HUNTLEY – When Thomas Cristofaro was born, doctors didn’t know whether he would have problems with his development, or if he would be able to play sports.
Thomas has pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum, which meant no blood was getting to his lungs when he was born, his mother Gina Sperling said.
Six surgeries later, the 14-year-old from Huntley has exceeded all expectations, Sperling said.
“They call him ‘choo choo’ cause you can’t get him down,” Sperling said.
Thomas plays baseball with Huntley’s Little League program, but his true passion is football, Sperling said. He’s played with the Huntley Mustangs program for the last six years, and his goal is to join Huntley High School’s football camp in June, she said. He's currently a student at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills.
At first, Sperling said she was cautious about letting Thomas play sports, but he was determined to do what he loved despite his condition.
“He’s an inspiration to all to of us,” Sperling said.
One of the people Thomas has inspired is his friend, 14-year-old Jackson Wiley, whose family is helping to organize a fundraiser for him. Jackson said Thomas is charismatic and a very nice friend.
“We wanted to [hold the fundraiser] so he could focus on his recovery, not paying bills,” Jackson said.
Thomas had his most recent surgery in March to repair his pulmonary artery valve. While he will have to be monitored for his condition the rest of his life, this should be his last surgery for another 10 to 15 years, Sperling said.
Just in the last eight months, Sperling said her family has incurred about $20,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs.
The fundraiser for Thomas is being held Saturday at Parkside Pub, 11721 Main St., Huntley.
From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., a portion of every dining bill will be donated to the Cristofaro family to help offset their medical bills. People can also donate to the family’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/cristofaro-medical-bill-fundraiser.