Gia Rodriguez is a 3-year-old girl from Elmsford, N.Y. She has been diagnosed with multiple genetic disorders and has very weak muscle strength that necessitates the use of a brace. Gia requires a gastrostomy tube for feeding and she also has difficulty communicating. Since birth, Gia has had to undergo multiple surgeries and, as a result, Gia has not been able to visit Italy where the majority of her family lives. But on Gia’s third birthday, her mom, Valentina, decided that they would finally make the trip.
Once they arrived, Gia and her parents visited Rome to attend a mass being held by Pope Francis. According to Valentina, there were over 140,000 people in attendance waiting to see the Pope. “We got into a corner and waited,” said Valentina. “Of course, when people saw that I had to G-tube Gia a few feeds, they started asking questions and even one of the guards that was walking around starting talking to us … he said he was going to try to do his best to have [the Pope’s security] see Gia and hopefully have her chosen [to be brought up to Pope Francis].”
Gia’s mom said that she had a feeling that her daughter would get picked to receive a blessing from Pope Francis and the next thing she knew, one of the Pope’s guards lifted Gia from her father’s arms and brought her to the Pope. “When the Pope grabbed and kissed my little Gia, I was filled with so much joy; my whole family was crying, everyone around us was crying and hugging us,” Valentina said.
And not only did Gia get picked up to receive a blessing from the Pope once, but twice.
“It’s already a miracle on its own, but twice?!” Valentina said. “I felt like God was right next to my shoulder that day and literally touched my soul and for a moment gave me peace and reassurance that my Gia was going to be okay and better yet, that she was here for a reason. She has a purpose and she is a true miracle.”
Gia began attending the White Plains campus of the John A. Coleman School for early intervention services in the summer of 2013. She then transitioned into our pre-kindergarten program this past fall, where she presently receives a comprehensive program of special education, physical, occupational and speech therapy. At the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Gia receives aquatic therapy in our state-of-the-
According to Dr. Maria A. Pici, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center’s Medical Director, “[Valentina]
About the John A. Coleman School
The John A. Coleman School, with campuses in White Plains and Yonkers, provides community and center-based special education and therapeutic programs to children from birth to 21 years of age from over 50 school districts in Westchester, Putnam, the Bronx and Manhattan. The Yonkers Campus serves the residents of the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center, a nationally recognized pediatric long term care facility. The Coleman School has been recognized for the last six years as a School of Excellence by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) and is regionally known for its comprehensive evaluation component, early intervention services and inclusive nursery school, Children’s Place. The Coleman School serves over 900 children and their families. Learn more about the John A. Coleman School at setonpediatric.org/
About the Children’s Rehabilitation Center
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Inc. is an outpatient pediatric diagnostic and treatment center providing services to nearly 4,000 children with developmental disabilities annually, ages birth to 21, who reside in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Duchess and Orange Counties and the Bronx. Comprehensive arrays of medical and rehabilitative services are provided to children with complex medical diagnoses. Many of our children use wheelchairs, walkers and/or communication devices. Visit the Children’s Rehabilitation Center online at setonpediatric.org/