Lymphoma + Dante = Voice, Fighter, Changer.

In my old age I am learning new meanings to words I used to think I understood. Bravery, Mercy, Grace and awareness. These were words I never gave much thought back before Madeline was sick and I saw these things in action… in real life. Lately, though, I am focusing on the bravery one, the strength and confidence involved in being a child that stands up for something. What kind of something? Stands up for a friend, themselves, the right choice, the truth… or in this case awareness for a cause that is crazy close to my heart. Bravery, strength and confidence are what come to mind when I think about, read about or see Mr. Dante.

See… about a year and a half ago I was volunteering at Albany Med in the Melody’s Center with Rosie’s Love Foundation. It was nice to do something organized by someone else and be surrounded by the brave children who are treated at the Melody’s Center… to be wrapping Christmas gifts and helping them get ready for Christmas even though they are stuck in the hospital or home. It was nice to see some of the kids we have helped, discreetly or not. It was nice to do something simple and see my friends Dr. Porter and Grandma Pat. It was a great day seeing a bit of this I didn’t get to see or know or understand with Madeline.

Wrapping and helping and enjoying coffee while kiddos receiving treatment came and shopped. It was a weird best day ever for me. I remember a teen coming in a wheelchair, looking much smaller than I knew he was. I saw his mother, in a hoodie, with a big curly ponytail. She was stressed and scared and sad. Grandma Pat took her aside and loved her up and gave her the support that I didn’t know how to. Her son shopped, I wrapped his gifts. I labeled them. I wasn’t sure if I should sign his name on them or if he would want to, I think I left it empty and put a lil label for Dante on the packaging so he could finish prepping his gifts. I saw him and I saw a really hard time. I could tell that things weren’t going the way they should back then. I could see a boy who was so strong and tall and big in a wheelchair, looking younger and hurting and tired. I felt sad. I quietly tucked the name in my brain and listened as his mom talked about hockey and sports with a photographer who stopped in. I watched her put her normal on when she left Grandma Pat and the safe spot to break and share… I saw her do what I have done soooo many times. Dante was rolled back to his room, for what I assume was more Chemo or Transfusions… I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t even know what happens on the floor at the Melody’s Center, I only know it is full of heroes and brave kids, full of miracles and heatbreak. I know it is full of some of the most amazing doctors and nurses, social workers and child life specialist…

That day the name Dante was engrained in my brain, how could it not be? His name is BIG, his name is strong. He was made for big things… I know this in me. I saw him so small and sick back then and I see him now, fighting… standing, walking, living, growing, playing, changing… receiving treatment, going to school, playing and supporting the sports he loved, ‘Prom-posal-lling’, travelling, representing, mentoring younger children. I see him attending and speaking about his experiences, advocating for blood donations and how that helped him. I see him knowing how he must change this. In a way I see him being the BIG changer that has a voice here on earth, to change this. I see him as Madeline’s voice and Tyler’s voice. I see him as Devon’s voice and Catie’s voice. I see him as Myle’s and Ila Jean’s and Onja’s and Ben’s and Nick’s and Elijah’s and so many that are still here fighting. He is here for them. I think he can even love and understand that, which is super mature.

How is he changing this? He is running around like a crazy lady (that would be how I describe myself in this situation). He is an ambassador for the Red Cross, on the Nick’s Fight to be Healed Round Table for teen’s, Supports Make a Wish and helps Melody’s with ANY need they have to share or support. He rocks. Tonight though I want to share about his LLS Campaign, for any who do not know LLS is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This campaign is called the Man and Woman of the Year Campaign and is a great and challenging way to raise A LOT of money and raise awareness. Dante is running for Man of the Year… last year he was Boy of the Year. In one year he has changed… graduated in a way… to Man of the Year. It is hard, to compete to raise funds against grown up real estate agents and business owners and other amazing and strong individuals. It is a HUGE challenge he took on. I love connecting to him because I love to see him thrive. He is dedicated to changing this, to creating a world where many less parents hear the words “your child has cancer”. He is spending his days in school doing normal things… then he comes home and works his behind off to fundraise and build this childhood cancer awareness world. He also is still being treated. The world doesn’t even understand what this costs him. He has an awesome weekend of events and ends up with a temperature and a LONG visit to Albany Med, just like his other Melody’s friends. Life is different with a Cancer Kid. If Dante lives it up too much he pays for it… and might end up being walked around in a wheelchair still. His life is hard. He still carries scars and pain. He still gets VERY sick. He still gets tired… yet he is competing against adults, professional and amazing adults. He is running in a campaign full of compassionate and strong adults, to do amazing things… He is really still a child in a way- a child who is fighting childhood cancer. I see that as amazing and special.

I am thankful and honored that Dante listens to the bit inside of him that tells him to be the voice for the ones who have no voice here. I am thankful he works so hard in this… I see change.

I have loved meeting so many people on this journey. I have LOVED the ones I met through LLS, even though Madeline was diagnosed with a brainstem tumor, we all support each other. I have loved meeting Rachel (girl of the year a few back), Andrea (she ran LLS campaigns), Lydia Kulbida (Woman of the Year), Michelle, MarEle, Nuance, Zac (Twill but knew before, just kind and compassionate) and many other awesome people. It is a great campaign, full of positive and compassionate supporters of an awesome cause. I love that. Awesome people using their lives, trades, gifts and voices to change and support big things.


Dante is here for big things. Support those big things and help him change this… <3. He is hosting a special event on Sunday May 3, 2015 at Union College. He set up a Wizard’s Game with many of the Doctor’s at Albany Med and many local to Albany special people… this game has some special add-on’s. I hear there is a theme about how you can help and support… also there is a special section. ALL Melody’s at Albany Medical children are invited and their families to enjoy a ‘Best Day Ever’. It will be very special. If you are around and not playing baseball with your little or having a First Communion please get your butt and your family butt’s there.

❤ to the changers… you are all amazing and profound in this life.


One thought on “Lymphoma + Dante = Voice, Fighter, Changer.

  1. Erin,
    You get to the heart of the matter and that is why I love reading what you write. My son, Stephen, and I met Dante last year at the first Harlem Wizard game. Stephen found out about Dante through a teammate from his travel soccer team. Stephen and Cam filled a comfort bag for Dante, and we both looked forward to meeting Dante.

    We did briefly at the event. Dante was in a wheelchair. His hair was almost gone. He was pale and there was no doubt that he was very sick. But his face lit up when we were introduced and I could see a lot of energy, bravery, willpower, and courage emanating from deep inside him. The basketball game was amazing. Dante was the coach and his team played hard for him and entertained the crowd.

    One year later, Dante will be on the court and like you said, has grown from a boy to a man. It takes so many people to create a revolution of change, but we all need leaders to bring this about. Our children who have passed on are doing this through the power of their spirit. But they too need a leader to voice what they no longer can, and Dante, as well as all the teens who give back, is doing that.

    Nick’s Round Table teens will be handing out some fun items and I look forward to an amazing event. Dante can do this. He can be Man of the Year. He already is in our eyes, but we want him to win it all. So support his events and spread the word!


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