Ephrata woman arranges meeting with Bon Jovi for mother with cancer

By on July 21, 2016
Carol Cesario meets musician Jon Bon Jovi at his restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, on Saturday.

Carol Cesario meets musician Jon Bon Jovi at his restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, on Saturday.

By Jenelle Janci

Rosie Skripkunis of Ephrata has fond memories of her mom and sister rocking out to Bon Jovi on drives to the Jersey shore.

The three finally got to see Bon Jovi perform in Camden about 10 years ago, but their seats were so far away that Jon Bon Jovi, the rock band’s lead singer, looked to be about the size of a penny, Skripkunis says.

After her mom, Carol Cesario, who now lives in Levittown, was diagnosed earlier this year with Stage 4 lung cancer ­ which has since spread to her spleen and adrenal gland ­ Skripkunis wanted to take a shot at getting her mom a little closer to Jon Bon Jovi.

So, she took to Facebook last month to share a message, asking for help in setting up a meeting between her mom and Bon Jovi.

She figured it would take months, maybe even a year to set something up – if it happened at all. She even spoke to the mother of Mario Carpino, the little boy who successfully got Bon Jovi to visit his lemonade stand in 2014.

Within an hour of her Facebook post, however, she was making plans with someone from Bon Jovi’s team for a face-to-face meeting with the musician.

“My friend Andrew is a photographer, and he got in touch with other photographers that knew Bon Jovi, worked with him before and stuff,” says Skripkunis, 30. “They put (Andrew) in touch with the person that runs his foundation (the Soul Foundation).”

They arranged to meet at Bon Jovi’s restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms River, New Jersey.

Cesario knew about the Facebook post, but didn’t know that her daughter had actually arranged for the meeting with Bon Jovi to happen. Skripkunis kept it a surprise by telling her mom that she heard back from the restaurant, and that although they couldn’t forward fan mail, they could offer a free dinner.

“I messed with her the whole time,” Skripkunis says. “She knew about the (Facebook post), so I said, ‘Mom, you better wear makeup and dress nice just in case Bon Jovi shows up.”

The surprise was almost ruined.

“That morning, my dad was asking my brother’s girlfriend to hand him his cologne and he said, ‘So I can smell good for Jon,’ ” Skripkunis says. “But my mom didn’t catch it. She didn’t hear it.”

So Cesario, her husband, her four children and their significant others went to JBJ Soul Kitchen on Saturday.

Before they could even order, Bon Jovi quietly stepped behind Cesario, who was perusing the menu.

When she turned around, her first words were, “Oh my God.” Bon Jovi then kissed Cesario on the cheek.

“Everybody was cheering and giggling and stuff, and then I kind of lost it,” Skripkunis says. “If you watch to the end of the video, I’m like sobbing and I have to hand someone my camera.”

Skripkunis says she and her sister Michelle were the most excited of their siblings.

“Me and my sister are very emotional when it comes to my mom and Bon Jovi,” Skripkunis says. “We’re girls. We totally get obsessing over hot dudes.”

Bon Jovi spent two hours with Cesario and her family as they ate dinner, Skripkunis says. He gave Cesario an autographed guitar and an autographed book. He also let her listen to a few tracks from his new album, which he had on his phone.

They chatted about his new music and a possible upcoming tour. Skripkunis says it was neat to see how well her parents got along with Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Hurley, who joined the conversation.

“It was like they were friends forever, talking about how they were all high schools sweethearts,” Skripkunis says. “It was so cute.”

The meeting was a welcome distraction from her mother’s ongoing health struggles. She nearly died from meningitis in 2015, and in March was diagnosed with lung cancer. Earlier this month, she suffered a concussion that caused bleeding between her skull and her brain.

“A week before she met Bon Jovi, she had brain surgery,” Skripkunis says. “It’s been crazy.”

Skripkunis created a Go Fund Me crowdfunding page on Sunday to help support her parents, who are both disabled.

She says since meeting Bon Jovi her mom will occasionally cry, overcome with joy that she got to meet him.

She’s also been sleeping with her autographed book by her side.

“She has not stopped smiling since,” Skripkunis says.

Jenelle Janci is a staff reporter for LNP.

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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