Dan Santillo Story

Dan_-_Close_Up

Dan Santillo was an energetic 21-year-old with a bright future and a two-month-old daughter when he was hit by a car outside his Gates home in 1990. Dan's wife, Kris, will never forget the initial shock. "They had to revive him in the ambulance," remembers Kris. "Being in that emergency room with his whole family, and hearing that he probably wasn't going to make it through the night…They weren't even going to do surgery to fix his bones because they didn't think he was going to make it."

Dan made it through. He suffered a massive brain injury and spent three months in a coma. When he woke up, it was to a new life – one filled with rehabilitation and endurance, supported by unending love from his family. Over the next 17 years, Dan received help from two programs supported by United Way's Community Fund. Initially, it was intense physical therapy through Rochester Rehabilitation. More recently, Dan got help from its Employment Connection program. "I surprised everyone," says Dan. Kris adds, "He surprised a lot of people…going from being in a wheelchair for years, to his cane, to just walking independently. And then he finally was able to get a job. We couldn't have done it alone."

Today, Dan works at Wegmans in the Latta Road deli department. He has served as an inspiration not only to people who know him personally, but also to those who have met him on the pages of the book Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body and Soul, where his story has been shared. "I've worked with Dan for four years," says Jennifer Porter, a co-worker at Wegmans. "Everything about him brings such a lightness to the department. And with everything he has had to overcome, he encourages everyone here to put their "A" game forth."

Excerpted from United Way Real Time Magazine, 2008