CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Dominic Altobelli always knew the University of Illinois was like a second home to him.
“I think when you play for the University of Illinois, you become part of the family forever,” Altobelli said.
When head coach Dan Hartleb called him about a fundraiser to benefit the hospital that saved his daughters’ lives, he knew it was a special place.
“[Hartleb] had reached out and he mentioned that we do the Honor and Serve game every year and he said that this year he would love to support the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” Altobelli said. “It was all Coach Hartleb and just really grateful he reached out to us.”
The former Illinois baseball player had conjoined twins back in November 2020. The babies shared a diaphragm and liver, and it made breathing difficult for the girls. The family moved to Philadelphia for 13 months to prepare for a surgery to separate the twins. After a 10 hour surgery, Dominic and Maggie Altobelli’s daughters were taken apart for the first time.
“Best feeling in the world. It’s indescribable and very emotional,” Altobelli said.
“It was super emotional, very high risk surgery,” Maggie Altobelli said. “We never knew what was going to happen and we gave it to God and the surgeons. Still to this day we owe everything to them.”
After over a year of not knowing if their girls would make it, they get to finally enjoy being a family.
“It’s one day at a time. We’re still working a lot with the girls on trach care and different things that they need to learn to do, like crawl and walk and just be a normal kid,” Maggie Altobelli said. “We’ve seen the good in people throughout this whole process, whether we’re in a hospital or not. It’s super special to have my family all together, not in the hospital, and just enjoying the baseball game for the first time.”
“We had no clue what our outcome was going to be, just think now 6 months later from them being separated that we’re here crawling around an Illinois baseball stadium grass, getting on the field, smiling at everybody, it’s awesome,” Altobelli said.
The fundraiser raised over $8,000. The Altobelli’s say they’re grateful to help give back to the hospital, that gave them so much.