Julianne Collage

“I want to be an angel.”

This was the response Maureen Borsella got from her 8-year-old daughter Julianne when she asked what she wanted to be a few days before Halloween. A fairly innocuous response to most, but to Julianne’s mom it was gut wrenching. Less than two weeks later those words became all the more poignant when Julianne, her youngest child, passed away after a yearlong battle with Ewings Sarcoma.

In the summer of 1999 the Borsellas were living a normal life, a “great life” in the words of Maureen. With three young children, ages 7, 9, and 11, theirs was a hectic but happy household filled with homework, dance classes, soccer, birthday parties, and trips to the playground next door, a favorite of Julianne’s. Within a matter of months, after Julianne began tiring easily, experiencing a loss of appetite, and developing intermittent fevers, their world collapsed around them.

What originally seemed like a bothersome virus turned into weeks of testing culminating in a terrifying diagnosis, and with it came a new normal consisting of lengthy hospital stays, blood transfusions, aggressive chemotherapy, doctor appointments, and a family in crisis.

Although still quite young, the children knew their grandmother had died from cancer, a woman they had never met but who was kept alive through cherished stories their mom shared with them growing up, so they understood Julianne’s condition was very serious and were naturally very frightened. In addition to trying to manage Julianne’s medical care, Maureen and Anthony Borsella struggled to keep their family afloat, not just financially but emotionally as well.

While familiar with The Danny Fund’s efforts in their tight-knit community, it never crossed the Borsellas minds to seek assistance of their own. As with most families dealing with the illness of a child, they had a never-ending and all-consuming list of things to take care of and think about and not enough time or energy to get it all done. Maureen quit her job in order to balance the demands of Julianne’s illness and treatment with those of her family as a whole.

So when The Danny Fund reached out to them, it was like finding a life preserver in the middle of a storm. Whether it was taking care of the $25 a day hospital parking fees, phone calls of support from Kathy Potocki, whose son Danny sparked the fund’s creation, or sending them off on a much needed trip to fulfill Julianne’s wish to go to Florida, the Borsellas were adopted into an extended family of volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure their bills were paid, their children were given a little extra TLC, and their days were filled with friendship and support as they faced an uncertain future. Life was almost bearable.

It’s a gift the Borsellas never forgot. Two years after Julianne’s passing, in an effort to get more involved with the organization that gave them so much, they decided to attend The Danny Fund’s Annual Gala. It proved too soon and Maureen left the event in tears. In the fall of 2015, still keenly aware of the importance of its mission, Maureen joined the board of The Danny Fund determined to help other families whose lives have been turned upside down just like hers was in 1999. And she knows with certainty that her angel, who always made a point to comfort other children in the hospital when she saw they were afraid, would approve.

“We were a family in crisis mode, running in a million different directions and never sure where to turn next.
The Danny Fund became our extended family, helping not only with the financial burden brought on by Julianne’s illness,
but also offering a network of emotional support to help us get from one day to the next. We will be forever grateful.”
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Maureen, Julianne's Mom