Meet 'Super Cal': South Jersey superhero run benefits child battling cancer

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Saturday, April 8, 2023
South Jersey superhero run benefits child battling cancer
2-year-old Callen McDonnell has inspired an entire community of runners to lace up and help him beat cancer!

PENNSAUKEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "We actually called him 'Super Cal' since he was born," said Tori Sarlo of Mullica Hill about her son. "This just enhanced his superpowers."

2-year-old Callen McDonnell was diagnosed with leukemia following a series of blood tests and emergency room visits during the winter of 2022-2023.

"Hearing that he had cancer, I didn't really know how to react," said Sarlo. "The only question I really asked was, is he going to die?"

Meanwhile, friends, family, and even strangers came out to show support for Cal. A local business, Genova Pizza, is even featuring him on their pizza boxes and donating a portion of proceeds to the family.

And when the news reached Lianne Maloney, a member of the Run856 group, another great idea was born.

"We meet here every Saturday morning anyway, let's meet up and dressed as superheroes and run around and just send pictures to Cal and his family," said Maloney. "It turned into a huge fundraising event for him and showing his family like, hey, we're in this fight with you."

Runners gathered at Cooper River Park today dressed as Iron Man, Super Man, and more to show their support and raise funds for the family. Their contributions helped to elevate the total on a pre-existing GoFundMe page to over $64,000.

"It's overwhelming in the best possible way, I guess, with just how supportive and how much people have come together for this kid," said Cal's father, Ryan McDonnell. "And most of them don't even know him."

As for the future, Cal's family is feeling hopeful. His number of rounds of treatment has been reduced, the need for a bone marrow transplant has been avoided, he is in remission, and he will soon become a big brother.

And now, he has a whole extended family of super friends to fall back on.

"We've just seen so much good in this world in two months that it really does give you a lot of hope," said Tori Sarlo. "There are good people out there."

RELATED: South Jersey students chop hair to support kids battling cancer

Students at Folsom school cut or shaved their hair to raise more than $31,000 for pediatric cancer research!