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Angelina Santaromita Villa, with her husband Paolo and children Messina and Luca, is scheduled to undergo brain surgery in December. Photo courtesy Paolo Villa

Community rallies behind teacher

  • November 16, 2019

Angelina Santaromita Villa has always been one to step up when someone needed help. Now her friends, family and colleagues are returning the favour.

The Catholic high school teacher and coach in Ottawa has had to deal with some “unreal” pain in the last six months. It began with a blinding headache and an MRI in July. It revealed a mass on her brain’s pineal gland.

The married mother of two, teacher and touch football coach at St. Pius X High School was unable to find adequate treatment in Canada. She finally found a specialist, Dr. Dong Kim, in Houston, Texas, who could remove the mass. 

“I was unable to return to work this school year,” said Santaromita Villa, who also has been treated for lupus and mixed connective tissue disease the last two years. “I’ve had to limit my driving and haven’t been able to participate in my usual social life. The pain is unreal and lack of sleep makes my daily mom responsibilities nearly impossible.” 

She met with the neurosurgeon in October and booked the surgery for Dec. 5. OHIP will not cover her surgery since she’s going outside the country. 

That’s where the people who know her best began stepping in.

David Imbleau, a fellow teacher at St. Pius, organized a GoFundMe web page to help offset costs the family will incur during the surgery. 

“Angelina and her family need help to pay the medical bills,” said Imbleau. “I am a good friend and colleague of Ange. When I was sick nine years ago, she helped lead the charge to help me and my family out. She is a doer. If something needs to be done, or somebody needs help, she is the first to step up. Now, she needs us to step up for her.” 

The campaign as of Nov. 12 has raised $56,000 with a goal of $125,000 from more than 500 donors. Imbleau himself raised $6,562 from 62 donations. 

“Angelina is an amazing person,” said Imbleau. “She cares for everybody, even when it’s not easy to do so. She’s compassionate and understanding and highly intelligent with an incredible memory. Ange cares deeply for her friends, colleagues, family and neighbours. And she does so quietly. All of this attention regarding her illness and the GoFundMe has been difficult for her.” 

Numerous fundraisers have also been held including a 3-Pitch softball tournament, bake sales, raffles and a 50/50 draw. Santaromita Villa feels overwhelmed with the support from her family, friends and colleagues.

“We are so incredibly blessed to have such wonderful support from our local community in Carleton Place, from my work family at St. Pius X and (the school board) and from the touch football community that I’ve been an active member of for almost 25 years. People have been so amazing.” 

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