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 Veltri, Carrboro coach DeWitt Driscoll and the wrestling team have collected board games that will be handed out to patients at a N.C. Children’s Hospital 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?’ ” Karen Veltri said. “I went to the team and asked them what they thought, and they jumped on board.”
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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 about the gift drive. “We had fliers, and we made announcements. We really wanted the wrestling team involved and made sure they all knew about it.”
Before the team’s 54-12 win over Cummings High School earlier this month, games were being donated by teammates, fans and the Carrboro community.
“I am told that more are coming,” Karen Veltri said. “I’m pretty happy with what we got.”
There isn’t a date set to take the gifts to the hospital, but they will be handed out when Dante has his next follow-up appointment in the coming weeks.
Driscoll said he wouldn’t “expect anything less” of the team’s and the wrestling community’s support.
“We have a pretty strong family around the wrestling team,” Driscoll said. “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.”
When Dante was diagnosed, “everybody was affected by it, and everybody rallied around him,” Driscoll said.
The athletic department put together a 5k race to raise money to help the Veltri family. Karen Veltri wants to make the race an annual tradition to raise money for the UNC Oncology Department.
Dante doesn’t worry as much about doctor checkups now that he has wrestling back in his life, but brightening other young cancer patients’ day means the world to him, he said.
“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.”
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