Gisele and Mario DiNatale’s oldest child and only daughter, Alicia Rose, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer, within days of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I had my own 9/11 in a hospital room,” Gisele DiNatale recalls. “In a second, everything changed.”
Alicia died a year later, just after her seventeenth birthday. Within weeks, the DiNatales, residents of Voorhees, had created the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation (victoriousfoundation.org).
DiNatale says that during Alicia’s lengthy hospital stays, most diversions were geared toward younger patients. “Alicia never complained, but there wasn’t much to do,” DiNatale recalls. Five ARVF-funded rooms have opened in New Jersey since 2003—at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Hackensack University Medical Center.
Each room costs $5,000 to $20,000 to equip. An oversize plasma TV, DVD/CD player, computer, CD jukebox, and video arcade games are standard items. Participating hospitals also get quarterly supplies of “teen kits”—goodie boxes with everything from playing cards to toiletries to a fiber-optic desk light.
“We want these kids to still feel like teenagers doing teenage things,” DiNatale says. “Even when she was sick, Alicia just wanted to live her life. I feel her hand in all of this; her spirit fuels everything we do.”Click here to leave a comment