patterson and led the survivor lap in Mahopac. She was always there with a smile on her face. This is a huge loss. We knew she was sick, but it still comes as a terrible shock.
Walsh wrote a tribute to Bentivegna on her Facebook page:
“Your Relay Family has loved you since you were a little girl—from the moment you stepped on the track. You loved Relay so much that you were part of the Mahopac and Patterson events. You were so smart and spoke so eloquently. You gave hope to so many. Please watch over us as we continue to fight for a cure for cancer. I know you are cancer-free now. No more pain.”
Dr. Dennis Creedon, superintendent of schools, said Bentivegna would be sorely missed by the school community.
“It was truly tragic to learn today that Erin Bentivegna lost her long and courageous battle with cancer,” Creedon said. “She was a leading member of our Drama Club and was loved by her senior classmates and teachers. Our hearts go out to her parents and brother Johnathan in this time of sorrow.
A wake will be held at Joseph J. Smith Funeral Home, Route 6 in Mahopac, on Thursday. Feb. 2, from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be a funeral mass on Friday, Feb. 3, at 11:30 a.m., at St. John the Evangelist Church in Mahopac, followed by a Catholic burial at Assumption Cemetery in Cortlandt Manor.