WEST HAVEN — The Rev. Carl Howard is telling everyone to go fly a kite Saturday for Christian reasons: to benefit a local girl who just underwent a lifesaving bone marrow transplant and to find “fellowship” in these COVID times.

First Congregational Church of West Haven, where Howard is pastor, is holding a free, kite flying event – even the kites are free — with food, snacks and drinks.

They are hoping during the community event that some will donate any amount they can to the family of Madison “Madi” Cicarella, 13, a Bailey Middle School eighth-grader described as “beautiful, talented and kind,” who was diagnosed with Myelodysplasia, a rare type of cancer in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells in the blood and/or bone marrow.

Madi received a stem cell transplant March 30 from her uncle, Brandon Cangiano, her only hope of recovery — four days later, on Easter, she smiled for the first time in many days. She had been hospitalized receiving chemotherapy before the allogeneic stem cell transplant, said Heather Shea, a friend of the family who is their spokeswoman.

“She had a few rough days after the transplant and a few leading up to it,” Shea said. “Easter was good. Nikki (Madi’s mother Nikki Stancarone) posted a picture of her smiling. That smile was everything.”

“She’s a tough cookie,” Shea said of Madi. “If anyone is going to come through this with flying colors, it’s her.”

Although Madi found a match in her uncle, Shea will be at the kite flying event to offer information on bone marrow donations through “Be the Match” in hopes to educate the public for the benefit of future patients. One aspect Shea wants to clarify, she said, is that the process is non-invasive for donors.

The difference between a bone marrow transplant and stem cell transplant is how they get the sample, Shea said.

Stem cells are what are being transplanted in both cases. The stem cells either come from the bloodstream or the bone marrow directly.

A bone marrow donor is put under anesthesia and a needle is used, but the procedure is not like a major surgery and leaves the donor feeling like they have a bruised hip.

Shea also will be collecting donations because Stancarone, a single mother, is under financial strain, but there will be no pressure on attendees. Stancarone, the city’s animal control officer, has taken a leave of absence to be with her only child 24/7. A GoFundMe has also been set up to benefit the family. Donations can be sent through Venmo @Nikki-Stancarone.

Shea said they are trying to livestream the event so Madi can watch from her hospital room, as “Just for Madi and Nikki to know the community is them” will greatly lift their spirits. “It’s great for Madi and the community in these times of COVID to see everything get back to normal,” she said.

Howard said the church has purchased 200 colorful kites with designs and characters and will provide sandwiches, snacks and drinks, all for free. Those who have their own fancy kites are encouraged to bring them, as well. The event will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. April 10 on the grass in front of Savin Rock Conference Center on Captain Thomas Boulevard and there is no sign-up required. The rain date is April 11. The community group West Haven United is providing the snacks and drinks.

“We’re trying to make the event as simple as possible,” Howard said. “We just want to do this out of the spirit of giving.”

Howard said they call the event “The First Congregational Church of West Haven, First Annual Kite Flying Festival.”

Howard said “everyone has been stuck indoors,” and this is a way to “have fellowship” in these COVID times. Participants must wear masks, socially distance and obey any other COVID guidelines, Howard said.

While the colorful kites are to keep and all else is free, Howard said it is hoped that people will think, “All this is free?” and decide to give whatever they can to help Madi and her family, as there is a financial need on her road to recovery.

Anything collected will go directly to Madi’s cause.

Mayor Nancy Lane Rossi commended the church for putting together the event tand West Haven United for their help providing snacks and drinks.

“The City of West Haven is very fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers from the First Congregational Church of West Haven, West Haven United and throughout the city,” Rossi said.

Community activist and mega-volunteer Phil Liscio, also of First Congregational Church of West Haven, said, “We are asking Westies to share their blessings with prayers and support for Madi and her family.”

Without any sign that anything was wrong, Madi collapsed at home the day after Christmas and, following a series of tests at Yale New Haven Hospital, was diagnosed with Myelodysplasia.

She needed the transplant to keep her condition from declining into leukemia.

Shea met Madi as a fellow student of her daughter’s at Top Hat Dance Co. and has become a close family friend.

Since she was little, Madi’s favorite entertainer has been rap legend MC Hammer and her favorite number of his is “2 Legit 2 Quit,” in which Hammer talks about “pressing harder” in the face of challenge, Shea said.

It’s a lot like how Madi acts in life.

“Anyone who knows Madi knows she has the fortitude to get through this,” Shea said earlier this year. “The reality is she does have a tough fight ahead. … She’s got this.”

The city community has held multiple fundraisers and cheer-up events for the family, including First Congregational Church of West Haven, which held a drive-by donor drive and has raised money for Madi’s cause.

Anyone with questions can send a private message through the Facebook page “Bone Marrow and Love for Madi.”

Transplant News Sharing // “Stem Cell Transplants” – Google News from Source www.theridgefieldpress.com

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