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Amica gives nine-year-old hospital patient Amica Game Ball

07/02/2012

LINCOLN, RI – Nine-year-old Anthony DiSpena of Reading went to his first Boston Celtics game on Sunday, courtesy of Amica Insurance. He received an autographed basketball from Boston Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn, was courtside as Celtics star Kevin Garnett warmed up and got to watch the game from a luxury box at center court.

But his favorite part of the experience was the “noise meter” – an interactive feature on the video scoreboard that’s used to encourage the fans to cheer louder. Anthony did his share of cheering, as well. “This is awesome,” he declared, as the Boston Celtics beat the Memphis Grizzlies 98 to 80.

Anthony, a patient at Children’s Hospital Boston, and his father, Sal DiSpena, attended the game on Sunday as guests of the Amica Game Ball program, through which Amica Insurance has donated $140,000 to Children’s Hospital Boston over the past four seasons.

Amica Insurance also donates balls autographed by Heinsohn to patients at Children’s Hospital Boston during each of the home games featured on Comcast SportsNet New England during the year.

Anthony received the extra honor of being invited to a Celtics game to personally receive his ball from Heinsohn. After meeting the 6-foot-7 Heinsohn, Anthony declared, “I felt very small.”

But Anthony was standing tall at the game on Sunday, and he earned the admiration of those he met when they learned of his ordeal. Anthony was born on Feb. 26, 2002, with spina bifida, which means his spine wasn’t completely formed. He had his first surgery when he was just one day old, and he’s had six additional operations since.

One of the effects of his spina bifida was an under-developed bladder, so he was involved in a landmark medical procedure through which doctors at the hospital used Anthony’s own cells to grow the tissue to create a new bladder that was surgically implanted. He had his last operation five years ago, but has to return to the hospital every six months for follow-up appointments.

He’s otherwise a fairly typical nine-year-old: He lives with his parents, Sal and Nicole, and his 12-year-old sister, Alana, and 2-year-old brother, A.J. He attends fourth grade at the Barrows Elementary School in Reading. He plays soccer and loves to ski. He told Heinsohn his favorite subject is science, which impressed Heinsohn. “Are you going to help us get to Venus someday?” he asked.

Sal DiSpena said they were thrilled when Children’s Hospital Boston called to invite them to Sunday’s game. Anthony wore his Celtics shirt with No. 34, in honor of his favorite player, Paul Pierce, and sported a new Celtics hat as well. They enjoyed a tour of TD Bank North Garden, which included sitting in the court-side seats during warm-ups for both teams. They met with Heinsohn and were filmed by Comcast SportsNet New England, and later watched the game from the CSNNE luxury box at center court.

Sal DiSpena said he was grateful for Amica’s support of Children’s Hospital Boston, saying that it’s donations from companies like Amica that have helped fund the research and clinical trials that have benefited his son. But Sunday, he was most grateful for the opportunity to take his son to his first-ever Celtics game. “He’s having a great time,” Sal DiSpena said.

About Amica

Amica Mutual Insurance Company, the nation's oldest mutual insurer of automobiles, was founded in 1907. The company, with corporate headquarters in Lincoln, RI, is a national writer of automobile, homeowners, marine and personal umbrella liability insurance. Life coverage is available through Amica Life Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary. Amica employs more than 3,100 people in 40 offices across the country.

CONTACT:Vince Burks, Corporate Communications, 50 Amica Way,

Lincoln, RI 02865-1155, 800-652-6422, ext. 24563

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