By MADDY VITALE
Frankie LaSasso doesn’t think about the fact that he has cancer. There are times when the 7-year-old Hammonton boy wants to play the sport he loves most — baseball–but he can’t because he has to go for chemo treatments.
Then there are times, most times, when Frankie does play baseball for the Hammonton Little League team. And at all times, his father, assistant coach for Ocean City High School’s varsity baseball and football teams Frank LaSasso says Frankie never complains or asks why he has T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Instead, the little boy goes to his games, plays with his 6-year-old brother, Gino, cheers on his dad as a coach of a team heading into the state finals and his grandfather who coaches softball for Hammonton High School.
“Yesterday, Frankie received three rounds of chemotherapy and all he wanted to do when we got done was go to my dad’s state semi-final game,” LaSasso said Wednesday of little Frankie wanting to see his poppy coach. “The last thing he wanted to do was lay around.”
On Dec. 7, 2020, Frank and Tiffany LaSasso received their son’s diagnosis, which translated into fears, sadness, a lot of trips to the doctors and the most heartbreaking aspect, watching their little boy go through something difficult for anyone – at any age – to handle.
But not Frankie, his father, who is also an Ocean City Intermediate School math teacher, said.
“He receives weekly chemotherapy treatments and has done so since his diagnosis,” LaSasso explained. “But he continues to play. He played two games a week from about Easter to the beginning of June for his Little League team.”
Nothing seems to stop Frankie.
“My wife and I are so proud of Frankie and how he has handled the situation. There is still no negativity from him. He never questions why this is happening to him,” he said. “He is more like this is what life is now, and this is what I need to do to get through it.”
Frankie’s strength and resiliency may come from growing up with strong family figures. But no one in the family seems to even come close to Frankie’s toughness, LaSasso said of his son.
“My grandfather was a United States Marine named Frank Lassao. Everyone called him Moose,” LaSasso said of his grandfather who died in November of 2020.
The late LaSasso was a longtime Hammonton police officer and coach of youth sports.
“The last 35 years of his life were plagued by health issues and most others wouldn’t have made it,” LaSasso recalled. “People would say he was the toughest. Now Frankie is giving him a run for his money. We are all tough, but Frankie is tougher.”
When Frankie was diagnosed with cancer, his maternal grandparents started a GoFundMe page in his name to help offset medical expenses.
They met their goal.
“We have had a ton of support from the Ocean City and Hammonton communities. We are just extremely thankful and humbled by all of the support that has been given for Frankie,” he pointed out.
The plan is to donate a portion of the funds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and later, find a childhood cancer foundation to give to to help others like Frankie.
Throughout the journey, LaSasso said the Ocean City Red Raiders baseball team has shown tremendous support for Frankie.
“The team has just embraced Frankie and made him a part of the team. They wanted to include him in their pictures,” he said. “As someone who has coached two sports for many years at Ocean City High School, you pour everything you have into coaching,” LaSasso noted.
This Saturday the team heads into the state Group III Championship game.
“When players have an opportunity to reciprocate the love you give to them, it is the ultimate victory as a coach. You coach for wins, but ultimately, it is about the bonds you form with players that you hope last a lifetime,” LaSasso emphasized. “This year the players have really shown appreciation for the coaches and I think it is because of how much they love Frankie.”
Tuesday marked the beginning of a nine-week phase of chemotherapy for Frankie. He will receive chemo once a week at a minimum and sometimes more frequent.
The treatments will continue until mid-August when it will go to once a month.
“That is where we go monthly and not nearly as intense and April 2023 it will finish,” he said. “We are far from finished, but as far as intense chemo and frequent visits we are at the beginning of the end.”