Last weekend, readers of The Inquirer took a giant swipe at the dark forces that have convinced too many of our friends and neighbors that hatred should be their passion of choice.
People who read my column about a young boy with a terminal diagnosis of “Childhood Alzheimer’s” went on the internet and did something that gets less attention on the web these days: They Did Good. They donated nearly $20,000 to try to keep a child alive.
The goodwill began once the story appeared online on Saturday and continued days after it landed in Sunday’s print editions: 220 donations and counting on a Sanfilippo syndrome page tailored for Connor Dobbyn of Glenmoore (www.fightforconnor.com). Some pledged anonymously, others with names attached, and some left notes on why a story about an 11-year-old Chester County fifth grader had moved them to action.
This is goodness. And it couldn’t come at a better time, even as Connor’s one-in-a-million plight remains downright heartbreaking.
As I type these words, I’m recalling a video tweeted only hours ago by my colleague Amy S. Rosenberg from President Donald Trump’s political rally in Wildwood on Tuesday. An onlooker gleefully shouts: “Go back to your s—hole countries!”
At about the same time, on Connor’s donation page there was only charity and human kindness.
An unemployed man explained why he was donating $5; another reader dropped $1,000 without comment. Parents, grandparents — people of all stripes, presumably. The owner of a few Chick-fil-A stores near Connor’s home called the boy’s mom to say they’d be donating a portion of chicken nugget sales through Valentine’s Day.
All of this for a child with a rare genetic disease that has caused his IQ to drop by dozens since kindergarten.
Connor’s parents, Marisa DiChiacchio and Mike Dobbyn, are trying to raise $1 million toward a $5 million Sanfilippo syndrome clinical trial. And while the tally was nearing $107,000 on Wednesday, that was only part of what overwhelmed Marisa.
“For me,” she said, “just seeing the good in people. People who don’t even know us.” (She cried, which she doesn’t do all the time — but which has happened in our conversations about her son’s illness.)
The 43-year-old mother is, like many her age, a Facebook denizen. Before my column was published, she said, she had posted a FB note about how her dad, Bob, had read The Inquirer every morning at their home in Lansdowne, Delaware County. He died in November 2018. Now, however, Marisa was certain that Bob DiChiacchio was smiling down on her and her ailing eldest son.
“There is so much negativity out there,” she said through tears. “It’s just nice to know that behind everybody’s computers and everybody’s phone screens that there’s people that have a heart.”
Here are a few of the goodhearted folks. I’ve pulled excerpts as they appear at www.fightforconnor.com:
<b>William Piccinni</b> donated $5
“I read a story in The Inquirer about this young man. All I can afford to donate is $5. Even though I am unemployed, I feel empathy for him and the others afflicted with this disease. It is disheartening that the federal government cannot subsidize the treatment for which you are attempting to raise the money (was it five million dollars?). Good luck to Connor and all of you. I hope it works out for the best for all concerned.”
<b>Sharon Carson</b> donated $105
“Today my family laid my 79-year-old father to rest after a two-year battle with an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s dementia. We have watched my father fight the disease throughout its course, and we want to honor his memory with a donation to help Connor in his battle with Sanfilippo disease. I feel certain that my father would wholeheartedly approve of this decision. He leaves behind four young grandchildren who meant the world to him, and I believe that he would want to help someone else’s grandchild if he could. We wish Connor all the best and will be praying for a cure!”
$105 was donated<b> anonymously</b>
“Thank you for the Inquirer interview — it really opened my eyes. Bless you.”
<b>Andrea Rodriguez</b> donated $26.25
“My son is 10 and all I ask God is for my son and all children to be healthy.”
<b>James Chura</b> donated $50
“The Philly Inq story, bad enough to have autism, which my grandson does, but then to be told no, it’s worse than that, which broke my heart.”
<b>Adam Hepp</b> donated $262.50
“It was frustrating and sad to have seen my father debilitate and ultimately die from Alzheimer’s after a close to full life as father of 10, but for a beautiful young child like Connor to have had no opportunity at all to live his life is way worse. I pray there is time for this little man to benefit from a clinical trial. God bless you Connor.”
<b>Deb Goggins</b> donated $100
“Go Connor! You and your family are such an inspiration!”
<b>Brian Marriott</b> donated $52.50
“In honor of my mother, who has been fighting this disease for more than eight years. God bless Connor.”
<b>Richard Ferraiolo</b> donated $25
“I have a 7-year-old son and reading Connor’s story is bringing me to tears. All children need a chance to just be kids. So does Connor. He’s in our prayers.”
<b>Steve Piskai</b> donated $25
“Love thy neighbor.”