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2020 Capital Region Gives Back: Martel Catalano, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Beyond My Battle

Catalano, who suffers from a rare, incurable disease, co-founded the local support group to help people just like her.

Beyond My Battle Co-founder and Executive Director Martel Catalano. (Dori Fitzpatrick)

Last winter feels like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? When Saratoga Living unveiled our inaugural Saratoga Gives Back list and event in December 2019, we had the luxury of throwing a classy launch party, during which we were able to rub elbows with our honored guests, giving them the royal treatment in front of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Thousands of dollars were raised for the honorees’ organizations, and all was merry and bright.

This year, our 10 newest honorees—five in Saratoga Living, five in Capital Region Living—are working under much more trying circumstances (i.e. the pandemic) in a year when their organizations are hurting a little bit more than usual. That, and we’ve traded rubbing elbows for 20-second handwashing.

So our newly minted Capital Region Gives Back event, which we’ll be hosting on December 10, will look a little different this year, due to COVID restrictions. But the endgame will be the same: raising money for great Spa City causes. (To get tickets to the event, click here.)

Join Saratoga Living as we honor our 2020 class of givers.

—the Editors

***

Martel Catalano and her friend Nell Pritchard, both of whom suffer from incurable diseases—Catalano from Retinitis Pigmentosa, Pritchard from Cystic Fibrosis—founded the Saratoga Springs–based nonprofit organization Beyond My Battle as a kind of support group within a support group. “No matter what condition you’re going through, there are emotional themes that are not often addressed through your rare disease group or association,” she says. These could be anything from a stress reaction to a recent Lyme Disease diagnosis, to someone feeling incapable of being loved because of his or her Fibromyalgia. That’s where Beyond My Battle (BMB) comes into play, offering a community of friendly people willing to listen and provide support, as well as a panoply of educational resources.

In just two years, BMB has had countless wins. “Through participating in a caregiver workshop,” says Catalano of one example, “a parent was able to better understand their child’s embarrassment, lack of self-worth and limitations in having a chronic illness, and improve their relationship at home. Everything that we do comes back to relationships, and how to use them to [reduce stress].”

Due to the pandemic, BMB’s support groups have gone completely virtual, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from fighting the good fight. In a first, BMB partnered with the Upstate New York chapter of the ALS Association in November, doing weekly workshops with caregivers. And as Catalano notes, going all-virtual had been in the stars all along. “Meeting people within the comfort of their own home was actually the direction we were headed anyway,” she says. “So it has worked to our advantage.”

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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