Naugatuck, Ansonia unite for Roman

Roman Santiago, left, is pictured with his mother, Kellie German Santiago, before the Naugatuck-Ansonia girls basketball game that was played in his honor Jan. 22 in Ansonia.-KEVIN ROBERTS/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

ANSONIA — The Ansonia and Naugatuck girls basketball teams played for more than just a victory last Wednesday night.

The Chargers and Greyhounds played for Roman Santiago, a 4-year-old Ansonia boy who is battling an extremely rare form of cancer called embroyonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

Santiago, who has a twin sister named Luci, had surgery Nov. 7. The surgery removed 90% of the tumor, but he will need chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The Ansonia and Naugatuck communities came together to support the Santiagos, including Roman’s mother, Kellie German Santiago. Brother, sister and mother were introduced to the crowd before the game, and there were plenty of cheers and tears.

Ansonia coach Vince DellaVolpe said Patty Crisante, mother to Ansonia players Jayda and Jojo Sanchez, helped organize the event, along with Gina Rummo Diaz and Ansonia assistant coach Natalie Ramadanovic.

There were a plethora of red shirts on players before the game and in the stands that read #ROMANSTRONG on the front of them in white capital lettering.

“It turned out to be an unbelievable event,” DellaVolpe said. “It was great for the community, having Naugatuck be a part of it was great. The parents just did a great job.”

Naugatuck coach Gail Cheney, who was contacted by Crisante via Facebook, was more than willing to have her team be a part of it.

“As a team and a community, we got over $350 in cash and donations, and we got toys and stuff put together,” Cheney said. “Which just shows you that the NVL is not just Ansonia and Naugatuck. We’re a family. Yeah, we may go at it on the court, but when it comes down to the bigger picture. There was not a dry eye in the house.”

The lack of dry eyes continued when Roman and Luci Santiago came onto the court with the Ansonia and Naugatuck teams, which entered the court together. Players on both teams were wearing the red #ROMANSTRONG shirts.

Luci ran alongside the Greyhounds while Ramadanovic carried Roman as she came out with the Chargers.

A GoFundMe account is setup online at to support Roman’s road to recovery. People can search “Roman’s Journey” to find the account and donate.