STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A fun fundraiser for 3-year-old Rocco Gabriel DiMaggio is set for Sunday, June 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at JoJo’s Tire Service Center on Page Avenue in Tottenville.
The young Annadale resident has been afflicted with Neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body.
Since his diagnosis last year at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan — with the cancer that commonly affects children under 5 — Rocco has been treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he’s currently participating in a clinical trial and receiving neuroblastoma vaccines to fight his cancer. The treatment at the Manhattan hospital has been specifically designed and targeted for his particular type of cancer.
It was last April when Rocco contracted the COVID-19 — a time when the coronavirus was at its peak here on Staten Island.
His mom, Gabriella, said that when her son had high fevers he stopped walking completely. And he wasn’t able to walk once he’d recovered from COVID either, she said. And that’s when the family knew something was terribly wrong.
Gabriella noted, however, that Rocco had already contracted the cancer and that’s the reason COVID affected him to that degree.
It was the cancer that was ravaging his body, she said. “And he was already in Stage IV, high risk.”
While Rocco was undergoing his second cycle of chemotherapy, he started walking again with some limitations. But, throughout the ordeal, his spirits were always high.
After two months of not walking, he had to learn to walk all over again, his mother explained, before adding that the support the DiMaggio family received has been nothing short of “incredible.”
”Around the world, people have reached out to us, just wishing us well and offering us prayers and sending Rocco gifts — people we have never met before,” a grateful Gabriella said. “So, COVID was a blessing in a way because it amplified all of his symptoms. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have known as much as we did.”
Gabriella and her husband, Rocco, started young Rocco on chemotherapy even before the pathology report came back.
“He had his left kidney removed because of a tumor that had grown,” she said. “He had five rounds of chemo, five cycles of antibodies, 14 rounds of radiation and seven vaccine shots. And he’s been smiling throughout his entire journey – even on his worst days.”
FUNDRAISER PROCEEDS DONATED DIRECTLY TO MSK
Though the family has a sufficient health care plan that covers most of the cost of treatment, proceeds from all fundraisers for Rocco are earmarked for MSK, Gabriella said.
“Fundraising proceeds go directly to Sloan,’’ she said. “We raised more than $50,000 for them so far.”
Sunday’s fundraiser at JoJo’s Auto Body will include rides by Party Jam and face painting for children, food and refreshments by Montalbano’s Italian Food Specialties, musical entertainment by deejay Frankie Steel and giveaways throughout the day. And 100 percent of funds raised will be donated to MSK Kids.
Rocco continues to receive treatment at MSK and will undergo scans every three months for the next five years. And the Neuroblastoma vaccines will be spread out over the next year.
“He’s already received four – which are closer together,’’ his mother said. “He’s in a one-year trial – with a total of seven spread out over a one year term. And he’s doing very well, with scans over nine months so far, and he now remains in remission for nine months.”
Rocco is a student at Gateway Academy in Tottenville and will attend the Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp Staten Island this summer, a free camp for children with cancer and their siblings, at Staten Island Academy in Dongan Hills.
“It’s really something,” Gabriella said. “I was fundraising in 2019 for Sunrise and, in 2020, little did I know my own son would be diagnosed. We have to just thank the community, who has prayed for Rocco. And though it’s a trying time for our family, we were able to make it through because of our family and everyone who was there for us and continues to be there for us.”
STATE FARM ROC FOUNDATION
When State Farm’s Roc Solid Foundation — a national foundation and insurance company that’s building hope for children battling pediatric cancer anywhere in the United States — was apprised of Rocco’s plight, they suggested a swing set. And in no time a play set was delivered to Rocco’s home.
“Because when kids are playing, cancer is the farthest thing from their minds, and with compromised immune systems, they need a safe place to play more than ever.,” the foundation’s officials say.
“They offered to install it in the yard, but my husband put it together with a friend,’’ Gabriella said.
Those who wish to donate should visit the Go Fund Me Page at #RoccoStrong or on Venmo @RoccoStrong