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Fund-raiser aids Joe Faller

Alyssa Faller joked with her dad during the car ride over. Joe Faller, his three children and his wife, Carina, were on their way to a fund-raiser in honor of him organized by the city's Sanitation Department football team.

"I said, 'There's only gonna be five people there — and it's gonna be the five of us," she said.

But, of course, that wasn't the case. When the Fallers arrived at Dupey's Park in Whitestone Saturday, they were met by more than 300 people, a simmering barbecue, a rock 'n' roll band on a raised stage and, a few minutes later, a pipes and drums parade.

The DSNY football team was holding its annual fund-raiser to benefit Joe Faller, an 18-year sanitation worker who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in May.

The event, run by Faller's colleagues Paddy McCutchen, Jimmy Tighe, Mike Moss and Tom Flaherty, raised more than $8,000 for the Team Joe Fund, which was set up by Faller's family to help with medical expenses and save the family's Floral Park home from foreclosure.

Faller lives with his wife; daughter Alyssa, 18; and two sons, Joe Jr., 15, and Anthony, 14.

"I'm speechless," Faller said. "Knowing in some way it's gonna help my family, it's just great."

Coming into the event, more than $5,000 had already been donated.

"This event is beautiful," said Sheldon Dobie, Faller's shop steward at the DSNY Queens East garage in College Point. "I've never been to anything like this, but it's one of the best things you can do for anybody."

With the music of local band Face First blaring and softball games being played on a nearby field, City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) came out to show his support for Faller and the Sanitation Department.

After months of having seizures, Faller, a 43-year-old College Point native, was found unconscious by his children May 19. A day later, doctors removed 95 percent of a brain tumor, but Faller was still ruled terminal.

"Joey was always a fighter," said Joe Hickey, one of the DSNY pipes and drums performers who grew up with him. "He's fighting now for his kids and his family."

Faller is known as an outstanding athlete and family man. He was even playing for a recreational football team in College Point in January during the period he was having seizures. As the quarterback, he led the squad to the league's championship game, but was unable to play in the title game because of his illness.

"I just wanted to finish the game," Faller said. "Little did I know I had a brain tumor in my head already."

His story somewhat mirrors what Alyssa did in the spring.

One of the best girls' soccer players in the city, Alyssa was supposed to be out for the season with a leg injury. But when she found out about her father's cancer, she decided she needed to use the sport as an escape. Alyssa, headed to Loyola College in Maryland next month on a full athletic scholarship, went on to lead her Queens HS of Teaching team to the Public Schools Athletic League Class B title.

To donate to the Team Joe Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 3724, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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