The Caligiuri family is off to Calgary seeking treatment for six-year-old Colby, who has Stage III kidney cancer.
But Tony and Darla Caligiuri won’t have to worry about paying for hotel, meal and transportation costs — thanks to the generosity of many of their neighbours in La Salle.
A La Salle Cares for Colby fundraiser was held on Feb. 18, with hundreds of people braving blizzard-like conditions to reach the La Salle Community Centre and support the Caligiuri family.
"I thought it was a fabulous turnout," Darla Caligiuri said.
Christie Houston-Klatt, one of the event organizers, echoed Darla’s assessment, saying "everyone stepped up."
This fundraiser isn’t the first time that local residents have offered Darla, Tony, Colby and older brother Caden, eight, a helping hand.
Over 50 families have taken turns preparing meals for the Caligiuris over the past three months. This support has helped the family cope while faced with 34 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Colby combined with Tony’s work as a City of Winnipeg paramedic, and day-to-day family activities.
Colby’s medical condition was first identified after an accident while the family was vacationing on a B.C. island last spring. Darla, who is also trained as a paramedic, said the youngster was imitating his brother and tried to ride a BMX bike down a hill. He crashed the bike and his parents, knowing he was injured, took the next ferry off the island. They ended up at a Vancouver hospital where it was determined that Colby had internal bleeding. Then a CT scan showed a mass surrounding his kidneys.
Darla said the diagnosis of cancer was a total surprise, as Colby hadn’t shown any symptoms.
The bike accident caused the tumour to rupture, so chemotherapy was needed to prevent migrating cancer cells from taking hold in other parts of Colby’s body.
The weeks of treatment have helped.
"I’ve somewhat gotten my little boy back," Darla said.
The family made the decision to take Colby to a nephrology clinic in Calgary because the staff there specializes in helping children with kidney disease.
However, until the doctors can assess Colby’s condition, they don’t know if or when he’ll be a suitable candidate for a kidney transplant.
"They can’t predict anything," she said.
She expects that more trips to the clinic will be required as she and Tony seek out the best possible medical care for their son.
"You have to be your child’s own advocate," Darla said
For those so inclined, donations can be made to the Colby Caligiuri Fund through PayPal at email@example.com in partnership with the Variety Club of Manitoba.