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Dana Ventetuolo, Founder

Dana Ventetuolo was born and raised in R.I. She graduated from CCRI and RIC with a degree in nursing after which she worked briefly on an adult Hematology/ Oncology unit before transitioning into Emergency Medicine where she still currently works as an RN. Although Dana had many interests and loves that she pursued both professionally and passionately over the past 20 years, her life only really began on August 11, 2013 - the day her beautiful son Nico was born. She affectionately referred to him as "baby bird."

Dana dedicated her life as a single mom to Nico while maintaining a career as a nurse. When Nico was unexpectedly diagnosed with SCID in early 2015, Dana's role changed once again to full time caregiver as well. She focused all of her time and attention on Nico's care, moving to Boston during his extensive hospitalization. After Nico passed away in 2016, Dana vowed to dedicate her future to helping other pediatric patients and their families in need, the same way she was helped. She's committed to honoring Nico daily, keeping his memory alive by establishing a foundation in his name that will provide support to others. Dana continues to support organizations like The Tomorrow Fund and The Jimmy

Fund where Nico had been a patient. She plans to return to school to earn her Masters degree in both Nursing and Social work with a focus on palliative pediatric care.

Liz Jackson

Liz Grew up in Hopkinton, RI and moved to West Warwick when she got married. She started working at Kent Hospital, in the Emergency Department, in 2004.

A student at CCRI and URI, Liz has loved helping children her entire life. She met Dana while working with her at Kent hospital.

Liz fell in love with Nico before he was born. Before his first bone marrow transplant she could often be found reading to or playing with race cars in the courtyard of Boston Children’s Hospital with Nico (or as she simply calls him “the boy”). Throughout Nico's hospitalizations Liz was a constant source of strength and support, organizing multiple fundraisers to help benefit Dana and Nico. Her mission while he was sick was to make sure that enough funds were raised so that he and Dana could remain in their home.

Her sincere hope is to help young adults further their education and do it in honor of “The Boy”. Liz brings outstanding communication and outreach skills that will undoubtedly help the foundation succeed in achieving its mission.

Jen Schaffran

Jenn Schaffran grew up in West Warwick, RI. She currently lives in Coventry with her husband Matthew and two beautiful children Emma and Lukas. Jenn received her ASN degree in Nursing from CCRI in 2008. She is currenty pursuing her BSN at RIC.

Jenn works as an RN in the emergency room at Kent Hospital, where she first met Dana. Throughout Nico's long hospitalizations, Jenn was an amazing source of strength and support. She was one of the first and frequent visitors to help ease Dana and Nico into the hospital environment, helping decorate Nico's hospital room on 9 South.

Back home, she took the lead in organizing multiple fundraising events, something she has a natural talent for, to help support Dana and Nico over months of prolonged treatment and hospitalizations as he awaited transplant. Jenn is an exceptionally gifted and natural born leader possessing both strong organizational and creative qualities that has allowed her to help so many. It's no surprise that she is one of the organizers of the Kent Hospital Sunshine Club which helps support other employees who are undergoing challenging circumstances. Jenn is devoted to her family and helping others in need. She is honored to have this opportunity to provide help to other children like Nico as well as their families.

Dennis J. Ventetuolo

Dennis is Nico's uncle and godfather, affectionately known as "Uncle D". He grew up in Johnston, RI and currently resides in Cranston. He received a B.S in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Rhode Island in 1999 and an M.S in Information Systems from Bryant University in 2007.

He cherishes the time he spent with Nico and the lessons this amazing little boy taught him. During Nico's fight he witnessed firsthand the amazing acts of kindness and support from people who had never even met Dana or Nico. He is inspired and humbled to be a part of Nico's Tree to help provide similar support for other families coping with pediatric illness.

Marissa A. Ventetuolo, Esq.

Marissa is Nico's cousin and a Rhode Island native. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Providence College in 2009. She earned her Juris Doctor from Roger Williams University School of Law in 2014, and is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She has experience in multiple areas of law, including corporate compliance of complex financial entities. Marissa is devoted to her family and is honored to be a part of a foundation that raises awareness and financial support for those who are struggling with pediatric illnesses, in memory of sweet Nico.

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