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They’re everywhere across the country: couples who are reaching out to others, striving to make a difference in their communities, to improve the lives of others, and I wanted to hear about them. My goal: to award $1,000 to one such couple—to “2 Who Care.”
It all started when the leading couple in my latest release, Fair Play, saw a plethora of children playing leap frog, hide-and-seek, and run-sheep-run in filthy, rat-infested streets of the 19th Ward in 1893 Chicago. And instead of simply saying a quick “bless them,” they decided to build them a playground. Based on the first historic playground Chicago ever had—which ended up sparking an entire playground movement across the nation—Fair Play’s characters team up to do something small, which ended up being something big.
It made me wonder what couples were doing in our day and age. What kinds of things were they accomplishing? Who were they helping?
I asked for your nominations, and then your vote. It is my honor to introduce to you the Giordanos from Virginia, winners of our 2 Who Care contest and recipients of the $1,000 Grant of Appreciation.
Mathias Giordano was a regular 12-year-old kid. Just like yours. Just like mine. He loved computer games. Helped his little brother with his homework. And played competitive soccer five days a week. Until a nagging pain in his right shin wouldn’t go away.
Two weeks later, he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Cancer that had already spread to his lungs.
Within three months, Mathias’s leg was amputated below the knee. Within a year, he’d undergone chemo and two lung surgeries. A few weeks after finishing, a scan revealed the tumors were still growing and he needed another lung surgery.
He had the operation and started new chemo drugs, but they didn’t work. So this past Thanksgiving—sixteen months after his original diagnosis—he took a break and went to Hawaii with his family for his Make A Wish dream. And thanks to a contest run by John Hattingh and his Prosthetic Care Facility of Virginia, Mathias went to Hawaii with a brand new prosthesis, which allowed him to begin walking immediately.
This January, Mathias endured more clinical trials. They were unsuccessful. After that, fourteen rounds of radiation and another new chemo drug.
Yet through it all, the now 13-year-old seventh grader has remained in good spirits. He’s laughing. Smiling. And loves life.
As parents, Chris and Roya Giordano wanted to do anything and everything they could for their son. So when Mathias mentioned the nausea he experienced whenever he looked for hours on end at the neon-colored chemo IV bags, the murky platelet IV bags, and worse, the transfusion bags, his parents sprung into action.
Soliciting the help of a crafty friend, Mrs. Giordano made a smaller version of a pillowcase out of fun fabric. She draped it over the offensive IV bag, yet left an opening in the back so the nurses could access it.
Mathias loved it. So much so, that when he met a family in the waiting room whose daughter, Grace, had just been diagnosed, he immediately dug inside his mother’s purse and passed the girl a soccer-themed bag cover for her IV. She loved it, too.
Within weeks, the bag covers were in high demand. Mr. and Mrs. Giordano organized some friends to help them make up dozens upon dozens of bags out of Nemo® fabric, Sponge Bob® fabric, Hello Kitty® fabric, Spiderman® fabric, and just about any other fun fabric they could find. Mrs. Giordano even learned to sew just so she could contribute to the cause.
Word spread, and requests for Mathias Bags came in from New York, Philadelphia, Canada, Boston, Houston, and a number of other cities across the nation. They sewed and shipped the bags free of charge and posted the pattern online. In the corner of each was a Team Mathias logo.
The Giordanos contacted the IIIB’s Foundation—an organization that makes baskets for women who are diagnosed. Mathias Bags are now inside their baskets as well, and the women love them.
These bag covers are the reason the Giordanos were nominated for our 2 Who Care contest, and why you, our readers, voted them the winners of a $1,000 Grant of Appreciation.
“We feel so honored to have been chosen,” Mrs. Giordano said. “It’s been a blessing to be able to help others, but it is Mathias who inspired us.”
For it seems Mathias has a heart for others—just like he had for Grace. He met another kid his age at the treatment center, but the boy was alone since his mother was working and single.
As soon as Mathias returned home, he filled a moving box with toys, movies, and video games, then asked his mother to drive him back to the hospital.
He rolled in on his wheelchair and handed the boy the box of toys. “These are all for you. Stuff I had that I think you should have.”
Had Mathias performed a miracle, the boy could not have been more awed.
“No child can do it alone,” Mrs. Giordano said. “Kids from Mathias’s school have held bake sales and raised almost $500. The entire community has been great. Our mission in life is to let other parents and families know that kids get cancer too and no child can do it alone. We want to paint our city gold.”
As of June 18, 2014, some of Mathias’s tumors had shrunk, but there were also signs of new growth. There is another clinical trial in July that the Giordanos are hoping he will qualify for.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Mathias and all the children who are fighting this grueling disease, let’s help spread the word. Not only this coming September, but every month of the year.
To be a part of Team Mathias, go to Facebook.com/groups/TeamMathias12. For more information about Mathias Bags, go to Sylvia’s Stiches at SylviasStitches.com/2014/02/chemo-bag-covers-for-team-mathias.html.
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