‘The ultimate gift’: Fairfield hockey goalie in remission thanks to bone marrow transplant from brother

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we’re grateful for, but this Thanksgiving, no one is more grateful for his brother than Charlie Capalbo.

“I’m very, very thankful for him,” said Charlie.

He went from being a high school kid, the goalie of his hockey team, to fighting for his life — battling cancer, not just once, but twice.

“This time last year we were up at Boston Children’s [Hospital] with no idea what would lie ahead,” said his mother, Jenny Capalbo.

The scary diagnosis was followed by a beacon of hope when his younger brother, Will, was a match for a bone marrow donor.

“That’s the ultimate gift,” said Charlie, “it’s almost hard to fathom.”

Jenny said that when they found out he was a match, she was happy for Charlie but even happier for Will, who wanted to do whatever he could to help his brother.

“The first time Charlie was sick, he felt so helpless,” Capalbo said. “When we found out, we saw his face, we knew it was life-changing for him.” 

Months after the transplant, he’s back on his home rink at Bridgeport’s Wonderland of Ice.

“This rink is like my second home,” said Charlie.

That was the goal that helped him get through it all — making it back onto the ice.

“Laying in that bed and looking down at your feet and not being able to move your toes, it’s kind of scary to think you might not be able to do what you love again,” he said.

It’s what he learned on this ice as a goalie that gave him the mental strength, too.

“It’s definitely one of the most mental positions in any sport,” he said. “I think that helped me on some of the darkest days and on some of the best days, you have to stay levelheaded.

The Capalbo family is also thankful for the people who made them feel at home during their six-month stay at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“It’s very emotional for me,” said Capalbo. “When you’re in the hospital for that long, it’s hard to stay positive. The child life specialists are amazing at keeping you entertained and social.”

This December they’ll celebrate Charlie’s progress while raising money for those child life specialists that made all the difference.

“The better funds they have, the more they can help kids at the most difficult time of their lives,” said Charlie.

The Capalbo Crushed Cancer celebration is at Fairfield Theater Company on Dec. 29.

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