Ty Louis Campbell's family members are suffering a tremendous loss, but the outpouring of love they've experienced in the past few days is beyond anything they could have imagined.
The 5-year-old boy from Pawling died Wednesday, after a battle with cancer that lasted more than two years. His mom Cindy Campbell chronicled the journey in a moving blog, which she updated hours after her son died. In that entry, she wrote:
Ty Louis Campbell is gone, but his story continues. This is our promise to him. His impact on the world around him gives his short but inspirational life such meaning.
Three days later, Ty's aunt Debi Fossati, a Carmel resident, said the family is "holding up as good as can be expected."
The thousands of folks who have offered condolences in one form or another—participating in candlelight vigils, sending messages online and more—"really do make a difference," Fossati said Saturday. The heartfelt sympathies, coupled with a few big, unexpected acts of kindness, make the family stronger, she told Patch.
"We are really, really trying to keep his story out there," because strides in research for pediatric cancer are few and far between—and young patients receive the same aggressive treatment adults do—Fossati said.
Scores of people are slated to help the Campbells Sunday (Oct. 21) in working toward a goal they have just about a year to accomplish: Ensuring the color gold is as recognizable during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, September, as pink is for breast cancer during October.
They are set to meet at Waryas Park (1 Main Street) in Poughkeepsie at 5:30 p.m. for a vigil. The location provides a view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, which will glow gold at dusk, and again Monday and Tuesday nights, for Ty and young cancer patients. A cousin organized the event, Fossati said.
"Ty has made such an impact on so many people," the Facebook event, which shows hundreds of attendees, reads. "Thank you for loving him as much as we do."
Folks in the area will be thinking of Ty earlier in the day, too. From 1 to 4 p.m. at Lakeside Park (on Lakeside Drive) in Pawling, where a soccer tournament is scheduled to take place, 'SuperTy' T-shirts will be available. Fossati expects many of the people who attend the vigil to be donning the tees.
They are $15 each. Funds will go the the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. There has been an "astronomical" uptick in donations since Ty's passing. Even with the attention Cindy's blog has received, the contributions were unexpected.
"It's unbelievable," Fossati said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ty will be honored again. His name will be printed on a banner that's slated to fly over Pawling at 2 p.m., thanks to the generosity of a Suffolk County woman who followed the boy's story religiously.
Mary Pallotta created The Guardian Brain Foundation, a non-profit, about 10 years ago, after her brother died of brain cancer and her father a brain-wasting disease.
Pallotta is exposed to the stories of many ill individuals because of her involvement with the organization, which provided support to Ty during his sickness. But the Campbells' story touched her heart, and the air sign is a personal gift.
"I thought about his name in the sky, and he deserves it," Pallotta said, adding that she and her husband are paying for most of the event out of their own pocket.
Pallotta is one of the thousands of people who have not met Cindy, or Ty's father Lou, a Mahopac native, but feels a strong connection to them. In Pallotta's case, part of that is because she and Cindy became "friends over the phone" while the foundation worked with Ty. But the blog played a major role, too.
"I think that what Cindy and Lou are doing by sharing their raw emotions in the blog for all this time, since his diagnosis, is amazing," Pallotta said. "Ty took a piece of my heart with him. I will forever keep his memory."
Ty's memory is still fresh and familiar to the family members who so desperately wanted a happy and healthy life for a boy whose smile was persistent—despite countless complications, dozens of scars and tons of surgeries.
Cindy and Lou are spending this weekend grieving privately for their first-born, who was cremated Thursday. They decided against a wake and funeral because they would rather celebrate Ty's life than mourn, relatives say.
The family plans to hold a memorial service within the next few weeks. Fossati said the specifics have yet to be determined, but she knows it will be filled with emotion, just like Ty's passing.
Several hours after he died at home Wednesday, Cindy and Lou invited their closest family members to say goodbye to their son, whose body was lying in their bed.
"It was a beautiful thing," Fossati said, adding that she and other relatives were not expecting to see the little boy again. That moment was just one of the ways the couple has handled their son's passing in an extraordinary manner, Fossati said.
Cindy and Lou's talk with Gavin, Ty's 3-and-a-half year old brother, was poignant, too. Fossati broached the subject recently with the toddler as he picked out a toy in a department store, asking to grab one for Ty, too.
"They explained to him that Ty is not going to be with us anymore," she said, recalling that she asked her nephew if he remembers where his brother is, or who he is with. "He said 'God and Ty are here,' and he points to his chest. Cindy and Lou taught him that."