Youth baseball teams rally for 8-year-old Hempfield heart patient
Stacey Salvio is a nurse, so she knew right away there was a problem with her unborn son's sonogram.
“I said to Gino (her husband), ‘there's something wrong with his heart,' ” she said.
That was eight years ago. Her son, Nico Salvio, has been living with congenital heart disease his whole life. He had two open-heart surgeries when he was a baby and is on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
That doesn't stop him from playing baseball.
Nico plays with the Southwest Greensburg recreation program, and on Friday, he will throw out the first pitch at a kid's baseball tournament for his benefit.
“Every single penny that goes in goes to Nico's family,” said Southwest Greensburg Recreation Director Dan Ranieri.
Six teams entered the tournament, each paying a $300 entry fee. There will also be raffles, T-shirts for sale and concessions, with all proceeds going to the Salvios.
“This community, they've done so many things,” Gino Salvio said.
Nico's medical expenses are already high, thanks to pricey medication and constant visits to the hospital for various tests. They will only go up once he gets a transplant. One of the medications he'll need once he has a new heart will cost $4,000 a month, according to his mom.
He could be waiting for a while. Child heart donors are rare. And when he does get a heart, it will probably only last him a maximum of 10 years.
His family started Nico's Warriors — an organization that raises money for Nico's medical bills — last year. They've held fundraisers in the past, but Southwest Greensburg wanted to go further, Ranieri said.
“This year, we wanted to amp it up a little bit, make it a little bit bigger,” he said.
Ranieri has coached Nico since the start of this season. Because of his condition, Nico can't play the field or run the bases, but he can bat, and he loves it.
“He loves sports. He can't wait to be able to run,” Stacey Salvio said.
Nico often misses out on playing with other kids, at recess or on sports teams, so the chance to play baseball means a lot to him, Gino Salvio said.
“For him just to be on the field is huge,” he said.
Nico said he loves the game, especially when his friends are there. “I like coming to play, especially when I'm against my cousin Noah,” he said.
Gino Salvio said he wanted to thank the community for helping his son.
“Once you get to know Nico, everybody knows he's such a special kid,” he said.
The tournament starts Friday at 6 p.m. at Red Devils Park in South Greensburg and will continue through Sunday. It might be extended into Monday, if needed. In addition to the tournament games there will also be a home run derby, timed base run and skill throwing competitions.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or email@example.com.