The comedian and his wife pledge to provide others with the same peace of mind they had

By Lesley Messer
February 09, 2012 08:25 AM
George Holz

When Ray Romano’s wife of 24 years, Anna, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer, the couple immediately began making calls to doctors near their Los Angeles-area home.

“We were blessed and didn’t have to worry, ‘Does insurance cover this?’ ” Ray recalls of the experience. “We want to give that [peace of mind] to other women.”

So, last year, after her treatment ended and she began her five-year tamoxifen prescription, Anna began researching philanthropies that she and her husband could adopt as their own.

“There are so many charities, and you want to help every one of them,” she says, “But this really just gave us a direction.”

In the end, the Romanos chose two organizations: one in New York City, where both were born and raised, and another in L.A., near where they live now. “Our two hometowns,” says Anna with a grin.

In New York, they’re working with the American-Italian Cancer Foundation to sponsor mobile mammogram vehicles in all five boroughs.

“They’ll go into communities where women aren’t worrying about themselves,” explains Anna. “And if people want to go, they can go. If not, they don’t have to.”

‘So Close to Home’

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, they are donating money to mammography and breast exam services at the Saban Free Clinic. There, “some women don’t fit the criteria to get a free mammogram,” says Anna. “I’m going to make sure that little pocket gets covered.”

Anna’s diagnosis is also why Ray appeared in a Stand Up to Cancer advertisement last fall.

“A lot of charities come on my desk, and I try to do as many as I can,” he says. “But when that came, it’s something that’s so close to home.”

“We got lucky,” he goes on to say. “But it kind of opens your eyes – so I want to just give back.”

For more about how the Romanos dealt with Anna’s diagnosis – and how Ray helped keep her spirits up – pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday