Sterling, Va. — Sports have always been a part of the relationship Dominion High School rising senior Mario Canestraro and his mother Jennifer have had. As a sports marketer, Jennifer always brought athletics to her household, and a young Mario instantly became hooked.
“Her career in sports marketing made our household very athletic based; if we weren’t working on school work, we were out in the yard playing any sport,” Mario said. “When I was young she allowed me to play three sports a year, so I could find the sport that I really wanted to play, which turned out to be baseball.”
Mario chose baseball, and the sport rewarded him, as he’s blossomed into a starting pitcher and strong hitter for the Titans’ baseball team over the last two seasons. At every one of his games, from Little League to Dominion, one constant has remained true: Jennifer Canestraro in the stands, cheering on her son.
“She has been to every game I’ve ever played, and I always look at her after I score or get a hit and she gives me a thumbs up or a smile,” Mario said. “It makes my game so much better knowing I have someone to play for.”
Two years ago, however, Mario and Jennifer’s worlds were flipped upside down after Jennifer suffered a stroke. Everything changed on that day.
“My initial reaction was frustration but the full effects of what happened didn’t really hit me at the time,” Mario said. “I was in shock.”
Jennifer was moved to an assisted living facility, where she and Mario are still able to connect.
“It means a lot to me that I’m still able to see her every week, because we both know that she is very lucky to be alive,” Mario said. “I go visit her when I have a bad day, and I need to someone to cheer me up, because I’m her favorite thing in the world.”
Jennifer is still able to go to his baseball games, offering him the same support she did before the stroke. Going to the games is one of the few activities she is able to partake in outside of her room and is one of the brightest spots in her day.
“Watching my games is her favorite thing in the world to do. She lives and breathes baseball,” Mario said. “When she isn’t at my games, she is at home watching her Nationals play. I would say baseball means the world to her.”
While she loves attending Mario’s games, the cost of the assisted living facility has taken a toll on Jennifer’s finances, as she will be unable to stay in her current facility and moved onto Medicaid in a few months, away from Sterling and away from her son.
Unbeknownst to Jennifer, a group of her and Mario’s friends have decided to help. They started a GoFundMe page, trying to raise the necessary funds to keep Jennifer near Mario for his senior year of high school.
“I am absolutely shocked about the early success of the GoFundMe,” Mario said. “I didn’t know there was that many people out there that cared about me and mom like this.”
Here is the link to anyone who wishes to donate to keep Jennifer close to her son until he goes to college. The funds will be used to pay for the living cost at Jennifer’s assisted living facility and speech therapy.
Assistance is needed quickly, as Jennifer will be placed on Medicare in July, making this an urgent matter.
“My mother is the most independent caring person and would do anything to help everyone that showed her respect. She always took care of the people she loved and knew. It hurts to see someone with such a great heart have such a tragic event like this,” Mario said. “She always told me ‘we don’t have a long time on this earth, so we have to make the most of what we have.’ This quote is why I love her so much. She is the strongest person I know.”