June 15 marked the 10th anniversary of one of the most special relationships ever to emerge from fan interaction with pro bowlers, as Rhino Page celebrated a decade of running the “Rhino Page & Friends ‘Lace Up’ to Strike Out Crohn’s & Colitis” event at Levittown Lanes in Long Island, N.Y.
The six-time PBA Tour champion first met Tyler Cacioppo during a 2009 Pro-Am when the boy was 9 years old.
“Tyler had been having a tough time managing his symptoms and we hoped that doing something he really enjoyed would make him feel better,” Tyler’s mother, Patti, explains in a story on the event’s website. “My two boys were lucky enough to have the [former] PBA Rookie of the Year, Rhino Page, participating with them on the lanes. As I watched Rhino interact with Tyler, it touched my heart to see the joy and happiness that came across his face. Tyler looked the happiest I had seen him since he was diagnosed.”
Page says that when Patti informed him of Tyler’s illness, he was stunned.
“I said, ‘Wait, who’s sick?’ She said, ‘Tyler has Crohn’s disease.’ I’d never heard of Crohn’s. I went and got him a ball and a jersey.”
They also exchanged contact information, and the correspondence that followed led to the annual fundraiser for Crohn’s and colitis research. The event raised more than $35,832 this year alone, and Page estimates it has raised about $380,000 overall.
“This year’s event was really special; it was really about the journey over the past ten years with Tyler, from when he was incredibly sick in year one.”
Tyler was so sick at that point, in fact, that he weighed about 58 pounds at age 9.
“To see him so healthy now, he just got his G-tube out,” Page reports, alluding to the device kidshealth.org describes as “a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach.”
Page adds: “That’s how he had to do feedings in order to have the right nutrients … It’s just been great to see him much healthier than he was,” an outcome Page attributes to improvements in medical technology.
“It’s a very special event for us because, not only did it help Tyler, but all the people I’ve gotten to meet that suffer from these diseases, they continue to come out every year and you get to hear their stories. You really are making a difference in these people’s lives, and like I told Tyler, we’ll never stop doing this until we get a cure.”
Page, who has played bass since middle school, says his only regret this year was he could not corral his band, dubbed “The Slick-Baggas” after one of fellow PBA Tour champ Patrick Allen’s patented turns of phrase, to play the 2019 event.
“We’ve never gotten to play a real gig,” Page said. “We just jam together. But that’s our big goal. We want to play at our event one year.”
It appears more high notes are in store for an event that certainly has struck a chord with Tyler Cacioppo and the many others whose lives it has touched over the past decade.
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