“Thanks” begins to sum up the feelings.
Joey Masella and his parents, Laurie and Claudio, are quick to say
how thankful they are to the people of Laguna Beach and the strong
sense of community they have shown their family.
Nothing could be a better example of that than a recent benefit
for Joey at [seven-degrees] that raised about $25,000. The Masellas
say they were overwhelmed at the incredible response.
Ten-year-old Joey was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare skin
disorder that causes fragility of his skin, causing it to blister and
not heal. His skin turns into scar tissue in all areas of his body,
including internal scaring. It can cause his fingers and toes to grow
together and also cause his throat to close.
Joey has to spend a lot of his time at the doctor’s office. Just
getting the day started with the help of his parents takes extra time
“I want people to know what his life is like,” Laurie Masella
said. “I don’t know how he does it.”
The benefit was organized by a virtual stranger, longtime Laguna
local Sande St. John.
“I met her about a year and a half ago,” Laurie Masella said.
“Sande had heard about Joey and invited him to a play at Artists’
St. John called about three weeks before the Aug. 22 event
“She said, ‘Hi Laurie, it’s Sande St. John and we’re going to do a
benefit for Joey,’” Laurie Masella said. “‘Don’t worry about a thing,
everything is taken care of.’”
They had no expectation about how many people would show up at the
fund-raiser and guessed it would be anywhere from 30 to 50.
They were stunned when more than 300 people came to support their
cause of finding a cure for Joey’s disease.
“I try to take it all in, it’s so emotional -- everything everyone
was saying, talking about Joey,” Laurie Masella said. “I’ve waited 10
years for something like this to happen. I’m elated, ecstatic -- it’s
like a dream come true.”
With Joey’s consummate smile and incredible attitude, one would
never know the unbelievable pain he endures every second of his life.
Laurie and Claudio Masella have made several trips to San Diego
this week to change the casts on Joey’s legs because of blistering
The casts, though only a very short-term solution, gives Joey the
ability to walk and the freedom he needs to be mobile and enjoy
activities such as riding a bike.
“He needs something removable that he can wear to school,” Laurie
Masella said. “So far nothing has come close to duplicating the
casts, the doctors haven’t been able to come up with anything.”
The downside is that the casts cause his muscles to atrophy and
can’t be worn for very long.
“With the casts he has a taste of freedom,” Claudio Masella said.
“He’s been playing baseball and basketball. It’s like he’s a
completely different kid.”.
On the Tuesday night before school started this week, like most
Joey was trying to squeeze in every minute he could to do all the fun
things extra time affords.
His friends buzzed by on their bikes and razors begging for Joey
to be able to join them. Joey, too, was pleading with his mom to let
After a couple more requests, Joey got his wish and took off,
grinning, with his friends on a specially designed bike that looks
like an all-terrain type bicycle with two large back wheels attached
to the back.
Laurie and Claudio Masella can’t stop thanking all the people and
local businesses that helped with the benefit.
“He’s given us so much more than you can imagine,” Laurie Masella
What the Masellas want more than anything is a cure.
To help, please make a donation to the Joey Masella Fund at
Fidelity Federal Bank at 310 Glenneyre Street.
* SUZIE HARRISON is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.