GUILDERLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Three local boys swept the podium at the Boston Sharkfest Swim, but the reason they were there is far more personal than first, second and third.
Four years ago, Michael Ardito dove head first into helping his little sister and that fight hasn’t stopped since.
At first glance, Kati Harrington is like most 7-year-old girls. Her favorite color is pink, and her room is filled with toys and stuffed animals.
But along with her dolls, Kati lives with something else.
“I just have HAE,” she said.
HAE, or hereditary angioedema, causes recurring attacks of severe swelling throughout her body. Her father also has the condition.
“She said she didn’t want me in the room cause she looked like a monster,” Ardito recounted of his sister’s first facial swell in February.
Moments like that intensify his passion for the cause.
The senior Dutchman first started raising money and awareness four years ago by swimming across the Boston Harbor, and every year since, he’s generated more support with the event.
But his efforts now run throughout the year. He’s been invited to meet with Congress twice, and on Monday, he shared his story with the FDA as one of 10 people selected to do so.
“Not everyone knows the technical terms – the genes, that stuff – but everyone knows emotion,” he said. “So being able to share that emotion really does help.”
A crusade that’s coming a long way but the push for new and better treatments is still a battle. And Ardito is Kati’s knight in shining armor.
“I love it cause he raised a bunch of money for the awareness, and it’s amazing,” Kati said.
While she’s not happy that her older brother is headed to Florida soon, one day she’ll realize he never left.
“It’s coming with me for sure,” he said. “There’s no way I’m just gonna be sitting back and doing nothing.”