Danielle DiMatteo and Darin DeRenzis
Friends. Mentors. Kids at Heart.
- Written byMegan Mcguire
When you learn that a friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer, you may feel as though the world is collapsing around you. Emotions run high as you cope with shock, anger and heartache all at once. When Darin DeRenzis and Danielle DiMatteo both lost their mothers to the disease, these feelings were all too familiar to them.
Understanding how it feels to lose a parent at a young age, Darin and Danielle searched for ways to pay tribute to their mothers, Mary and Kathy, while also giving back to the community. It was at this time that they learned about the incredible South Bay support organization, Walk With Sally.
Founded by Nick Arquette, who lost his mother, Sally, to cancer when he was 12, Walk With Sally is an organization dedicated to providing mentors for children whose parents or siblings have passed away from, or are currently fighting, this disease. What began as a humble program with one child has blossomed into an organization with a total of 90 children. The program’s motto is “One child at a time, one heart at a time,” as it seeks to help children cope with the emotional hardships of cancer.
As an executive advisory board member, Darin, a real estate agent at Peninsula Sotheby’s, works to raise money for the organization while supporting its efforts simultaneously. Danielle, director of sales and marketing at Sunshine Retirement Living, says her number-one job is to be a mentor to Samantha, whose mother, Georgina, currently has Stage IV breast cancer. According to Danielle, the relationship between a Walk With Sally mentor and mentee is called a “friendship.” She finds that “children feel alone, as though they are the only ones dealing with this situation. By providing them with a mentor, they find there is someone else to relate to.”
While Darin and Danielle have both found their niche in the organization, they both were chosen to be co-chairs of one of Walk With Sally’s biggest fundraising events, White Light White Night, scheduled for July 21. This annual summer event boasted nearly 900 people last year. The night includes a VIP silent auction, Taste of the South Bay and a performance by Smash Mouth. “It will be at a great location, right on the water by the future Shade Hotel in Redondo,” says Darin, “It really touches people, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Become A Mentor
Want to change the life of a child who is coping with cancer? If you fit the following criteria, you may be eligible to become a Walk With Sally mentor.
Must be 18 years of age or older
Must have lived with or lost a parent (or sibling) to cancer OR a cancer survivor
Must dedicate six to eight hours per month with mentee for a minimum of one year
Must participate in as many group friendship activities as possible throughout the year
The program also seeks volunteers for events and activities. For more, visit walkwithsally.org.