Dec 30, 2022 • 28M

How a grieving mom created a pediatric cancer nonprofit, with Diane Restaino

Diane Restaino founded the Joedance Film Festival just months after her son Joe died of cancer in 2010. She talks about growing the festival and how she decided it was time to bring it to an end.

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Episode details

Diane Restaino’s son Joe was 16 when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer. Shortly before he died in 2010 at the age of 20, he had a serious conversation with his mother, in which he asked her to raise money for three things to advance research and treatment of pediatric cancers: a clinical trial, an internship program for college students and a way to be part of pediatric cancer research every day.

Joe told Diane he didn’t want her to host a gala or a race, but to choose a fundraising method that was more in keeping with their family’s style. So shortly after Joe’s death, the perfect idea came to Diane: a film festival, inspired by the family’s love of cinema.

Over the last 13 years, Diane grew the Joedance Film Festival non-profit from a small gathering in the courtyard of the family’s Fourth Ward townhome community to a full-blown film festival in the Charlotte Ballet headquarters uptown. Since 2010, the Joedance Film Festival has donated more than $400,000 to Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatric cancer program, and it became well-known among filmmakers nationwide who sought to have their short films chosen for the festival.

In December of 2022, Diane decided to end the festival, having accomplished each of Joe’s requests.

She sat down with The Ledger’s Cristina Bolling for this podcast episode, during which they discussed:

  • How Joe was able to communicate his final wishes, and how she was able to make that her mission after his death.

  • The experience of growing a non-profit without having a non-profit background.

  • The many ways the funds raised by the Joedance Film Festival have helped pediatric cancer patients and research.

  • The grief journey she and her family have been on since Joe’s death.

  • How she knew it was time to end the festival, and the ways the Joedance Pediatric Cancer Fund will live on at Atrium Levine Children’s Hospital.

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

The Charlotte Ledger Podcast is produced by Lindsey Banks.

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