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Making dreams come true

Kiwanis Club gives gifts to 5-year-old Reece LoCicero, who has an undiagnosed illness.

December 18, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
(Cheryl A. Guerrero )

Standing on a chair in front of 200 Glendale Kiwanis members, 5-year-old Reece LoCicero's smile kept growing.

First came a signed and framed poster from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilots, followed by Disneyland tickets, Mickey Mouse ears and the promise of an outing in retired Glendale Police Lt. Donald Shade's Cessna airplane.

"Reece is going to be so excited to go and fly; it is going to be amazing," said his mother, Natalia LoCicero.

Friday marked the latest outpouring of community support for the LoCicero family and for Reece, a La Crescenta Elementary kindergarten student struggling with an undiagnosed illness that has resulted in repeated hospitalizations during the last 4 1/2 years.

The gifts came as part of the Kiwanis Club's annual Fulfill a Dream program, which benefits a child in the local community who is suffering from a serious illness.

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Despite difficult symptoms — including skin sores, internal bleeding, asthma and severe fevers, and frequent trips to Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles — Reece remains a strong and bright boy, said Patricia Larrigan, who helped facilitate the Fulfill a Dream program.

"He was such a little kid to have to be so traumatized in life," Larrigan said. "He is still undiagnosed. But every diagnosis they give the family is terminal. We have no idea if Reece will be cured of this, if Reece will live to 10, if Reece will live to 100."

Among the highlights of the presentation was an appearance by former Dodgers player Al "The Bull" Ferrara, who gave the young Dodgers fan a signed baseball and promised to personally escort him to a game next season. Other gifts included a flight jacket, personalized dog tags, a helicopter ride and for Natalia LoCicero, a day at a spa.

Reece's health has stabilized recently, and he has been able to attend school consistently, his parents said. They are waiting to hear whether his case has been accepted by the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health, which has a division dedicated to undiagnosed illnesses.

The LoCicero family has struggled with the emotional and financial burdens that come with caring for a seriously ill child. Last year they were forced to move into Reece's grandmother's home in Montrose while pulling thousands of dollars in loans.

But after being embraced by the community, they said they are finding their feet.

"It has been absolutely amazing," Natalia LoCicero said. "At the beginning of the year, when Reece started getting really, really sick, the mounting medical bills were insane, over $25,000. We were just starting to drown."

Reece's father, Jason LoCicero, said he looks forward to the day when he can pay forward the generosity.

"The community of Glendale, La Crescenta and Montrose has been the most amazing thing that has happened to our family," he said. "We just hope we can give back as much as has been given to us, hopefully more."

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