Glen Cove Police Sgt. Peter DiMaggio couldn't stop thinking about the Pedone family's plight after learning of 7-year-old Nicholas's cancer diagnosis, so he directed his thoughts at how he could help.
"It stuck with me and it bothered me," said DiMaggio, himself a father of a young son and daughter. "I thought, 'You either sit around and do nothing, or you do something about it.'"
Three weeks later he had collected $5,000 for a Christmas list for Nicholas, whose uncle, Joe Greco, he knew from grade school. Fire and EMS volunteers pitched in heavily, he said.
"The support was outstanding," DiMaggio said of the response within the Glen Cove Police Department. "I put out a little notice and everyone from the top to the bottom donated."
He and officers Brian Nardone and Frank DeLuca asked Nicholas for a Christmas wish list. They arrived at the Pedone home on Dec. 21, explaining that Santa was a good friend and that they "had some connections to get him down here."
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With the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department and Glen Cove EMS in on the plan, a convoy of emergency vehicles lit up the Pedone's street. Dozens of responders and community members were on hand as Nicholas got on DiMaggio's radio: "I'm ready for you, Santa Claus, come on down."
Nicholas was all smiles as television cameras and family members captured every moment of the visit.
It was quite the experience for a kid who doesn't ask for much, according to his uncle.
"He would be content with a board game over an XBox," said Greco. He described Nicholas as outgoing and respectful, and irresistably pleasant.
Since his diagnosis of stage three neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, Nicholas's story has been discovered by thousands via tweets by Islanders players and the website and Facebook page his uncle set up; supporters from as far as South Africa and Afghanistan have written and donated.
"The support is what it's all about right now," Greco said.
That support has so far raised 25 percent of a $150,000 fundraising goal for the 7-year-old's treatment, which involves expensive medications not covered by insurance. Nicholas's doctors are treating his condition "aggressively," as if it were already stage four.
The disease's rarity means there is little research funding out there. For now, the financial and emotional support of neighbors and strangers are a lifeline.
A 5k walk is being planned at a Glen Cove location to be determined. Participation costs $20 for adults and $10 for kids, with all proceeds going toward the Pedone's expenses.
For more information on the walk, please contact Anthony Famiglietti at 516-459-8964 or Afamiglietti5@gmail.com.
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