Comedy night to benefit Derry Township boy in need of liver transplant
Four-year-old Angelo Giorno of Derry Township might look frail when he's attached to an IV pole, until he hooks his tricycle on top of it and speeds off in circles around the room.
“We would be laid up for weeks after some of the surgeries he's been through,” said Dean Kuhns, one of his legal guardians. “An hour after the surgery, he was pushing his pole down the hallway and riding it like a skateboard.”
Kuhns, 55, and his partner, Dale Darazio, 45, first met Angelo when he was 16 months old in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
The little boy from Bucks County, who was born with his intestines outside his body, underwent surgeries that resulted in short bowel syndrome, a disorder that affects the digestive system.
The only cure is a liver and small intestine transplant, which Angelo and his guardians Kuhns and Darazio are anxiously awaiting.
“We don't even take it a day at a time; we take it hour by hour. It can just change,” Kuhns said. “It's worth it. That's my little angel, Angelo.”
To help cover the estimated $75,000 that the transplants could cost once a donor is found, the family has partnered with the Children's Organ Transplant Association and scheduled a series of fundraisers.
Lisa Glasser, a family friend for the past 15 years, is one of many volunteers who have been helping prepare for a comedy night fundraiser for the family set for 8 p.m. June 19 at the Latrobe Elks, 115 Elks Club Road in Unity.
“After I met (Angelo), he just stole my heart,” she said.
Tickets for the event are $20 and include snacks and appetizers. A disc jockey for entertainment before and after the show, a cash bar, as well as raffles with about 75 baskets and 30 door prizes will be available.
Additionally, a cash and gun bash is being planned for July 25. Raffle tickets for a Polaris off-road vehicle are available through July 31.
“The community outreach has been phenomenal,” Kuhns said.
Donations are being accepted online at cotaforangelog.com, where more than $5,200 has been raised.
“It's unbelievable because most of these people we don't even know,” Kuhns said. “I use ‘unbelievable' a lot because there's no other word for it.”
The pair — whom Angelo calls “Daddy Dean” and “Daddy Dale” — have been together for 21 years and raised Kuhns' two biological sons, now 22 and 20, before deciding to foster children about six years ago.
“We love kids; we always have,” Darazio said. “When we first started, different adoption agencies would just turn us down right away because we were a gay couple.”
Eventually, after participating in a training program with Pressley Ridge, they were able to foster children.
Kuhns said the pair have opened their home to at least 55 children during that time, including Angelo and their 10-year-old daughter Amaajah.
With his disorder, Angelo can eat, but only in very limited amounts because he cannot absorb the nutrition in his small intestine, Kuhns said.
For 16 hours per day, he is attached to his IV to receive parenteral nutrition, a liquid mixture of vitamins, glucose, minerals and other nutritional elements.
“That's his lifeline; that's his food,” Kuhns said. “He gets 8 hours of freedom per day.”
Sometimes an infection can happen around his line and put Angelo in the hospital, as it did in early May. Other times, his stomach gets upset without warning, Kuhns said.
“He's a trooper. I give him all the credit in the world,” he said.
The pair received a call in April about a potential donor, but instead, that call helped the couple realize the price tag for the procedure, Kuhns said.
“When we got the call, we cried. We were happy, but we know what's had to happen. And even when he does get the transplant, there's no guarantee it's going to work,” he said. “We have no control over the transplant. Whether we have the money in the account or we don't have it, a little one's got to die to save him.”
In the meantime, Angelo's guardians enjoy their time with him and look forward to the time after the transplants, Kuhns said.
“Hopefully 10 years down the road, he can go down to Children's and see little ones like him and say, ‘Hang in there. Look at me. I did.' ”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.