Pietro’s Fight Night to raise funds for DMD cure

March 14, 2019 Paula Katinas
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Pietro’s Fight Night Round VII is shaping up to be more exciting than a heavyweight bout in Las Vegas.

Pietro’s Fight is the name of a non-profit organization founded by Dayna and Manni Scarso of Dyker Heights in tribute to their nine-year-old son Pietro, who is waging a brave battle against Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare form of the disease that strikes one in 3,500 boys in the U.S. DMD severely limits a patient’s motor skills. Most patients wind up wheelchair-bound by the time they reach their teens and many die before they reach the age of 30.

Led by the Scarsos, Pietro’s Fight holds a dinner-dance each year to raise money for research into a cure.

This year’s event, the seventh annual Pietro’s Fight Dinner, will take place on March 15 at the El Caribe Country Club in Mill Basin, at 7 p.m.

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Rappers Fatman Scoop and Chubb Rock will perform at the event, which will also feature a silent auction, raffles and an awards presentation.

Lawyer Sal Strazzullo, a friend of the Scarso family, will be presented with the Cure Fighter Award for his efforts to fund research into treatments for the disease. “He has been right there with us from the beginning, helping to raise money and awareness,” Dayna Scarso told the Brooklyn Reporter.

The Ultimate Fighter Award will be given to Nick Raineri, a jeweler who has donated jewelry items as prizes at Pietro’s Fight fundraisers in previous years. “If you talk to anyone about Nick, they will tell you how generous he is,” Scarso said.

Last year, the Pietro’s Fight dinner raised an impressive $150,000. Scarso said she is hoping this year’s event can surpass that total.

Dayna and Manni Scarso have dedicated their lives to finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the disease that hit their son at a young age. Manni is the co-founder of JETS.com, a company sells and rents airplanes. His wife is a homemaker and fundraiser.

Dayna Scarso recalled that Pietro was two years old when she noticed something was wrong. Little Pietro moved much more slowly than his peers in the local playground and had trouble climbing stairs.

It took several trips to doctors before a specialist was able to diagnose the youngster properly.

The news was devastating, but the Scarsos decided to mount a fight for their son’s life.

They formed Pietro’s Fight and began to raise money, not only for research for a cure but to fund experimental treatments in the hope of prolonging patient’s lives.

The couple’s efforts have seen a great deal of success to date. “There are over 12 clinical trials taking place. They could lead to important development of new medications,” Scarso said.

The Scarsos also lobbied Congress to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve new medications to treat DMD.

In 2015, the FDA approved one such medication, Eteplirsen, and Pietro was one of the patients who underwent treatments with the drug. At the tender age of six, Pietro endured frequent trips to the hospital for a series of infusion treatments with the experimental drug.

Scarso said a doctor once told her that if enough money was raised to fund research, “DMD could become just like polio,” she said.

Since its formation, Pietro’s Fight has hosted a variety of fundraisers events, including a “Bump Crash Smash,” a kid-friendly party at an amusement park; “Pietro’s Fight to the Finish Line,” a 5K run/walk; an adult costume party around Halloween and “PJs for PJ,” in which students wear pajamas to school.

In addition to raising money, Pietro’s Fight also works to raise awareness of DMD.

This year, Pietro will turn 10. “We are coming into double digits, which is both exhilarating and scary at the same time,” Scarso told the Brooklyn Reporter.

She is mindful that boys with DMD are usually confined to a wheelchair by the time they are teenagers. “Pietro is still walking, thank God,” she said. “But we continue to work toward a cure because time is of the essence.”

For more information, visit www.pietrosfight.org.

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