An All-Star Among Us?

By ROBERT LINNEHAN

The Voorhees Sun

A local resident is being honored for her commitment to the Voorhees community and could find herself attending the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis and featured in People Magazine.

Gisele DiNatale is one of three finalists for People Magazine’s “All-Stars Among Us,” a contest that profiles regular people who strive to make their communities a better place to live. DiNatale, nominated by her son Gabriel, is one of three final representatives for the Philadelphia Phillies.

If chosen, she will represent the Phillies at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game on July 14. She could also be profiled in an upcoming article for People Magazine.

It was a surprise, she said, to be nominated for the contest.

The first she heard of her nomination was when a representative of the Phillies called her to confirm her background information.

“I was really choked up when I found out. This just really blew me away. He’s (her son) a great, good-hearted kid. He just took this upon himself and went online to do this for me. It was just very, very moving,” she said. “The most important thing is our foundation can cross the river. It’s a big thing for us. We’ve been so entrenched in our South Jersey community. It’s wonderful to get a little exposure.”

DiNatale formed the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation, a group dedicated to improving the lives of local teenagers in hospitals that are struggling with life-threatening illnesses.

The foundation installs teen lounges in pediatric hospitals as a refuge for teens undergoing treatment for their illnesses.

Her daughter, Alicia Rose, was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2001 and passed away 10 months later.

She spent the majority of her time in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but she and her mother both realized the hospital didn’t have much social programming developed for teenagers.

It was here that the seeds for the “Victorious” foundation were planted.

“We started to think, what would a stay for a (teenage) boy or a girl look like? We wanted to model that for a place or a space that took them outside of their actual rooms.

For the most part teens won’t walk on the floor and keep their doors shut,” she said. “We wanted to get them out of there, have a place to call their own where they won’t feel like a child.”

The first lounge was developed and built at CHOP in 2003, DiNatale said, and the next year four more lounges were built.

Now, the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation has built 48 lounges across the country, 11 of which are here in New Jersey.

The lounges usually contain video game consoles, televisions, movies and generally provide common areas for teens to meet with family and friends during their stays.

If DiNatale receives the most votes of the three representatives, she will be flown to the All-Star game as guest of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The voting deadline is Wednesday, June 24, and votes can be cast at the People Magazine Web site at peopleallstars.com/peopleallstars.

Voters can pick the Phillies logo and cast their vote for DiNatale.

Voters can cast a vote as many times as they wish.