As researchers look for ways to fight autism, one South Philadelphia boy is raising awareness in his own way. At the age of five Santino Stagliano was diagnosed with autism. Now, ten years old, Stantino expresses his creativity by drawing dragons on t-shirts to raise money for autism awareness in hope of other children battling this disorder to “find their own dragon”.
“Santino was just having a tough time with him being autistic and being bullied a little bit not fitting into the school. He always communicated through dragons,” Lisa Stagliano said. “He did a few shirts when he was little. WE suggested that he do some more just to make him feel better. And I posted it. And the next day it just went crazy. Everybody wanted to buy one.”
Over 2000 dragon shirts requested by people in 47 states.
“If he was angry he would make an angry dragon. If he was sad he would make a sad dragon. This is the way he communicated for such a long time. And when people really started to like them and expect that…he started to come out of his shell,” Lisa Stagliano said.
Helping Santino out of his shell, and his awareness campaign are the Mummers. With a fancy brigade charity softball game, a clambake with the South Philadelphia String Band and a serenade from the Fralinger String Band.
“The mummers have made Satino feel accepted in his own skin. You can’t give a better gift then that when you make someone feel like they belong,” Lisa Stagliano said.
“How do you thank these guys? How do you thank these people. They have hearts so big. They don’t hurt anybody. They do nothing but help. I don’t know how you thank them. I don’t know how you thank them,” Mario Stagliano said.
Santino’s Dragon Drawings Inc: http://santinosdragon.myshopify.com
By: David Grzybowski/ PHL17