NSHS cancer survivor gives back

NSHS cancer survivor gives back

Jacob Dispirito, right, stands with brother Conor, who donated the bone marrow that saved his life. (Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)
For senior project, Sunday bowling night will benefit the Tomorrow Fund

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Jacob DiSpirito was just a year old when his parents got the diagnosis.

DiSpirito had an incredibly rare type of cancer known as Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia, a disease he had only about a seven percent chance of beating.

Like so many other families that have a child diagnosed with cancer, treatment would take a toll on finances. His mother had to quit her job leaving the family of four dependent on his father’s salary. With his dad working as a self-employed business owner, money was beyond tight.

That’s when The Tomorrow Fund stepped in to help.

Founded in 1985 by a group of medical personnel and parents of children with cancer, The Tomorrow Fund provides daily financial and emotional support for children fighting the disease, and their families. The Providence-based non-profit focuses its effort on children treated in The Tomorrow Fund Clinic located in the Edwin Forman Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

More than 1,500 children and their families have received support from the organization, including help with everything from home expenses such as heat, utilities, and rent; to parking passes for the duration of the child’s treatment.

For DiSpirito’s family, that meant payment of medical bills, monthly bills and emotional support.

Doctors and social workers eventually recommended that DiSpirito receive some of his treatment in Boston, and it was there that it was determined that he would need a bone marrow transplant in order to have any chance for survival.

Luckily, Jacob’s older brother, Conor DiSpirito, was a perfect match and could serve as a donor.

Conor was just five years old at the time, and while he doesn’t remember the procedure, he knows he was grateful his brother was alive.

“I remember afterward, wanting to go and see him,” Conor said, now 21.

Jacob, now 17 and a senior at North Smithfield High School noted, “The Tomorrow Fund payed for my family’s daily expenses like food, parking, and other things that you don’t think add up quickly but they actually do.”

Jacob has been cancer-free for the past 16 years and is now salutatorian of his class. Next fall, he’ll attend Brown University.

But he’s never forgotten how he got there, and if he did, his doctor-ordered bi-annual visits to the hospital would bring back the reality.

“I have to kind of relive it and I see what other families go through,” he said.

“Even though cancer isn’t physically still in me, it’s still in me mentally.”

When choosing a senior project this year, a graduation requirement for all students at the school, Jacob didn’t have to look far for a cause.

He’s organized an event to benefit The Tomorrow Fund as part of his project to be held this Sunday, April 30 at Walnut Hill Bowl, 166 Diamond Hill Road, Woonsocket. The event, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m., will include two hours of bowling, plus pizza, drinks, and more. Tickets for Bowling For Tomorrow cost $18, and must be purchased in advance.

To purchase tickets, or make a donation to the cause, email Jacob at bowlingfortomorrow2017@gmail.com.