- FUN FEATURES
by Kathryn Carlow
Special to the Herald
The invitation to Alicia Torello, Taylor Barillaro, and Kathryn Vitale’s joint sixteenth birthday party included an interesting request: no presents. Instead, the girls asked their guests to donate to “The Colby Heart Transplant Fund.”
When the three best friends from Cheshire, all juniors in high school, decided to celebrate their birthdays together, they knew they did not want to ask their guests to buy three separate gifts. Instead, they decided to use the opportunity to raise money for a charity. “At first, we couldn’t find the right cause, but then I thought of my brother’s friend, Colby, who needs a heart transplant, so we decided on that fund,” explained Barillaro.
At the age of 12, Colby Scalerno, now 23, was diagnosed with a rare heart disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, found in just 0.02 percent of the population. A defibrillator placed in his chest allowed Scalerno’s health to remain stable for 10 years. However, in the summer of 2010, he learned that he had a rare form of the disease, which accelerates its progression. Scalerno is now in heart failure, and in need of a transplant. He was officially put on the transplant list in September of 2010.
For now, while he awaits his transplant, Scalerno must travel to and from Boston, where his transplant team is located, and regularly undergo medical tests and procedures. Donations to Scalerno’s fund help cover the exorbitant costs of this process, including medical bills and living and travel expenses.
When Barillaro first called to tell Scalerno about the decision to raise money for his fund, “he was so shocked, he was in tears,” she recalled.
“I think he was just really grateful,” said Vitale.
The party invitees expressed similar reactions.
“So many people were taken aback that we would do this,” said Barillaro.
The party took place on April 9 at Sound Spectrum in Wallingford, and the girls received almost 100 donations, for a total of $2,500.
“People were very generous with their donations,” said Torello.
The girls were also able to celebrate the occasion with Scalerno, who attended the party.
“Having him come was so great,” said Barillaro.
“It made people realize this cause was real and important,” Vitale continued.
After the party, the girls personally presented the money to Scalerno and his family, and the gesture brought his mother to tears.
Said Torello, reflecting on the experience, “I think this was really rewarding because it was fun for us, since it was our birthday party, but we were also able to help someone else. And I don’t think a bigger organization would have appreciated it as much. It was especially rewarding because we know him and will see him after the transplant.”