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Since her birth a year and a half ago, Ryan Dempster’s daughter Riley has had a tougher road than most. Diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion – or DiGeorge Syndrome – she has trouble eating and swallowing normally, and has already had tracheostomy and gastric tubes inserted to help her eat and drink.

And Riley isn’t alone in fighting this disorder. That’s why Ryan Dempster and his family have led the cause of generating awareness of, and fundraising dollars for, the diagnosis and treatment of DiGeorge syndrome.

In its first year, the Dempsters’ foundation raised more than $450,000 through its fundraisers and granted $185,600 to charitable organizations working with families of children with 22q as well as to local Chicagoland charities.

The list of events included the first Casino Night and Concert held in July at the House of Blues in Chicago. In August, about 200 people attended a fundraiser at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in Chicago. Also in August, more than 200 people took part in the “Slow and Steady 22q Walk” in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

The Candyality candy-maker has donated $1 per pound of its Cubbie Gummie Bears to the Foundation. The Loyola men’s basketball team joined the fight, and on Dec. 11, $1 from the sale of each ticket for the Ramblers’ game against Kansas State plus sales from a raffle were donated to the foundation.

The Cubs players rallied around Dempster to create a cookbook with their favorite recipes. The book is available on Cubs.com, and proceeds go to Dempster’s foundation. Dempster said a woman at a nearby sushi restaurant recently asked for 50 copies to give as holiday gifts.

D’Agostino’s Pizza and Pub, located near Wrigley Field on Addison Street, donates $1 to the foundation for every pizza purchased on the 22nd of each month. The restaurant has hosted two fundraisers for the Dempsters’ foundation, including one Dec. 10 that was attended by Ted Lilly and Kerry Wood. Ryan Dempster likes to order D’Agostino’s chicken parmesan on the nights before he pitches for the Cubs. cubs.com.

It certainly makes you appreciate your family this holiday season.

We all wish continued success to the Dempster’s foundation, and to the growth and development of Riley, and other children with DiGeorge syndrome. To learn more, or to see how you can help, visit the Dempster Family Foundation web site.

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