LINWOOD — Two young girls living with muscular dystrophy will get the chance to travel to Orlando, Fla., thanks to the efforts of the local Sunshine Foundation chapter.
On Monday, Sept. 14, Julia and Jessica Bonamassa of Berlin were presented with an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World during the Sunshine Foundation Cape Atlantic Chapter 20th annual golf classic at Linwood Country Club.
This event is organized by the all-volunteer local chapter and is one of several fundraisers throughout the year. Chapter president Carmen D’Angelo and his wife, Norma, as well as several other volunteers help to gather donations for the over 40 auction prizes at the event. D’Angelo said the entire year’s fundraising efforts will help to send eight children on trips this year.
“This is a wonderful organization,” said golf committee member Frank Pizzutilla, who announced the award.
Julia and Jessica, who he said are friends of his granddaughter, attend Eastern High School.
According to their Go Fund Me fundraising page, the twins were born healthy and participated in sports from a young age. Five years ago, they began showing signs that “something was very wrong.”
“The girls were falling frequently and having difficulty running,” their biography reads.
Their parents, Michelle and Sal Bonamassa, took the girls to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where they were diagnosed with FHSD, a form of muscular dystrophy. The disease causes muscles to progressively deteriorate, making merely walking difficult.
Since their diagnosis, Julia and Jessica were able to raise enough funds to purchase scooters to get around.
Jessica and Julia attended the dinner after the golf event, where Miss Sunshine Gabriella DeMarco, 14, of Ocean City surprised them with their trip, as well as several Disney- and Universal-themed gifts.
“I’m so excited because I wanted to go to Disney for so long. I can’t wait to go,” Julia said. “This is just amazing how everyone has such good hearts.”
“It’s not easy for us to travel,” Jessica said, adding it means a lot to their family.
Pizzutilla, of Ocean City, said that last year, the chapter raised $45,000, almost all of which went to sending seven families to Disney.
“The nice part of this organization is all of your money goes to what is going on with the children,” he said.
The Sunshine Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit headquartered in Pennsylvania, answers dreams for chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children. Since 1976, the organization, which bills itself as the “original wish-granting organization in the United States,” has answered the dreams of more than 39,000 children. Eighty-three percent of every dollar spent goes directly to program services.
“As with many of the families that Sunshine Foundation serves, a great deal of the family’s time and income is allocated to doctor appointments and therapies. Dreams give the family and child time away from therapy and doctors to spend together as a family without worrying about the cost of a trip,” according to a press release from the Sunshine Foundation.
To learn more about the Sunshine Foundation see www.sunshinefoundation.org.
To donate to Julia and Jessica, see their Go Fund Me page, www.gofundme.com/julia-amp-jessica.
Golf committee members included: Ellen and Jim Barkalow of Northfield, Joe and Cathy DiMarco of Ocean City, Carmen and Norma D’Angelo of Ocean City, and Frank and Susanne Pizzutilla of Ocean City.