ILION – He’s known as “The Little Benjamin that Could.” And hundreds showed their support for him at a benefit Saturday.
Benjamin Longale, who is only 3-years-old, was born with a rare liver disease known as biliary atresia – A disease affecting the bile ducts between liver and small intestines which quickly leads to liver damage. Benjamin had his first surgery at 12 days old, and received a liver transplant at 6-months.
He was recently diagnosed with Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, a type of lymphoma, that developed due to immunosuppression medication he is on to prevent organ rejection. Benjamin is a frequent patient at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he receives chemo in an effort to stop the spread of this deadly cancer.
“He’s just a great little guy,” said Debra Longale-Rehm, Benjamin’s grandmother. “And the support we’ve seen is phenomenal.”
According to Longale-Rehm, people came from miles to attend Saturday’s benefit, hosted at the Moose Lodge in Ilion. Attendees came from Rome, Fort Plain, Steuben, Forestport, and even Florida, as an aunt of Benjamin’s made the trip to New York solely for Saturday’s event.
Three hours into the benefit, more than 250 adults had purchased entrance tickets, along with 10,000 tickets for the various raffles, said Nora Lamica, one of three organizers of the event.
“We’ve seen an incredible number of donations of baskets and food, and the turn out is just great,” said Longale-Rehm. “It’s been a phenomenal success.”
Lamica added that the New Hartford Olive Garden alone donated food for 200 people.
“Right now they (Benjamin and family) need the Valley’s help and the Valley has responded,” Lamica said. “The support has been great.”