Cardillo Family Turns Two Tragedies Into Gratitude

cardillo family photoSeven years ago, Dominic Cardillo had a grand maul seizure in his sleep. Thankfully, his wife Lisa was by his side, rushing him to Henry Ford Hospital, where he was told that he had a mass in his brain. It turned out to be brain cancer.

After surgery, chemotherapy and a very difficult round of radiation, Dominic was grateful to learn that he was stable. Relieved, his family was convinced that they no longer wanted to take life for granted. They even spent three months in California on a vacation they’d long wanted to take.

“We decided that we should not put anything off that we wanted to do,” says Lisa.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck again last year, when the couple was on a trip to celebrate their anniversary. Lisa suffered a near-fatal heart attack caused by a previously unknown tear in the lining of an artery that supplies the heart. She was in a coma for five days. Happily, she survived, but the experience was incredibly difficult for the family.

“In a minute, our whole world changed in a way it will never be the same,” Lisa said. “It was hard, and I looked for support and found it through social media groups and Henry Ford Hospital support groups.”

Friends and family helped them through. During a particularly somber December after Dominic’s diagnosis, the Cardillos got a knock at the door from another family—members of one of her support groups. They had a surprise: gifts for everyone in the Cardillo family for the next 25 days. It still makes Lisa tear up.

“It was the biggest surprise we ever had,” she says. “It was so important to us in what was a very tough year.”

To show their appreciation for life and for the support they received from friends and family in their hardest times, the Cardillos began contributing gifts and gathering donations from their social circle to create their own “25 days of Christmas” for a family in need in 2016.

“The outpouring of support from everyone for this family was like nothing I’d ever seen,” says Lisa.

They had not planned on doing it again, but then 2017 came, and another Henry Ford family needed help. Once again, the Cardillos stepped up, gifting them 25 days of Christmas. By the time Christmas 2018 rolled around, friends and family were looking forward to this yearly opportunity to contribute to a family in need and asked Dominic and Lisa to continue the tradition. They said yes—and gathered enough gifts to support two families that year.

“If you want to have your faith in people restored, do things like this,” says Lisa.

The Cardillos’ support did not end after the holidays. In December 2018, they held a fundraiser at their family-owned pub, netting a whopping $15,000 for charity. Half of their generous donation was given to Turning Point, an organization dedicated to ending domestic and sexual violence. The other half went to Henry Ford’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center to support patients in combatting this difficult disease.

“We got bad luck,” says Lisa. “But we’re making the most of it. This is our way of spreading awareness and showing that when bad things happen, you can make something good from it. You can help people keep going.”

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