It was a sea of green last Friday afternoon as students, faculty and community members packed the gymnasium at Farmingdale High School for the homecoming pep rally. But one special person in attendance had everyone in the crowd cheering when she came to center court.
Four-year-old Bella Inzerillo and her family were recognized, along with Bella’s special teammates in her cancer fight — Farmingdale’s varsity girls lacrosse team.
In March 2017, Bella contracted a sinus infection. After a few days of sporadic vomiting, she was taken to the emergency room to undergo tests. One day later, Bella was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a highly malignant brain tumor and one of the most common types found in children, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website. She required immediate surgery to remove it.
Six cycles of chemotherapy, three stem cell transplants and a few rounds of radiation later, Bella continues to fight for her life.
After the news of Bella’s story spread, faculty from the school district, where Bella’s mom, Michelle Inzerillo, was a teacher and alumna, reached out to offer support. The girls lacrosse team celebrated Bella’s birthday last January. “No One Fights Alone” became the theme for the team’s season.
Bella was granted the team’s legacy number — 6 — and was named an honorary member, even receiving a Dalers uniform and gear. She hasn’t missed a game since.
Tracy Wiener, who has coached the varsity girls lacrosse team at Farmingdale for 27 years, said she is extremely proud of how her players came together to help Bella.
“I believe there is more to being on a team than just x’s and o’s,” she said. “These girls represent the high school and their town and they need to know that everyone, including young children, looks up to them. The girls play for Bella because we believe that no one should have to fight alone.”
Bella and her family received a citation from state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) to mark how brave they’ve been in their cancer fight, while lacrosse team members stood by in support.
“Her strength really inspires us,” said Olivia Mott, 17, a senior on the team. “Whenever we play, we know it’s not always about winning but about the real things in life that are much more important, like helping Bella and her family.”
Michelle Inzerillo said that while her daughter isn’t disease-free, she hasn’t lost any of her main functions, like hearing or sight, and can take steps with a walker. She is staying positive about Bella’s future and envisions it in Farmingdale.
“What the entire community has done for us is incredible,” Inzerillo said. “Bella is learning what it really means to be a Daler, and to have her hopefully one day go to this high school and see all the people who really care about her, makes me feel proud and honored.”