Weathering the storm

3600 block of Almond Street renamed “Storm the Heavens Way” in honor of Philomena Stendardo to raise awareness about DIPG

The 3600 block of Almond Street was renamed “Storm the Heavens Way” on Wednesday afternoon. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Philomena Stendardo’s memory and her ability to bring together the people of Port Richmond and beyond were forever eternalized on what would have been her ninth birthday.
The 3600 block of Almond Street was renamed “Storm the Heavens Way” in honor of the 8-year-old Port Richmond girl who succumbed to diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) on July 23, 10 months after she was initially diagnosed.
Despite no longer battling the disease, “Bean’s” fight is inspiring the next chapter in the “Storm the heavens,” movement, with the message remaining steadfast: Don’t stop.
Those were the words Mina Carroll, Philomena’s mother, spoke first when she addressed the crowd of neighbors, school students, family and friends, who wore orange sweatshirts with the phrase, “Pray Like Phil” on the front during the official street renaming ceremony.
“Don’t stop,” Carroll said, “Don’t stop praying. We used to pray for a miracle for Phil, but now we pray for a cure. We pray that God puts us in front of whomever it is who can make this happen. Because there is someone out there who can make this 0 percent a thing of the past.”

The Stendardo family listens as Councilman Bobby Henon and Councilman Mark Squilla read the resolution renaming Almond Street in honor of Philomena Stendardo. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

Currently, the five-year survival rate for children diagnosed with DIGP is less than 1 percent, with the overall average of survival being 9 months.
Carroll called on the crowd to raise awareness.
“Everyone, every day, tell someone new about DIPG,” she said, “because awareness leads to funding, and funding leads to research, and research will lead to a cure.”
Councilman Bobby Henon and Councilman Mark Squilla read the city resolution, officially renaming the street.
“Today is a sad, but very special day in a positive way in renaming a street here that we can remember a very special child and how the community can come together to raise awareness for a cancer that doesn’t get the funding that it deserves,” Henon said. “For the community to come together and start raising money, it was a shock to me that this type of pediatric cancer wasn’t receiving the funding it deserves. And, it is our pledge, to help raise awareness and raise money moving forward in [Philomena’s honor].”
Squilla commended the Stendardo family for their perseverance.
“When you have a family that has such a tragic loss, but is still willing to stand here and put themselves on the line to help others, it says a lot about the people we are here talking about today,” Squilla said. “As we read this resolution to rename the street, know that it’s just the start.”
The resolution recalled the phrase which the Stendardo family and Port Richmond community relied on throughout “Bean’s” battle, a phrase that called for prayers.
“Whereas, ‘Storms the Heavens’ has become a rallying cry to the residents of Port Richmond neighborhood and beyond for their combined fight and research study on diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, the most devastating cancer diagnosis in existence,” Henon read.
The resolution also referenced statistics on the cancer.
“Whereas DIPG has a 0 percent survival rate, whereas research for treatments for DIPG have not changed in over 50 years because of lack of funding,” Squilla read.
Aside from bringing awareness to the disease, the resolution preserves Philomena’s memory, remembering her as “a one-of-a-kind, spunky, little firecracker who was an exceptional athlete, loved school and playing with her friends, but her favorite role was being an exceptional little sister to Marky, who showed her love more than anyone else.”
Marky Stendardo stood under the newly installed “Storm the Heavens Way” street sign with his mother and father, Mark Stendardo, as dozens of residents encircled the intersection.
Carroll concluded the ceremony with another appeal to the crowd.
“Let’s do this. We have a moral obligation to save our kids because no one else has done it up until this point. It’s our turn,” Carroll said. “Our ultimate goal is that 0 percent is a thing of the past and that kids who are diagnosed with DIPG have hope because now, there is no hope for these kids. We’re told to go home and make memories. It’s unacceptable.”

Storms the Heavens Fund, the nonprofit created by the Stendardo family in honor or Philomena to raise awareness and funds for DIGP, will host its inaugural fundraising event, Bean’s Ball, on March 15. For more information about the organization and the story of Philomena’s life, visit stormtheheavens.org or visit the Storm the Heavens Facebook page.