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Northborough family delivers joy to sick children at UMass hospital

By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer

Christian (left) and Alex Campero with the donated toys

Northborough – It was Christmas in July for the patients of the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center in Worcester. On July 11, the Campero family from Northborough delivered more than 100 toys and games to the patients there.

Christian Campero, 9, was a patient of the center when he was diagnosed with leukemia more than five years ago. He underwent three and a half years of chemotherapy and in August he will have been in remission for five years. Christian, along with his parents Tricia and Cesar, and brother Alex, 8, wanted to help other sick children and give back to the place that took such good care of him. The boys are students at the Fannie E. Proctor Elementary School in Northborough.

The toys were donated by Smith Smiles, a Florida-based organization, and shipped to the Camperos, who were chosen as local representatives. Tricia said that they connected with Smith Smiles through a friend who is on the organization’s board. This marked the first time Smith Smiles had ever donated outside of Florida.

“The organization is seeing the potential to expand their donations,” explained Melissa Lumar from the medical center’s Child Life Program. “This is kind of a trial to see how it goes.”

Smith Smiles was founded in 2011 by Tracy and Jarrett Smith’s sons, Zakary, 10 and Ari, 5, when their sister, Gracyn, 7, was in and out of hospitals with spinal surgeries. Initially, Zakary had the idea to donate his birthday presents, and after two years, they expanded their efforts to set up donation collections points and hold fundraisers to provide hospitals with new games, books, puzzles, toys, DVDs, and much more.

Christian and Alex delivered two large boxes to the Children’s Medical Center, where they opened them to see what treasures were inside. While they did this, they Facetimed with the Smith family in Florida.

“We’re excited to have Alex and Christian act as our representatives and deliver more than 100 toys to children at UMass Medical Center,” Tracy Smith said.

After taking the toys out of the boxes, the boys brought them to the center’s playroom, where they will be available for the patients’ use.

“It’s so helpful to change toys over, especially for children who are frequent flyers or there for long-term stays,” Lumar said.

Christian said he remembered how the playroom and the toys there helped him pass the time while he was in the hospital.

“It kept me from getting bored,” he said. “I felt like [the current patients] five years back.”

The event was a reunion for Christian as he had not been back to the center for several years. He recognized his former room and was warmly welcomed back by the nurses and staff.

“It feels pretty good,” Christian said about being back at UMass, adding that he hopes he can give some joy to the patients who are there now.

“I think they will appreciate it,” he said of the donation.

Facetiming with the Smith family in Florida.

Christian unpacks the donated toys.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=90776

Posted by on Jul 19 2017. Filed under Byline Stories, Neighbors helping neighbors, Northborough, This Just In. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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