In Times of Need, Northeast Pennsylvania comes to the aid of its own. In our regular column, Patrice Wilding provides a platform for area residents facing a variety of obstacles to create awareness and connect them with much-needed help.
Who: There’s an irresistible lovability about Ava Marie Biancarelli of Scranton, who is reserved, kind and quietly very funny. The fourth-grader at Howard Gardner MI Charter School — and daughter of Kim Biancarelli, a floral manager, and Damian Biancarelli, a barbershop owner — loves to color and make arts and crafts. She shows her courageous side by practicing Kenpo karate with her big brother, Carlo, 10, who also loves acting as his little sister’s personal jester. Unfortunately, 2019 proved to be a tough year for Ava, who was sick and underwent numerous tests and visits to various doctors before she was diagnosed with ROHHAD, or rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysregulation, hypoventilation and autonomic dysregulation. With a ganglioneuroblastoma pressing on her adrenal gland, Ava now requires treatments from an oncologist, endocrinologist, neurologists, phlebotomists and more during visits to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia four or more times each month.
What/when/where: Ongoing donations are being collected online at GoFundMe.com but also can be sent to Guy’s Barber Shop, 626 Spruce St., Scranton, PA 18503. Checks should be made payable to Damian Biancarelli with “#AllinforAva” in the memo field.
Why: Proceeds will help with the costs of constant testing, monitoring and treatment of symptoms as they arise. There is no known cure, and the medical community overall knows very little about this brutal disease, Ava’s father said. The family hopes to bring her to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to see a doctor there who actually does specialize in ROHHAD, though that visit will be out of network and require them to pay for it entirely out of pocket.
In their own words: “Community support would mean a great deal to me, her mom and the rest of the family. It’s humbling to see people with their own problems and their own financial burdens pulling together to help others. It restores faith in humanity. Knowing we don’t have to face this challenge alone, that an entire community is on our side, is beyond the words I have.” — Damian Biancarelli, father; “It makes me feel good and makes me happy.” — Ava Biancarelli
Patrice Wilding is a 13-year employee of the Lifestyles Dept. at The Times-Tribune, where she worked her way up from a clerk to a web video producer to a full-time reporter, writer and copy editor. An Olyphant native, she graduated from Mid Valley Secondary Center and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with concentration in media arts, political science and communications from Wesley College, Dover, Delaware. She lives in Clarks Summit with her husband, Justin, and their son, Johnny. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5369; @pwildingTT