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A ‘perfect match’ fund-raiser

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The Fresh Meadows man whose donated kidney saved his brother-in-law's life got a little gift from the community Sunday to help with living expenses.

Charles Buckley sat quietly in the back of the American Martyrs Church basement in Bayside while a magician, a reggae artist, a soulful keyboardist and a stand-up comedian entertained the crowd that paid to help him get back on his feet.

"When I heard my husband say, 'I've finally found my perfect match,' I had no idea he would mean my brother," joked Buckley's sister, Flo Michaels, who emceed and sang at the event.

The family raised $3,000 to pay Buckley's rent and other living expenses until he can go back to work, short of the $8,000 they hoped to bring in.

"It wasn't a big, big turnout as we expected, because it was a really nice day outside," Michaels said Tuesday. "It was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love and definitely worth it."

Michaels, a professional singer and entertainer, gathered many of her performing friends to help with the event.

"It's hard enough making ends meet when you're healthy," said Fresh Meadows resident George Marchelos, who donated his audio services for the event.

Buckley's brother-in-law, Yuri Poonwah, was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago. Last year, when he learned his kidneys were functioning at 5 percent and needed a transplant, Buckley volunteered. Doctors determined he was a perfect match.

The kidney transplant occurred May 22. Since then both Buckley and Poonwah have been recuperating, which involves lots of walking, Poonwah said.

"I'm up to maybe 20 blocks at a time," Poonwaj said, noting he hopes to return to his job as a cable repair technician in late August or September.

Buckley said he spent five weeks with severe abdominal pain after the surgery, but has largely recovered.

"Today I feel 90 percent like myself," he said.

Buckley, an actor, said he could return to auditions as early as the end of July. He hopes to be able to reprise his most recent role as a limousine driver for Glenn Close's character on the FX television drama "Damages."

"I'm deeply touched, but I have ambiguous feelings," he said of the fund-raiser and attention he has received. "I did it as an act of love for my brother-in-law."

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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