Fundraiser planned for Whitestone baby with rare genetic condition

Stevie Skaats with his grandfather this Christmas.
Photo Courtesy Maria Cotty
By Gina Martinez

A Whitestone restaurant is hosting a fundraiser Tuesday to help a local baby with a rare genetic condition.

Luigi Forte, who just last month opened his Italian restaurant, Buona Forchetta, at 168-68 Ninth Ave., reached out to the family of 7-month-old Stevie Skaats and offered help as soon as he saw Stevie’s story on a We Love Whitestone Facebook page.

“When I read about the situation with the baby, I thought, everybody deserves a chance to live,” Forte said.

Forte spoke to Stevie’s mother, Ann, who said she was more than happy for Forte to hold an event.

“After I met the mother, we set everything up,” Forte said. “I’ve been passing around fliers and spreading the word on Facebook. We’re not exactly sure how many people are coming; 20 people have confirmed, but we’re expecting at least 40.”

Stevie Skaats was born with a rare, debilitating genetic disease that has forced him to spend almost 150 days in the hospital. Parents Ann and Steve, lifelong Whitestone residents, were able to bring Stevie home, but according to Stevie’s grandmother Maria Cotty, the family is preparing for another trip to the hospital in the coming weeks.

In November, Stevie’s aunt April Leavy started a GoFundMe page that has raised has already raised more than $20,000 of its $50,000 goal. On the fundraising page, Leavy wrote that the family is thrilled to have Stevie home again, but expenses are piling up.

“Along with Stevie came a host of medical equipment for breathing and eating as well as the requirement for in-home care by a registered nurse for 20 hours per day,” she wrote. “Ann had to stop working to keep up with Stevie’s care and coordination of an upcoming medical stay in Canada.”

Stevie’s grandmother said the outpouring of support from the community since the page went up has been incredible. Over the holidays, Ann wanted Stevie to see Santa, and the community immediately helped them with getting a Santa suit for her husband to dress up in. The grandmother said that Stevie especially took to the white beard and that it was uplifting for the family to have that moment.

The fundraising is greatly helping with medical costs, she said. Stevie is set to travel for an evaluation in about two weeks.

The restaurant will donate 75 percent of its earnings to the family. The fundraiser will offer a four-course meal with live music for $100 per person. To RSVP for the event, call (718) 767-2000.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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