Dominic Osorio, a Bel Air first-grader whose battle with brain cancer inspired a superhero comic book, died Friday of the disease at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The 7-year-old loved school, superheroes and his big sister Kristina.
"Dominic was a great kid, a real trouper who fought until his last breath," said his grandmother Monique Spagna of Bel Air. "He is cradled in God's arms now."
While Nicole Spagna's son was hospitalized and unable to communicate these past two months, she rarely left his side.
"I wanted to be with him all the time," she said. "I read him books, gave him baths and dressed him in his favorite shirts. We played his favorite songs and talked about his sister and his cousin. I watched his heart rate go up and knew he was listening."
Soon after Dominic was diagnosed in 2007, Spagna devised a story and gave her son the lead role as the Dominator, her own version of a superhero. She never told him that he had brain cancer. Instead, every time Dominic underwent surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, she told him to think of himself as the Dominator, waging war with an evil enemy that he called a megazoid.
Dominic's story inspired Dave Anderson, who manages a Bel Air restaurant that the family patronizes. He organized several fundraisers for children with cancer and children's hospices using Dominic's Dominator as a symbol. Anderson designed a Dominator costume and frequently wears the red bodysuit with a large navy blue D on the chest during visits to area hospitals.
"The more I got into this, the more I knew this was a powerful story," Anderson said. "This awesome little boy touched a lot of lives."
With an assist from area illustrators, he turned the story into a children's comic book that he hopes will become the child's legacy. Anderson paid nearly $9,000 to design, create and copyright the Dominator and to publish 2,000 copies of the book. More than 1,000 copies have been sold since the $5 book came out in August, with proceeds from sales benefiting children's cancer research.
Dominic "saw the comic book a few months ago and gave it a thumbs-up," said Nicole Spagna. "He got to meet the Dominator, too," when Anderson visited him.
Throughout numerous hospitalizations, Dominic had finished kindergarten and begun first grade at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air.
"When they tested him for first grade, he was right where he should have been," Nicole Spagna said.
Dyann Mack, the school's assistant principal, said, "He really could light up the room and was just a joy to his classmates and the staff."
School fascinated Dominic, his mother said.
"He loved math and doing all his schoolwork," she said. "He loved all the rules, never used bad words and always did the right thing. As soon as we got in the car, he would remind me to put on my seat belt."
Nicole Spagna said she wants her son's story to help other children coping with cancer.
"I feel so lucky and blessed to have been his mother," she said.
Monique Spagna said her grandson "did God's work on Earth. The comic book will go on helping other kids, and we are working to have a child's room included in the new Harford County Hospice in his memory."
Additional survivors include his father, Chris Osorio of Bel Air, and his grandfather, Louis Spagna of Indianapolis.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.