Saturday, August 15, 2009

Love For Tommy

Frankie Smith, who helped organize the "Love for Tommy" benefit, enjoys the sun with Tommy Conforti outside his family's house in Newport Beach on Monday, August 17, 2009.

Tommy, summer 2009
Tommy, center with "the buzz boys," his friends from school
(and younger sister in the back), Dec. 2008

Matthew, Tommy and my two sons, Matthew and David, Dec. 2008

Tommy is raising money for his charity CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation. There is a link on the site if you would like to donate. Thank you for allowing me to share these stories with you!


Bella Lucille said...

Class abuzz with support

Fifth-grade students buzz their hair to make classmate feel more comfortable as he’s treated for leukemia.

By Michael Alexander

Heavy cancer treatment is known for causing hair loss, and Tommy Conforti was no exception. But his friends in school didn’t want him to feel alone, so a group of Newport Elementary fifth-graders got together and submitted to the clippers.

Over a single weekend, more than 20of his classmates went out and got buzz cuts, which they called a way to make him feel more comfortable while enduring tough medical treatment.

Tommy, 10, moved to the U.S. this year, and he just started at Newport Elementary in September. He has fought leukemia for years, but was finally able to come off chemotherapy in October.

Then the worst happened, mother Katherine Huddleston said: relapse. The day before Thanksgiving, doctors found more cancer in his optic nerve. It’s a hard time, but isolation would make it far worse for a kid like Tommy, she said.

“He’s a social animal,” Huddleston said. “To be with his friends is what makes him happiest.”

It all started with David Fisher, 10, a classmate of Tommy’s who lives on his same block. He befriended the newcomer fast, and when he fell ill, David decided to do something to make him feel more at home: buzz his hair in time for when Tommy would next visit school.

He knew his ailing friend was going to campus on Monday in time for a school visit from Santa Claus, so the kids had to act quickly.

“He’s a great friend, and I wanted to do something nice for him,” he said. “He’s got a really good attitude, and when we play games he doesn’t care if he’s winning or losing.”

David’s mother, Jennifer Balalis, said she called another mother with sons in the school, and soon they were sending group e-mails to everyone in the grade. The group soon snowballed to more than a dozen. It’s even more impressive that they did this so fast for someone new to the school, she said.

“He’s new to the area,” Balalis said. “Most of these kids have known each other since kindergarten. But here’s a child here for three months, also sick, and they do all of this on their own. Needless to say, I’m a very proud mom right now.”

Tommy was beaming and laughing with those school friends at a get-together after school at the beach Friday, but said his first reaction was far more emotional.

When a cellphone message came through showing three friends with newly buzzed scalps, one thing happened to Tommy: “Tears.”

“It’s amazing that I’ve got friends like this here,” he said.

Bella Lucille said...

Tommy is our family friend, and David is my son. Please visit the link and read more about Tommy. Please consider making a donation in his honor to cure search. Tommy is pictured in the brown shirt. He is one of the most amazing people I know. His smile absolutely lights up a room!

shabbydreaming said...

What an amazing little man!!! and what a great thing for the boys to do!!!
I wouldnt hesitate at all in shaving my head for such a worthwhile cause!

Bella Lucille said...

Monday, December 15, 2008
Newport Beach kids cut hair to honor friend with cancer
Newport Elementary students rally around friend battling leukemia for second time in three years.
The Orange County Register

NEWPORT BEACH They look like 25 guys who, freshly shorn, just joined the Army, but this group is soldiering for a different cause.

The guys, all students at Newport Elementary, decided to get buzz cuts last week in honor of classmate Tommaso Conforti who is battling leukemia for a second time in three years.

Because of the radiation treatments Conforti receives daily, his hair, which was buzzed down at home by his mother, will eventually fall out.

David Fisher, an 11-year-old who is neighbors with Conforti, was first to shave his head to make Conforti feel comfortable, along with his younger brother Matthew and classmate Matthew Lightner.

"Tommy's a really good friend to me. I just met him a couple of months ago, but I really like him," Fisher said. His hair used to be long and straight, but talking about his new 'do, Fisher said "I liked (it before), but I like this too. It's softer."

Jennifer Balalis, Fisher's mother, called Lightner's mother Cindy to see if her son would also participate and from there, the cuts spread throughout the student body.

"Wouldn't it be cool to start calling everybody in the fifth-grade to see how many we could get to actually do it?" Cindy Lightner said of the concept. "We spent the entire weekend with e-mails and phone calls."

By Monday about 20 students had cut off their hair, and a few more joined throughout the week.

