REALTOR®, Client Team Up for Muscular Dystrophy Cure

New Jersey real estate pro Michael Sclafani becomes a major fundraiser for families affected by the deadly disease after learning his buyer’s story.

A few years ago, a man came into the gym Michael Sclafani owned and asked if he could invite gymgoers to join a pushup challenge in support of his cause. The man, whose name was Jim Raffone, explained that he was seeking $10 individual contributions for his small nonprofit, JAR of Hope, which is focused on spreading awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy—a deadly, progressive disease. Raffone’s organization also helps families affected by the disease access specialized resources and is funding a clinical trial at the University of Florida.

“He would come up on a Monday and explain JARS of Hope, and then he’d come back on Saturday and do the pushup challenge,” recalls Sclafani, ABR, who is also an agent with RE/MAX Central in Manalapan, N.J.

As they got to know one another, Sclafani learned that Raffone and his family were in the market for a new home. “They asked me to help them find a home that would more adequately serve their son’s needs,” Sclafani says.

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That’s when Sclafani met Raffone’s youngest child, James—or “Jamsey,” as he’s affectionately called—who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at 4 years old. JAR of Hope is named after Jamesy, whose full name is James Anthony Raffone. Considered one of the most severe forms of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne causes progressive muscular weakness over time, eventually causing paralysis and leading to death. Working out, walking, biking—nearly all physical activity—exacerbates the condition.

“When we were going out looking for homes, I was really able to see the struggle firsthand,” Sclafani says of James’s condition. “That’s when I got to know Jim and his family. James wasn’t really able to look at the houses, so he’d hang out with me while his parents and his sisters looked around the house.”

Moved by what he witnessed, Sclafani says, it was “a no-brainer” when Raffone asked him to join the board of JAR of Hope. As a board member, Sclafani has helped raised more than $100,000 in 2023 through a variety of efforts. He hosted a “boxing marathon” at the gym he owns, inviting participants to compete in 26 three-minute rounds of boxing. Each participant commits to raising $100, and though the event had only 35 spots, the initiative raised over$42,000. He also hosts wine tastings—the first of which brought in $50,000.

Sclafani says meeting Raffone and his family and being part of JAR of Hope has changed how he does his job as a real estate professional. “We’re always asking people what their needs and wants are, but I think now I have a better understanding of what a true need is and my job in helping people find that.”