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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 7 years ago

Roller derby bout fundraises for autistic girl, stem cell treatment


A charity roller derby at Skate and Shake raised money for Marilyn Garofalo, 6, who was diagnosed with autism three years ago.


Mothers will do a lot to help their children. Some will even resort to violence.

Heather Garofalo, of Daytona Beach, is that type of mother. She, along with 40 other roller derby skaters from around the state, gathered Sunday, Feb. 10, at Skate and Shake, 250 N. U.S. 1,  to raise money for her 6-year-old daughter, Marilyn, who was diagnosed with autism three years ago.

Proceeds from the Dare To Be Different charity bout paid for Marilyn to receive stem cell treatments in Kiev, Ukraine, which cost approximately $16,000. After her first treatment, Garofalo said her daughter showed nearly immediate improvements.

“Derby is a tight community,” said Tom Iacuzio, the event’s organizer. “We’re basically helping one of our own. ... You can look at that little girl and see where the money is going.”

But Garofalo is relatively new to the derby community. She joined the Palm Coast Roller Derby team about a year ago, after Marilyn received her first stem cell treatment. She needed a hobby, she says, to reduce stress and worry.

The derby team competes in Ormond Beach.

Before her first treatment, Marilyn struggled with talking, Garofalo says. She only spoke a word or two every six months. But now, she speaks every day. It's progress Garofalo notices most before bed, when her daughter says goodnight to her.

Marilyn is also more aware of herself and her surroundings now, and Garofalo feels like the “sky’s the limit" when it comes to stem cell treatments, a method she calls her daughter's "last hope."

Iacuzio said Palm Coast Roller Derby does about one or two annual charity events, which usually raise between $1,000 and $1,500. But before the Dare To Be Different bout even began, $1,000 had been counted, and Iacuzio was hoping they would reach $4,000.

The buzz surrounding the bout was so great, in fact, that Iacuzio says 40 competition slots were filled in the first 45 minutes following its announcement.

The line to get into the Skate and Shake stretched out the door, as fans waited to get in. For a donation, participants could control everything about their bouts, from the makeup of teams to rule changes.

“This is massive,” Iacuzio said. “There was so much work that was involved in this bout.”


Help Marilyn receive a second stem cell treatment by donating at

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