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National Honoree

Photo of National Honoree Arturo (AJ) Mattia

Arturo (AJ) Mattia

New Jersey

Arturo (AJ) Mattia, 15, of Turnersville, N.J., a freshman at Holy Cross Academy, survived bone cancer and a leg amputation to become a prominent champion for pediatric cancer awareness and fundraising. One day in 2011, AJ fell to the ground at school screaming in pain. The femur in his left leg had suddenly broken, and he soon learned that a cancerous tumor was the cause. "After many months of chemotherapy, several major surgeries, and a leg amputation, I felt like I needed to make a difference in this world of cancer' that I was living in," he said.

AJ knew about well-publicized campaigns for other types of cancer, but never saw anything about childhood cancer. So he set out to have major landmarks in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area lit in gold, the official color of the fight against pediatric cancer, during the month of September, which is Child Cancer Awareness Month. Several Philadelphia buildings, the Ben Franklin Bridge and an Atlantic City casino all took part. Then he partnered with a pediatric cancer foundation to sell gold shoelaces in his hometown, and raised $30,000 with the help of teachers and fellow students. In addition, AJ started his own foundation to "bring the outside world into the lives of patients and their families through technology." He also sits on the board of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and is executive director of an organization that provides wigs to women with cancer and grants wishes to young patients.