Community unites to raise money for 4-year-old’s transplant

WAXHAW – An entire community is rallying together to fight for one local 4-year-old boy.

Friends and neighbors, community members and businesses are coming together to raise money for 4-year-old Anthony LaPenna, who needs a lifesaving liver and small intestine transplant.

When he was just three weeks old, Anthony LaPenna of Waxhaw was diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction (CIPO), a medical condition in which the intestines function as if there is a blockage although no obstruction is present.

Because the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract can’t move food through efficiently, it’s often difficult – if not impossible – for a person with CIPO to receive nutrition orally.

After a handful of tests, surgeries and procedures, Anthony’s family received word from Duke University that Anthony needed a lifesaving liver and small intestine transplant, and in February he was officially placed on a transplant list.

Because transplant costs often exceed $500,000, the family turned to the nonprofit Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) for help. COTA assists families of children needing a transplant through helping with fundraising. The nonprofit also keeps the money safe in an account under the patient’s name.

After the LaPennas connected with COTA, their neighbor, Joe Sancinella, agreed to be Anthony’s community coordinator, assuming the responsibility of organizing fundraisers.

“We have about seven people on a committee,” Sancinella said. “We started a website right at the very beginning in February and emailed the site to people. That’s how we (started) getting money.”

It started out with friends and family donating money here and there. But pretty soon Anthony’s story spread like wildfire throughout the community, with individuals, businesses, schools and the Town of Waxhaw wanting to help.

“It’s been a combination of everybody – neighborhoods, friends, (business) owners,” Sancinella said.

The biggest fundraiser planned is a 50/50 raffle, where people can purchase a ticket for $10. Sancinella said the goal is to draw in $20,000 through ticket sales, with the winner and Anthony each getting $10,000. The drawing will be held on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. at Stadium Sports Tavern in Charlotte.

The committee doesn’t have any additional fundraisers scheduled yet, but Sancinella said there’s a strong possibility there may be more to come.

“It’s a lot to take in because everybody (on the committee) is working. We’re trying to do this in our spare time,” he said. “We’re trying to get through this right now and decide where to go from there. With the summer coming up, we’ll probably plan more.”

The goal is to raise at least $60,000 and, so far, the donations and fundraising efforts have brought in more than $13,000. All the money raised goes directly to COTA and is deposited in Anthony’s account. Anthony will have access to his account for his entire life and the money can be used for transplant-related expenses, such as costs insurance won’t cover, travel and lodging expenses, follow-up appointments and procedures and more.

Sancinella said he’s encouraged to see so many people rally together in Anthony’s name and hopes more people jump on board to help the boy he considers family.

“He’s like my grandson, this child,” Sancinella said. “He’s just a sweetheart.”

For details on fundraisers go to

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