Bryan Perez donating double whole blood. (Photo by Ed Shin)

Members of the Daniela Conte Foundation hosted their first blood drive event on March 6 at St. Matthew’s Church in Dix Hills.

The Daniela Conte Foundation was founded by Daniela’s parents, Anthony and Katia Conte, of Dix Hills, to honor the life of their daughter, Daniela Marie Conte, who passed away in March 2020 at the age of 8 from Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS) after battling the disease for four years.

“We had an amazing turnout for our First Annual Blood Drive,” Katia said. “We collected 65 units of blood and 195 local lives saved. Thank you to all the donors, the NY Blood Center staff, and all the local businesses who donated snacks and raffle items. We couldn’t think of a more powerful way to honor Daniela’s life.“

Daniela was diagnosed in the fall of 2016 with Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS).  Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue tumor in childhood cancer, accounting for 300 to 400 cases each year. Despite the intensification of aggressive combination therapies including surgery, multi-agent cytoreductive chemotherapy, and radiation, improvement in the five-year survival rates for ERMS has seen one of the smallest increases in all childhood cancers over the past four decades. The statistics are especially dire in therapy-refractory, recurrent or metastatic ERMS.

The foundation’s mission is dedicated to raising awareness, funding research to develop less toxic, more targeted treatments for childhood cancers with a specific focus on Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), and financially assisting pediatric patients and their families going through treatments.

Katia is frustrated by the small amount of money that is spent on childhood cancer. She said cancer patients are the number one recipients of blood products. Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to make an impact for a child that is fighting cancer.

Katia explained that during Daniela’s treatment with chemotherapy, over the course of four years, she received countless blood products which helped her avoid infections, treat anemia, and helped her stay strong during chemo treatments. In essence, the chemotherapy essentially destroys the bone marrow that manufactures red blood cells and platelets. The red blood cells are necessary to transport oxygen while the platelets help control blood clotting and ultimately prevent the child from uncontrollable bleeding and possible death.

“Imagine the outcome of more childhood cancers if more were devoted to it,” she said.  “Providing funding for research is monumental. Discovering new treatments for metastatic disease will give parents hope that their child may survive.”

To learn more about the foundation, visit DanielaConteFoundation.org.

Katia Conte, President and Co-Founder of the Daniela Conte Foundation. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Diane Gandolfi donating whole blood & Zaib Iftikhar, New York Blood Center Donor Specialist 2-1. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Chris Felice donating double red cells. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Katia Conte donating whole blood. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Katia Conte & Giovanna Perez. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Anthony Conte & Camille Conte. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Nancy & Roy DiMarco, President of RGD Marketing. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Katia & Anthony Conte, founders of the Daniela Conte Foundation. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Steve Pavony, New York Blood Center Donor Relations Associate. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Hug boxes, one of the programs that the Daniela Conte Foundation created, are special surprises delivered at homes, the clinics, or distributed at public events to children who are currently diagnosed with and receiving treatment for any form of childhood cancer. Hug boxes were based on Daniela’s list of favorite things to do while she was battling cancer herself. (Photo by Ed Shin)

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