Raising money for a good cause is admirable. Raising more than $40,000 before the age of 12 borders on astounding.
That’s just what Norwood Elementary School student and West Jefferson resident, Santino Carnevale, 11, has done. In fact, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, Santino presented a check for $16,182 to The James Cancer Hospital in Columbus to go toward cancer research.
Michael and Santino
Not long after finding out his wife, Brooke, was pregnant with his only child, Michael Carnevale was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma — a rare form of cancer that appears in the head and neck and is only diagnosed in 1,200 people per year in the United States.
Weeks after Santino was born, Michael decided to go to the Cleveland Clinic and have surgery to remove the cancer.
“Since so little is known about this form of cancer, there are only a handful of doctors who specialize in it,” said Brooke Carnevale, Santino’s mother. “We had to find doctors who were familiar with how to treat this.”
The procedure was the first in a long line of treatments that took the family from Ohio to Massachusetts and back. Ultimately, the disease took over and Michael passed away in November 2016.
Before the death of his father, Santino witnessed a different form of cancer — in this case, pancreatic — which claimed the life of his grandfather. After his passing, the 6-year-old Santino hosted a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a nationally recognized charity which collects money for pediatric cancer.
“He decided to raise money for that and it was pretty successful,” Carnevale said. “When it came time to do another event, he asked if he could host something of his own to benefit his dad’s cancer.”
The family held a lemonade stand and bake sale at the 2015 West Jefferson Ox Roast Festival where they raised $5,000 for head and neck cancer research.
“We started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit where the money is kept until we present it to The James,” said Carnevale. “That way we know it goes directly to the research.”
The success of the fundraising at the Ox Roast Festival encouraged the family to return. In 2016, through his fundraising efforts, which included the Ox Roast and memorial contributions from his father’s funeral, Santino raised more than $20,000 that was donated to The James.
Family and community
Throughout Santino’s time fundraising, he has gotten his mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friends and others involved in his efforts. Early on, Santino’s grandmother contributed treats for the bake sale as well as the mothers of his baseball teammates.
Friends in town, Blake, Brett and Alexa Bogenrife, not only joined in with the banging of the charity drum, but they helped him officiate his team of fundraisers. Alexa and Santino co-designed T-shirts which effectively gave an official brand to his philanthropic efforts.
“On this third time at the Ox Roast, he raised another $5,000 which then grew to over $15,000 with a silent auction and community tailgate party,” Carnevale said. Her niece, Emmalee Harding, (Santino’s cousin) helped put together the auction and a visit to Lake St. Mary’s weekend-long football event through the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer gave Santino the idea to bring the community tailgate event to West Jefferson.
“A light went off and he said, ‘we live in a small town with great people that love football,’ so he decided we should do an event like that,” said Carnevale. “Pat’s Pizza was so generous to open their lot and help us out.”
The event generated the additional $10,000-plus which brought Santino’s total to $16,182.
“It’s really pulled so many members of the community together,” Carnevale said. “So many kids in class know about what he’s doing and want to help out.”
A doctor at The James has offered to take Santino and his friends to a cancer research center in the spring to see what types of activities their money goes to funding.
Carnevale said Santino is excited to go and that she’s constantly surprised by the emotional maturity and care of her son.
“He really has a passion for it and who knows where it will take him. Maybe he’ll be a doctor, maybe do research. He could do it,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU