Giselle DiNatale’s ‘Victorious’ work

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Voorhees Sun

It’s not a last wish, but a lasting wish. For Alicia Rose DiNatale, it was a final trip that put an exclamation point on 16-years of life well lived, and for her mother it was the seedling of an idea that would one day become the “Victorious” Foundation.

Giselle DiNatale — creator of the Alicia Rose “Victorious Foundation — thought back on the last trip Alicia Rose ever took before the 16-year-old died of cancer in October 2002. The entire family and Alicia Rose’s best friend were taken on a Caribbean cruise funded entirely by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Almost nine years after Alicia Rose’s passing, DiNatale was once again back with the foundation being honored as an “Extraordinary Woman of New Jersey.”

She was honored at the foundation’s “Hope, Strength, and Joy” luncheon for her work in 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.

DiNatale thought back to when the Make-A-Wish Foundation first approached her and asked if Alicia would be interested in a wish. She was taken aback by the offer, wondering why Alicia would want one.

“I’ll never forget when the hospital first approached me and asked if we wanted a wish, I was saying, ‘no, no, no she isn’t going to die.’ They came to me and said don’t look at this as a last wish, but a lasting wish,” she said. “Alicia’s first wish was going to get tickets at Saturday Night Live, but your whole family has to be involved and our sons were too young. She said how about that cruise and Make-A-Wish paid for everyone, even her best friend as well.”

After Alicia died, Giselle and her husband Mario became dedicated volunteers to the foundation. It was here that Alicia became good friends with the foundation’s New Jersey President Thomas P. Weatherall, who DiNatale said helped her create the “Victorious” foundation and helped her form her executive boards.

She was also asked to speak at the state chapter’s first gala in North Jersey.

“Tom has always been my sounding board. He’s a great adviser,” she said. “I still volunteer at times. It’s my second favorite foundation.”

Representatives from the state chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation said the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation and Giselle are dedicated to bringing hope, excitement and entertainment to teens who are facing difficult conditions while receiving hospital treatments by providing various activities and services consistent with Alicia’s outlook on making life “better.”

The first lounge was developed and built at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2003, DiNatale said, and the next year four more lounges were built. Now, the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation has built 51 lounges across the country, eight 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.

To learn more about the event and the foundation, visit the Web site at Victoriousfoundation.org or call 784–0615 for more information as well.