Dante Gallucci’s decision to host a charity basketball game to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation was a no-brainer.
The charitable organization is renowned for granting wishes to children and teens suffering life-threatening medical conditions — good deeds that resonate with them as they struggle to recover.
And with more than 100 wishes granted annually over a 15-county area encompassing the greater Capital Region, Make-A-Wish is always in need of funding.
At a glance
Team Dante will square off against the Harlem Wizards professional basketball team in Union College’s Viniar Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets for the game are $10 per person, with proceeds benefiting Make-A-Wish Northeast New York. For more information, call 847-5037.
But for the 15-year-old Schalmont High School sophomore, helping raise money for Make-A-Wish seemed especially fitting. After all, he’s one of many who will have a wish granted.
“We’re always looking for supporters,” said Timothy Riley, a spokesman for Make-A-Wish Northeast New York. “When it’s the wish kid himself, it’s all the more special.”
Gallucci suffers from a rare and aggressive form of lymphoblastic lymphoma. Though his cancer is now in remission, the 6-foot-4, three-sport athlete continues to undergo intensive chemotherapy that has taken a toll on his body.
Gallucci’s family was contacted by Make-A-Wish last fall and asked what the organization could do to help their son. Gallucci’s wish was to visit a friend living overseas in Italy — something Make-A-Wish agreed to arrange in April.
Only the teen didn’t want to accept the trip without at least offering to do something for the organization in return. Over the past few months, he’s helped to organize a celebrity game with the Harlem Wizards, a show-basketball team that performs on-court tricks that captivate crowds.
Gallucci, who is too sick to play, will coach a squad dubbed Team Dante. It will be made up of a number of area residents, including some of his physicians from Albany Medical Center and Schenectady police Chief Brian Kilcullen. The goal of the game at Union College’s Viniar Center will be to raise $20,000 for Make-A-Wish.
“This is very commendable,” said Teri Gallucci, his mother. “This is a great way to give back.”
Gallucci’s cancer didn’t come to light until shortly after he had his wisdom teeth removed last spring. At the time, he was preparing for football camp at Union and looking forward to playing on Schalmont’s varsity team in the fall.
When his neck began to swell, doctors thought he might have an infection, but tests later revealed the cancer, which was already aggressively spreading.
“You don’t really get a chance to catch it before it gets to stage four,” his mother said.
Gallucci started chemotherapy, which helped beat the cancer into remission. The treatments, however, are only now reaching their apex.
“He’s at the toughest part of treatment right now,” Gallucci said.
The chemotherapy has caused him to lose more than 40 pounds and sidelined him for Schalmont football’s march to the state championship game last month. He sometimes has trouble walking and has become sick enough at times to be admitted to the hospital.
Gallucci said the charity game is just the thing her son needs to take his mind off the treatment and having to sit out basketball season.
“He’s going to coach this team, and we’re going to have a lot of fun,” she said.