Valentine’s Day is traditionally a big one in the restaurant business but in the case of The Office Restaurant & Lounge in Toms River it’s the day after where people will show their love and affection…not for one another but former restaurant owner Phil Citta, who lost his life to pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Since 2006 The Office has hosted a fundraiser around Phil’s birthday to benefit cancer research at Community Medical Center and today’s 7th annual event will go all day and all night and feature giveaways, raffles and more. The first six fundraisers raised over $117,000 to benefit the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center at Community, which offers the latest in treatment services for patients and their families who no longer have to travel out of the area. That center started with a $1 million donation from the Citta family, who have and still do support numerous charitable efforts in the community. The establishment of the cancer center has allowed Phil’s name to be associated with something positive, which is pretty much what his life was all about.

It you didn’t know Phil Citta then you missed out. He was truly a character and I say that with affection because he was one of my favorites and there has never been a time when I entered The Office Restaurant since his death that I did not think of him standing behind the host station, usually wearing a Hawaiian print shirt….regardless of the season. Friday would have been Phil’s 68th birthday…you can celebrate today and know that it will help others deal with a horrible disease that has taken him and far too many others way before their time.

A couple of other unrelated quick hitters:

There really is not much more you can say about Jeremy Lin, the NBA’s first American-Taiwanese player who hit a game-winning basket with less than a second remaining to give the Knicks their 6th straight win last night. A season-high crowd of more than 20,000 fans turned out in Toronto and they were not there to root for the Raptors. Lin is a rock star and all of a sudden the Knicks are the very relevant.

Congratulations to Point Boro senior basketball player Shaun Cooke who last night because the leading scorer in school history. Cooke had 26 points in a 48-43 win over Toms River North in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament and has 1,184 in his Panther career which moves him past Mike Puorro, who is now the coach at Wall High School.