After winning the biggest battle of his life, Dante Veltri and his Carrboro High School wrestling teammates are bringing some joy to cancer patients this holiday season.
In what they’re calling their “Take Down Cancer” drive, Dante, his mother Karen, Carrboro coach DeWitt Driscoll and the wrestling team have collected board games which will be handed out to patients at the UNC Pediatric Oncology Clinic this holiday season.
“I just thought that spending so much time there last year with Dante, I just figured, just to give back a little, what could we do? And I thought, what kid wouldn’t want a game? I went to the team and asked them what they thought and they jumped on board. We decided to do the Take Down Cancer game drive,” Karen Veltri said after Wednesday’s wrestling match against Cummings High School.
Dante, a junior, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2013 at the age of 15. After going through several months of chemotherapy treatments, he is now cancer-free.
“It’s pretty cool,” Dante said of his mom’s gift drive. I definitely approve of it. I’m glad she wants to do something like that.
“We had fliers and we made announcements. We really wanted the wrestling team involved and made sure they all knew about it. To enlighten the school, we posted fliers.”
Before their 54-12 win over Cummings, games were being donated by teammates, fans and the Carrboro community. With the games that were given over the past few weeks, Karen’s expectations have easily been met and surpassed.
“I have more that we’ve been collecting, and I am told that more are coming,” said an elated Karen. “I’m pretty happy with what we got. Honestly, my goal was to at least be able to go and have enough for as many patients that would be there for the hour that we would be there. My goal was kind of like 50. And I know we’re good.”
There isn’t a date set to bring the gifts by the hospital, but they will be handed out when Dante has his next follow-up appointment in the coming weeks.
With Driscoll and the athletic department’s support, setting up a 5K race to raise money and the possibility of another game drive, have increased the enthusiasm and support of everyone involved.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Driscoll said of the drive. “We have a pretty strong family around the wrestling team. The wrestling community as a whole is pretty strong. Even the Cummings coach (Andy Hawks) asked how Dante’s been doing because he remembers from last year what he’s been going through.”
“Last year when he was diagnosed, it was a big deal, and everybody was affected by it and everybody rallied around him.”
Driscoll’s hope is that a strategy will be put in place by spring 2014 to to raise more money and to collect more games.
“We tossed around the idea of possibly doing another fundraiser in the spring. Last year when he got diagnosed, there was a large burden on the family. The athletic department put together a 5K to raise money, and Mrs. Veltri wants to make it a tradition and directly give the money to the UNC Oncology Department. It’s an idea we’re throwing around, seeing if we can make it happen in the spring after the season is over and everyone has a little more time.”
Dante doesn’t think about going to the doctor for checkups now that he has wrestling back in his life. Giving back to cancer patients and trying to help brighten their day means the world to Dante after surviving what these patients are currently going through.
“There were a ton of gifts. I thought it was a pretty good turnout,” Dante said. “It’s pretty awesome. It says a lot about our team and our community. It’s pretty cool knowing you have people rallying around you.”