CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Local residents are rallying behind Luca Sandomenico, a 10-year-old fourth grader at South End School, who has been hospitalized in Philadelphia for more than two weeks with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.  Luca continues to grow stronger every day, and after spending seven days in a medically induced coma and nine days on a ventilator, he’s awake, alert, cracking jokes and bribing his aunt for hugs. 

“He explained that for the bargain price of $20, I could give him a hug,” Diana Gaccione posted on her Facebook page.  Noting that Toy Story is among her nephew’s favorite movies, when she requested a second hug, Luca upped the price and said, “You get me Tom Hanks, and I’ll give you one hug.”

“So here I am. Looking for Tom Hanks,” wrote Gaccione.  “I also negotiated that one hug would not be fair payment for getting Luca to meet Tom Hanks, so he reluctantly agreed that I could have hugs whenever I want . . . forever.”   

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While tracking down an A-list celebrity a few weeks before Toy Story 4 opens is certainly a tall order, the post has gone viral, with more than a thousand shares on Facebook in one day, all trying to capture the attention of America’s Dad.

“Just find Tom Hanks.  No big deal,” Gaccione joked.

“Luca has been through so much and he hasn’t complained or asked for anything,” said P.J. and Teresa Sandomenico, Luca’s parents.  “His only request is to meet Tom Hanks because his Woody doll has been his comfort through this whole ordeal.  We would love to grand him his wish.”

Known for his sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Luca has gravitated to the star, who has been making people laugh for decades.

“Luca has a quick wit and is always ready to take on a challenge, as evidenced by his termination to get better and his excellent bargaining skills for a hug,” said Cristina Allstaedt, Luca’s fourth grade teacher.  “The minute we learned of his illness, our class made get well cards, which his friends were determined to fill and cover with Luca’s favorite things to boost his morale.  We’re missing his bright personality but wish him a speedy recovery and hope his wish to meet Tom Hanks is granted.”