When most toddlers are mastering walking or learning the benefits of forks, knives and spoons, Luca Paciente was beating a rare form of brain cancer.
Thanks to doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Luca’s life was saved after his diagnosis at 15 months old. He has been in the hospital’s Survivorship program since 2009, where he is rehabilitating from all the medicines used to save his life.
The rehabilitation also means Luca can one day fill the cleats of his older brother, who played in the North Penn Squires football program. The close family connection is how the North Penn Squires learned of Luca's fight. According to North Penn Athletic Association athletic director Mike Carmody, Luca himself is waiting to make his debut.
“He’s doing really well right now,” said North Penn Athletic Association Vice President Dave Lawrence. “He can walk, jump, and he’s going to school. His family is a big part of our organization.”
Now, Luca wants to give back to those lifesavers so they can help children like him who are battling cancer.
Luca has formed Team Luca and is asking people to join him at The Four Seasons Parkway Run and Walk on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 28. The walk raises money for pediatric cancer research and survivorship at CHOP’s Cancer Center.
Donate to Team Luca here.
To date, more than $6 million has been raised for CHOP research, with the walk in 2013 setting a record at more than $1 million raised and more than 10,000 people participating.
Luca is a member of The North Penn Athletic Association’s Squires football program.
Thus, North Penn Athletic Association is holding a car wash to benefit Team Luca and the Four Seasons Parkway Run and Walk on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at McDonald’s at Valley Forge Road and Sumneytown Pike in Upper Gwynedd.
Second- to sixth-graders of the North Penn Squires and Cheerleading programs will volunteer their time and manpower at the car wash.
“We are giving it all back to the community. This is not a fundraiser for our own purposes,” Lawrence said. “We’re giving it back and letting people know we care.”
Lawrence said there is no set goal for Sunday’s car wash.
“This isn’t one-sided,” he said. “We’d love to give a decent chunk to the charity. It’s a great thing for our organization to sponsor.”
The North Penn Athletic Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its Squires youth and cheerleading organization is for children from pre-Kindergarten to sixth grade. It has been around for more than 40 years, Lawrence said, and is based at Cameron Field on Hancock Road in Upper Gwynedd.
Last year, the Squires changed its league from KSL to ICFL, joining football and cheerleading programs in Boyertown, Coventry, Pottstown, Norristown, Upper Perkiomen and Perkiomen Valley. Lawrence said there are a total of nine teams, all suburban, similar to the Pop Warner program under Lansdale Cannoneers.
The change in leagues brought with it a change in the program to a grade-based, USA Football Heads Up Program-inspired league versus a weight-based league. Lawrence said this alleviates the possibility of a 10-year-old playing with a 12-year-old.
“In a weight-based league, the 12-year-old has to play down to the 10-year-old’s level,” he said. “The agility levels are so much more advanced.”
Lawrence said this composition prepares children for football-playing futures in high school, while also promoting safety among all Squires players.
“One of the things that we want to be able to do is train larger children to play the sport before the seventh grade,” he said.
North Penn Squires is not in competition with the Lansdale Cannoneers or CYO leagues, Lawrence said.
“The community is large enough to encompass two football and cheerleading organizations,” he said.
“With this fundraiser, we want to put our name out there, and keep things going,” he said.
Sign up your child for the North Penn Squires football and cheerleading program here.