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North Riverside's Komarek School rallies around kindergartner with cancer

(Submitted photo)
Daniele Santucci

NORTH RIVERSIDE — With her love for princesses, the color yellow and reading, Daniele Santucci could be described as a typical little girl.

But Daniele has gone through more hardships in her life than most young children. Just a few weeks after turning 6 years old this past October, Daniele was diagnosed with liver cancer.

To gather support from the community for Daniele, longtime family friend Kathy Ranieri and her friend, Terri Sarro, decided to co-organize a rally called “Dreams for Daniele” that will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Komarek School, 8940 W. 24th St. in North Riverside.

“I wanted to show Daniele, even though she was only a student there for a month, that all her friends and teachers and everyone at the school … we’re here for her,” Ranieri said.

The rally is for students only, but anyone who wishes to show their support that day can come in and donate their hair to Locks of Love or get their head shaved to stand in solidarity with cancer patients for a $10 donation. “Dreams for Daniele” T-shirts also will be on sale during the event.

Daniele was born premature, along with a twin sister who died a few days later, Ranieri said. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and for the past six years has regularly gone through rehab treatments.

Now, with the cancer, Daniele’s rehab has been put on hold, which has resulted in the loss of much of her muscle strength.

“She’s back to square one. She has no control of her neck, her arms,” Ranieri said, adding that Daniele is in a wheelchair and, due to the cancer, has lost her hair, has mouth sores and recently was given a feeding tube.

Ranieri hopes money raised during the rally and at an additional fundraiser she is still planning for late January will help Daniele’s family pay for in-home therapy and other medical expenses.

Daniele has already gone through three rounds of chemotherapy and is scheduled to have surgery and more chemotherapy in the coming months, Ranieri said.

The doctors are pleased with the results of the treatments so far and Daniele and her family — whom Ranieri said are completely overwhelmed with the outpouring of support — are staying positive.

“It’s mind-blowing, the amount of support that everyone is giving her,” Ranieri said. “That’s what I love about North Riverside. It’s a small town with a big heart.”

If you goWhat: Dreams for Daniele When: 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19Where: Komarek School, 8940 W. 24th St., North RiversideCost: $10 donation to get a haircut or head shaveInfo: Visit komarek94.org or call Ranieri at 708-442-3112

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