On Sunday, friends of the Santini Naughton family held a fundraiser at The Quays, located at 45-02 30th Ave., to raise money for Gabriel, who was diagnosed in September with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare, life-threatening autoimmune blood disorder.
Although Dana Naughton, Gabriel’s mom, prefers not to say how much was raised, she said over 400 people came by to the corner pub throughout the course of the day.
“It was so successful. It’s definitely going to make Christmas comfortable,” Naughton said. “The emotional support of having the community come together was amazing. It looked like a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.”
Before Gabriel’s diagnosis, his mother had given birth to his second sister and was on maternity leave from her job as an attorney for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. In order to continue to care for Gabriel, Naughton is still on leave. Her husband, Jaime Santini, who is a professional chef, has also had to hold back from working full time.
Even through these difficult times, the family has felt continuous support from the surrounding Astoria neighbors.
During Sunday’s fundraiser, neighbors donated items ranging from theater tickets to a beer cooler that were used as prizes in a raffle. Entertainment for the day was also all donated, including face painting by The Cheeky Chipmunk and a show by magician Dave Cremin.
There were also musical performances by Sean Wiggins, Roylurr, Sam Rasiotis, John Keegan, Jimmy Artache, Lauren Hunt and Lisa Marie Hunt.
Other local businesses that donated their time, products and food included Avenue Chemists, Pronto Pizza, Off the Vine, Ovelia, Dilingers, Brooklyn Bagel, Phoenix Beer, Manhattan Beer, Mama Carmelo’s, William Hallett, Lauren Biniaris Yoga, Lost Sock, and Sorriso’s.
“The community has been awesome from the get-go. But to see all these people in one space was incredibly overwhelming but in a good way,” Naughton said. “Gabriel loved it.”
According to the 6-year-old, his favorite part of the fundraiser was the music and singing, and he felt “really happy” to have the party done for him.
“It really is an example that human kindness is really alive,” Naughton said.
A few days before the fundraiser, Naughton and her husband, found out that Gabriel’s disorder was environmental and not genetic. That means that it could be treated with medication and he will not necessarily need to go through a bone marrow transplant. Gabriel has also stopped chemotherapy.
“We are incredibly relieved and optimistic to try another treatment,” Naughton said. “It’s a day by day-by-day thing.”
Naughton continues to keep an online blog at posthope.org/gabriels-fight with updates on Gabriel. Donations can also be made on the website.