Nine-year-old Bianca Mollica is a remarkably active girl. She and her mother, Camella, appreciate having a Cumberland Farms store near their home in Wethersfield because it’s so convenient. As they shuttle between various activities they can easily stop and pick up a “Cups for Kids” Chill Zone beverage.
During the month of August, those cold beverages take on new meaning for active kids like Bianca. That’s because participating Cumberland Farms stores in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts donate 5 cents from every Chill Zone or Hyperfreeze beverage they sell to support patient care at Connecticut Children’s. In fact, their regional program also supports four other children’s hospitals throughout the Northeast.
Bianca’s Rocky Start
That support means a lot to kids like Bianca, who has been a patient at Connecticut Children’s since birth. When Bianca was born, she was allergic to dairy products, even breast milk. Then she developed a condition where her heartbeat and respiration dropped to zero each time she fell asleep. Even after doctors at Connecticut Children’s addressed those concerns, there was a more serious problem. At 18 months, she began to have catastrophic bleeding episodes.
“The first time,” Camella said, “we heard screaming from her room, and we ran upstairs. When we opened the door, it looked like a murder scene from ‘CSI’: There was blood everywhere.”
They took her immediately to Connecticut Children’s, where doctors got the bleeding to stop. But over the next three weeks, Bianca had 16 more major bleeding episodes. After one of them, she had lost so much blood that she was at the edge of needing a transfusion.
“After a month of testing and 32 bottles of blood, we had a diagnosis,” Camella said.
Bianca has Von Willebrand disease, which is a genetic clotting disorder with symptoms that range from mild to severe. In fact, Bianca’s diagnosis led to seven other family members being diagnosed with the disease, including Bianca’s grandmother. “My mother was at her doctor’s office when I told her about Bianca’s diagnosis,” Camella says. “And you could hear her doctor in the background say, ‘Holy smokes! That’s what’s going on with you.”
With Bianca’s diagnosis in hand, the doctors could provide an effective treatment: a medication that could control the bleeding—but it required Bianca coming into Connecticut Children’s to get the medication intravenously whenever she had a bleeding episode. “For the first couple of years,” Camella says, “We were coming to Connecticut Children’s 12 to 15 times a year.”
By the time Bianca was 6, her system had matured enough that she could take the medicine in a nasal spray and treat herself. And now Bianca can be as active as she likes, with her passion being competitive dance.
Cups for Kids
One of the reasons that Bianca and thousands of other children can get such expert care is because of the support that comes from Cumberland Farms’ Cups for Kids campaign. Over the past eight years, the nickels from drinks have added up. In fact, in that time frame Cumberland Farms donated $155,000 to Connecticut Children’s.
“It’s incredible to think that this is our 8th annual Cups for Kids fundraiser,” said Gwen Forman, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Cumberland Farms. “Supporting the communities we serve has always been something we believe in, and this campaign is a key part of our commitment. Since the beginning of the program we’ve donated a total of over $800,000 to our hospital partners and we’re looking forward to adding to that number this year. We encourage everyone to stop by their local Cumberland Farms this month to participate.”
“Connecticut Children’s is thrilled to be working with our longtime partner, Cumberland Farms, for the 2019 Cups for Kids campaign,” said David Kinahan, President of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation. “Connecticut Children’s is grateful for the generosity of the Cumberland Farms family, whose support enables our team of pediatric experts to provide the highest quality care for families throughout the region. We are delighted to continue this important partnership.”
That sentiment goes double for Bianca’s family. “Her dance instructor has given her the nickname “Bumblebee,” Camella says, “because aerodynamically a bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but they fly anyway.”
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