Palatine girl honored for work on behalf of pediatric cancer research
Inoperable cancerous brain tumors and other health problems aren't stopping a Palatine girl from spending countless hours raising awareness and money for research on the disease she's contended with most of her life.
Those efforts have made Rosie Colucci, 13, one of two Illinois students to receive the prestigious 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Selected from about 30,000 entries, Rosie will be recognized for her volunteerism with 101 other honorees from April 28 to May 1 in Washington, D.C.
"It's just crazy, but it's super," said Rosie, an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School in Rolling Meadows. "It's a big honor to be able to get this award."
Rosie's fight with neurofibromatosis -- a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue -- started when she was diagnosed with the disease in 2007.
She's had several long hospital stays with surgeries, chemotherapy and more as part of living with the inoperable tumors, brain cancer and acquired obstructive hydrocephalus, a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up on the brain.
However, Rosie noticed early on that there were many other ill children and she wanted to help them. So about 10 years ago, she and her mother, Joanne Colucci, began the nonprofit Rosie's Toy Box.
Rosie's Toy Box is dedicated to providing kids with new toys, books, crafts and games in an attempt to keep them busy during long hospital stays. Rosie said she's raised about $500,000 for cancer research and helps other organizations focused on kids, including Cal's Angels, Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, St. Baldrick's Foundation and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Plum Grove Junior High Principal Kerry Wilson nominated Rosie for the Prudential award. Wilson said Rosie has touched other students and school employees.
"You're drawn to her," Wilson said.
"She's got such a positive attitude."
Cheryl Glassmann, a program assistant who works one period a day with Rosie at Plum Grove Junior High, said she's amazed by the girl's enthusiasm and dedication to seeking donations and toys in the name of pediatric cancer research.
"I mean, she just cares about everybody else but herself," Glassmann said.
In addition to a paid trip to Washington, Rosie will receive a $1,000 scholarship and a silver medallion for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
JoAnne Colucci said Rosie receives assistance in her volunteer endeavors from 17-year-old sister Bella. She sees the prestigious recognition as a culmination of her daughter's many years of hard work.
"Rosie is an incredibly humble young lady with a passion for giving back," Colucci said. "She has never fundraised for attention or touted about herself or any of her other successes just to be boastful. Her only motivation is to share her story to educate people.
"She not only wants people to take notice of kids whose lives are centered around hospital visits and inpatient stays, she wants them to understand the importance of research and how it can help save young lives."