"They did it all on their own," said David Bibona whose son's Steven, 10, and Christopher, 6, participated. "Nobody had to coax them into anything. They just kind of made the decision themselves, and they seem pretty content and happy to do that."

Katherine Huddleston, Conforti's mother, said the cancer's return was unexpected, but the response from her son's friends was even more surprising.

"At 10 years old in California, the long hair is an important thing, and these kids have shown that it's not all that important and that's a nice message," she said.

Conforti, who just moved from Florence, Italy, with his mom and younger sister, said he wouldn't have found this kind of support in Italy.

"It's really cool and to see in three months that I've already got really good friends like this is amazing," he said. Conforti said the haircuts will keep his spirits high and that he's not scared of cancer, "just bummed, stressed and stuff."

On the day before Thanksgiving, Conforti was taken to the hospital where his family received the news that the cancer had returned. He has not been to school since, and two fifth-grade teachers at the school have taken it upon themselves to teach him at home.

The students will also start a blog to keep in contact with their friend.

Conforti will be treated at Children's Hospital of Orange County, and Huddleston said by Christmas she expects that her son's immune system will be so weak that he will be unable to hang out with his friends.

She said that if her son comes in contact with somebody who is sick, it could be fatal for him. While she acknowledges the gravity of her son's illness, she said remaining positive is the way to beating cancer once again.

"I'm optimistic because I believe that it's OK, but unfortunately you never know," she said. "The important thing is to believe it will be OK, and that is, I think, one of the first steps of getting better."

Contact the writer: 714-445-6689 or

Bella Lucille said...

Boy with leukemia says he wants to help children who will be diagnosed with cancer in the future. He’s hosting fundraiser this Saturday.

By Brianna Bailey
Updated: Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cancer made 11-year-old Tommy Conforti and movie producer Frankie Smith friends.

Tommy has acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease attacks the body’s white blood cells and weakens the immune system.

Smith, who lives in Corona del Mar, was diagnosed with the same disease when he was 14. He and Tommy met through one of Tommy’s neighbors, who suggested the two cancer survivors get to know each other. Now, the two trade sarcastic jokes and talk about movies together like brothers.

“Meeting another survivor gives you hope; it’s living proof,” Smith said. “And the friendship has been therapeutic for me, as well.”

Now the two friends are planning a party to raise money for cancer research. With Smith’s help, Tommy and his mother have organized a fundraiser party for the CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation on Saturday at a Newport Coast mansion owned by Dave Conley, a vice president at the Irvine Co.

Tommy was in the second grade when another of his friends, in Florence, Italy, also was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Tommy, who was born in Florence, moved to Newport Beach with his mother and sister, Vittoria, 8, last year.

“We’d fight and make up, fight and make up, but I have to say [Andrea] was a pretty good friend,” Tommy said. “He was really smart.”

Four months after his friend Andrea died from the disease, Tommy was also diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“People were all wondering what was going on, why there were two boys sick,” said Tommy, who has since been back to visit his friend’s grave in Florence.

In honor of Andrea, Tommy donated $50 to the nonprofit CureSearch, which funds medical research on childhood cancer.

Now Tommy wants to raise more money for the organization.

Tommy hopes the party at 6 p.m. Saturday, which will feature live music and refreshments, will raise money to find a cure for cancers that commonly affect children, like acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

To get the ball rolling, Tommy has donated another $75 to CureSearch.

“I wanted to pick a group that was doing something to help kids in the future,” he said.

After he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, Tommy underwent six months of chemotherapy and three years of follow-up treatments.

His mother, a U.S. citizen who lived in Italy for more than 20 years, moved Tommy and his sister to Newport Beach after he finished his treatments.

Just as Tommy’s hair was starting to grow back and he was making friends as a fifth-grader at Newport Elementary School, the cancer returned.

Tommy just returned to his Balboa Peninsula home from his latest four-day stay at Children’s Hospital of Orange County for cancer treatments earlier this week.

His mother, Katherine Huddleston, stays with Tommy in the hospital while he undergoes treatment.

Her friends and neighbors have helped her by doing everything from offering moral support to looking after their house during Tommy’s treatments. Saturday’s fundraiser is a way to give back to the community, she said.

“We are living proof that it takes a village to raise a child, and I want to thank this wonderful Balboa village for everything that has been done for us,” Huddleston said.

How To Help

For more information on Tommy Conforti’s party at Irvine Co. Vice President Dave Conley’s home in Newport Coast at 6 p.m. Saturday, visit

Reservations are required.

Donations to CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation also can be made through the website.

Local businesses Cucina Alessa, Port Restaurant and Bar and A Market are major sponsors of the event.