The first ever Danny's Dream event will be held on Saturday, March 24 in celebration and remembrance of Dan DiNatale and to raise money for Ewing Sarcoma research.
On April 5, 2012, Chuck DiNatale got a phone call from his 21-year-old son, Dan.
“And he says, ‘Dad, I’m having a bad day,’” DiNatale said.
He asked his son what was wrong.
“He said, ‘The doctor says I got cancer,’” DiNatale said.
Dan DiNatale was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma after a doctor found a lump in his leg. Although he was 21, Dan DiNatale was treated by pediatric specialists at the University of Florida because Ewing sarcoma is considered a pediatric cancer.
At the time, Dan DiNatale attended Savannah College of Art and Design, but as Susan DiNatale puts it, by some blessing from God, she and Chuck DiNatale had just moved to Florida permanently a year earlier, much closer to the doctors in Gainesville than their previous home in New York.
Dan DiNatale went through 37 rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting five days, in addition to undergoing three types of radiation and three major surgeries.
He died in October 2016, four-and-a-half years after the diagnosis.
“We saw so many kids up there, and we saw what our son went through. It still breaks our hearts knowing kids are going through this and the answers are not there."
“He just never gave up,” Chuck DiNatale said. “He was a fighter. He never said, ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me?’ ”
Susan DiNatale, Dan’s mother, said that 4% of federal research funding goes to all pediatric cancers. To honor their son, and others battling pediatric cancer, the DiNatales set up the Danny Fund. Through the fund, the DiNatales said they hope to provide the seed money for research, something that was missing during their son’s treatment.
“The thing with Ewing sarcoma is that ... the medical technology has improved, but the actual chemotherapy and treatment have not changed in several decades. Actually the protocol that they use worldwide was developed at the University of Florida years ago,” Susan DiNatale said. “But the problem is that there has not been any success on better treatments and outcomes for kids because the treatments are pretty rough.”
Another part of the goal is to make sure another kid doesn’t have to go through what Dan DiNatale went through.
“We saw so many kids up there, and we saw what our son went through. It still breaks our hearts knowing kids are going through this and the answers are not there,” Susan DiNatale said. “So it’s our goal, and our mission, to make a difference for the next child, and we know that our Danny then will live in all those kids because someday there will be an answer.”
To help reach that goal, the DiNatales are hosting the first “Danny’s Dream” event on March 24, at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church. The event runs deeper than its live music, dancing and silent auction.
It’s a remembrance of their son. Their son who was loyal and loved cooking and reading, art and cars. Their son who, for his last Christmas, hosted them in his Savannah apartment complete with a Christmas tree and presents for all. Their son who planned to study in Hong Kong. Their son who earned a posthumous bachelor’s degree in graphic design — the only thing he wanted before he died.
Susan DiNatale says three words sum of the event — remembrance, hope and gratitude.
“It’s a remembrance of our son, it’s hope for the next child, and it’s gratitude for how great everyone has been to us,” Susan DiNatale said.
Four doctors who worked with Dan DiNatale will travel from Gainesville for the event. That just shows the impact their son had on other people, Susan DiNatale said.
“He had a profound impact on people, and that matters in life,” she said.