Group fundraising for local woman after unexpected diagnosis

IDAHO FALLS — A local business owner’s unexpected diagnosis prompted a group of women to organize a fundraiser in her name.

Flaminia Assirelli, a 50-year-old Italian immigrant who opened authentic Italian restaurant Mama Fla in Idaho Falls last fall, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.

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In a chat with, her husband, Marco, explains that his wife is preparing for a mastectomy next month after having a mass removed in May and months of chemotherapy.

Another lump has since returned and the couple opted for surgery over radiation therapy. They hope this will be the solution for a full recovery.

“There’s a 90% (chance) that there won’t be any need for other therapies after surgery,” says Marco. “This should be the last step. You never know (that’s for sure), but it will depend on the pathology report after the operation.

Although Flaminia is generally in a good mood and does her best to keep busy with the restaurant, Marco says she has struggled with low energy and fatigue lately.

She is stressed and a bit scared before this procedure, but Marco says “she’s a tough woman”.

Marco and Flaminia Assirelli inside their restaurant in October 2021. | Rett Nelson,

The Assirellis moved from Rome to Idaho Falls in 2019 and have been waiting for their final interview for US citizenship for more than two years. Without being citizens, they cannot obtain health insurance, which means that medical care is quite expensive.

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“Without (citizenship), you can’t get social security, and without social security, you can’t get health insurance,” Marco says. “In this situation without insurance, it’s not easy.”

Nari Ann Mendenhall of Idaho Falls reconnected with the Assirellis in 2020 after first meeting them in Italy over 30 years ago. She and Flaminia have since become best friends and the Assirellis are like family to her.

When Mendenhall heard of Flaminia’s difficulties, she decided to help her.

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She and others have volunteered their time at the restaurant over the past few months to keep it running during a labor shortage. Mendenhall says Flaminia was worried about “maintaining the momentum” of the restaurant during this ordeal and the help has been a blessing to her.

Mendenhall is now working with his daughter, Emily Heaton, and Heaton’s sister-in-law, Jessica Zaugg, on a fundraiser to help the Assirellis with their medical bills.

A Flock & Walk will be held August 28 in downtown Idaho Falls. The event will begin at 11 a.m. outside Mama Fla’s booth at the Farmer’s Market on Memorial Drive. Those who attend will walk “like a herd” to his restaurant at 385 River Parkway, a block west.

Prizes and gift baskets from local businesses will be offered and will be awarded to the highest bidder at a silent auction.

Raffle tickets will also be on sale, which can be entered into a variety of raffles.

“All the money will go to Marco and Flaminia,” Mendenhall said. “Flaminia will be four weeks post-op at that time and so…it will be a fun environment for people to find out how she is feeling.”

herd and walk
Flock & Walk Event Flyer | Nari Mendenhall

Mendenhall expects it to last until 3 p.m. She asks those who attend to wear a pink shirt or something with flamingos on it for breast cancer awareness.

Those who cannot participate can still make a donation to a GoFundMe account in the name of Flaminia.

“We love (the Assirellis) so much and know that a lot of people in the community do too,” Mendenhall says. “This is an opportunity to show that love and support.”

As many have stepped in to help during this difficult time, the Assirellis are grateful for the kindness and generosity they have received.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Flaminia said in response.

“We are very grateful and thankful,” adds Marco.

Mendenhall is looking for businesses to donate a gift basket or raffle item for the event. If you’d like to contribute, email [email protected] or call her directly at (208) 403-6842.

Our attorneys tell us that we must put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: does not guarantee that money deposited into the account will be applied for the benefit of those named as beneficiaries.

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