By Elise Franco
Derek Novello said his family wasn’t looking for a handout when his son Mario was chosen as a beneficiary for the Mahoning Valley Olde Car Club’s annual show, but club members wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Mario Novello, who will be 4 in September, is one of three children who will receive a portion of the money raised during the car show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5. in Boardman Park.
The little boy with blond, curly hair who loves Tom and Jerry cartoons was diagnosed at 4 months old with Chromosome 4q Deletion Syndrome — a birth defect that affects a minuscule number of people worldwide.
Mario’s mother, Lynn Novello, said specialists told her only 70 cases of the defect have been diagnosed worldwide, 13 of those in the United States.
“Him having this was just a fluke,” she said. “Derek and I were both tested, and we don’t hold the gene for it.”
Lynn said doctors haven’t been able to give them a Life-expectancy for their son. “They told us if he makes it to 6, they might be able to give us a guesstimate [life]span,” she said.
Dee Tripp, the car club’s public-relations director, said this year is the 34th year for the car show and it continues to grow. Admission is free, and those with an antique car or street rod can preregister for judging for $8 or at the gate for $10.
Tripp said the Novello family, of Mineral Ridge, was referred to the club by one of its members and the money raised will be used to help offset some of their expenses.
“We select children who are having significant medical problems, which means significant financial problems,” Tripp said. “Mario is such an adorable little boy, he’s a real sweetheart.”
Derek Novello said the car club’s gesture means a great deal and is humbling, though he was hesitant at first to accept the donation.
“I said no about seven times, because I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility but ours,” he said. “But [the car club] has been so kind, and they want to help us.”
Lynn Novello said caring for their son is like caring for an infant. He can’t talk, walk, sit up or eat on his own, and he has frequent seizures.
Mario’s condition requires frequent doctor’s visits to Cleveland, physical, speech and occupational therapy and heart surgery when he is 5.
Derek Novello said his younger son’s condition — the couple also has a 6-year-old son, Gino — is something they’ve learned to accept and deal with.
“These are the cards we were dealt,” he said. “We just want to give Mario the best life and take care of him the best we can, so we take it day by day.”