Playa del Rey gathering celebrates a life cut short by cancer while working for a cure

By Gary Walker

Rod Fasone

Rod Fasone

An avid scuba diver who was captain of his high school swim team, Rod Fasone was the picture of health. Also a promising student, he graduated from Indiana University to work in the office of Sen. Dick Lugar and spent his summers with his father in Playa del Rey, living out an active beach lifestyle.

In 1992, when Fasone was just 21 years old, his life was cut short by a virulent case of colon cancer.

In the 22 years since, Playa del Rey has gathered in July for “Rod’s Day” to celebrate Fasone’s life and raise funds for cancer research in his honor.

On Saturday, that tradition continues at Mo’s Place with an afternoon of food, drinks, raffles and a charity auction.

“We set out to do something that Rod would have wanted,” said Rod’s father, Dennis Fasone. “It’s very bittersweet, but it’s become a very fun event.”

Proceeds from the event, which runs from 3:45 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., go to support the work of Dr. Anton Bilchik’s nonprofit California Oncology Research Institute.  Bilchik is also chief of medicine at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.

“It’s a good thing for the community,” said Mo’s Place owner Mo Krant. Rod’s Day is about giving back and doing something that makes you feel good. There are a lot of people who in some way have been touched by cancer, and it’s something that we all need to pay attention to.”

Fasone, who now lives in Las Vegas, said he still stays in touch with many of his son’s friends, who in the early years of Rod’s Day would attend the fundraiser in droves.

“Now many of them are married and can’t always attend like they used to, but it’s always great to hear from them or see them on Rod’s Day. It’s really become a testament to his life,” Fasone said.

Fasone said his heart is warmed by the continuing generosity of Playa del Rey businesses that have hosted or otherwise supported the event for the past two decades.

“Playa del Rey is a close-knit community. The merchants and all of the people who come out to celebrate Rod’s life have made [living without Rod] easier over the years,” said Fasone, who is attending the event.

Mo’s is at 203 Culver Blvd. in Playa del Rey. Call (310) 822-6422.