Originally published in the La Salle College High School Alumni e-newsletter.
From the driver's seat of an excavator, Nicholas beamed down at his parents, Louis Esposito '04 and Dana (Mount '04). With a little help, he was living out his dream of becoming a construction worker thanks to the Philadelphia, Delaware, and Susquehanna Valley chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and fellow alumni, Ed DeAngelis '86, President of EDA Contractors Inc.
In 2018, Louis and Dana's son Nicholas, just two years old at the time, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. They took comfort where they could – in the friends and family praying and cheering for him, in the talented team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and in the mesmerizing view of a construction site from the hospital window.
Louis and Dana quickly learned how to keep Nicholas motivated throughout treatment: tools, trucks, and anything to do with construction. When he needed to learn to walk again after the effects of treatment, collecting his plastic tools and hammering away at his workbench kept him going.
Make-A-Wish had a clear directive for fulfilling Nicholas' wildest dream, and luckily, an honored partner of the organization, Ed, had all the right equipment to create an unforgettable day. His team customized a construction site and digging experience to welcome their new CEO (Chief Excavating Officer).
"My wife, Janine, and I started working with Make-A-Wish a decade ago. We were blessed with three healthy children, and we wanted them to understand their fortuity by connecting with children and families that needed some "Make-A-Wish" magic. I've been able to spread that joy further by involving my work family at EDA Contractors Inc.," said Ed. "I cannot think of a better way to connect with your family, at home or work, than through giving to others. Generosity is a gift to the giver and the recipient, a true 'win-win.' Learning that we supported a La Salle alumni and his family was one of many incredible coincidences that happen with Make-A-Wish, and is why I believe that goodness finds goodness."
The desire to serve runs deep in La Salle alumni. Many of Louis' classmates showed up to help his family, doing everything from cooking meals, selling t-shirts to show support and fundraise, babysitting the Esposito's twins, and simply being a friend over brunch or a bike ride.
This year, Louis and Dana helped found a non-profit, Wit You Against Childhood Cancer, with Dave Achey '04, Steve Horvath '04, and Brendon Heron '04. Wit You raises funds and focuses on providing healthy nutrition throughout therapy to support families in the Philadelphia area battling childhood cancer.
The organization's plans for 2021 include a fundraising "rally and ride." The Wit You Rally, which takes place on Friday, September 24, 2021 at at Smith Memorial Playground in Philadelphia, is a way for anyone to join in, cheer on the riders, raise awareness of childhood cancer, and be a part of the community that gives families like the Esposito's comfort and hope. Tickets are on sale now at www.wityou.org/rally
The Wit You Ride will be on Saturday, September 25, 2021. Riders will kick off from Philadelphia to travel 100 miles on scenic roads to Lancaster, PA. Louis, Dave, Steve, and fellow board member and friend, Matt, have completed the 100-mile ride together over the past few years. Spots are still available for the ride: www.wityou.org/ride
"We're so grateful for our family, friends, and the entire childhood cancer community. There have been many unexpected and inspiring moments throughout this journey with Nicholas," said Louis. "The fact that there have been so many La Salle alumni beside us and already doing so much for communities in need gives us hope and keeps us going. I'm thrilled to start this new chapter with Wit You with some of my oldest friends."
The sense of community that Louis and Dana found them around over the past few years was not unlike the camaraderie, friendships, and sense of belonging Louis felt while attending La Salle. That the friendships lasted and that La Salle alumni cross paths like Louis and Ed may have more to do with a shared sense of service than mere coincidence.