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Secret Santa visits ill boy early

Young Nicholas Ferri may never know who the Secret Santa was that gave him tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs this past Saturday.

All he and his mom Sonia know is his own special Hockey Night was made possible by the husband of a teacher at his school, Immaculate Conception CES in Maple.

Nine-year-old Nicholas suffers from X-linked ALD, or adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare illness. It’s the same disease depicted in the film Lorenzo’s Oil, based on the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone’s search for a cure.

The staff at Immaculate Conception rallied to give Nicholas an early Christmas present.

“They wanted to do something extra special for him,” Sonia said Tuesday. “He spent 10 months last year in hospital.”

She said Nicholas enjoyed the game in which his favourite team, the Leafs, took on the Washington Capitals. And it was a nice family outing, Sonia added: Nicholas’s 8-year-old sister Alessia, was there, too.

The school staff’s care and understanding has helped Sonia cope with the disease her family knows only too well, she said.

“This is a disease that has affected my family three generations,” Sonia said. “My mother right now is in Europe watching her brother in the process of dying with this disease. Eighteen years ago, my brother died of this disease.”

Through it all, she said, the staff has grown to become almost family.

“The whole staff, they’re very generous, very giving of their time,” Sonia said. “They’ve been always there for us, for him. I couldn’t have asked for a better school for him.”

Vaughan Today
Online: December 13, 2008 [link]