Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Community comes together to give boy with cystic fibrosis a birthday bash

VALRICO

Christopher Carmen Jr. is like any 5-year-old boy.

He wears green light-up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sandals and his cheeks get flushed when he runs on the playground at All Person's Rotary Park.

His mother, Trisha Duffy of Valrico, wipes mud off his forehead as his deep blue eyes search for a new adventure.

A wet cough is what separates him from other children at his school. It's a symptom of his cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes mucus buildup in his lungs and pancreas that make it hard for him to breathe.

The disease has caused him to be hospitalized and miss more than 65 days of kindergarten last year, his mother said. That has made it hard for him to make friends and an easy target for bullying at Nelson Elementary School.

"As a mom, that just breaks your heart because there's nothing I can do," says Duffy, a stay-at-home mother. "No child should be made fun of."

With Christopher turning 6 on Aug. 7, his 29-year-old mom couldn't stand the thought of her oldest son having a birthday with no friends. So a few weeks ago, she took to a Facebook group and asked other moms with children battling CF to write birthday cards to her son. She wanted to show Christopher that he was not alone and he had friends.

"The response I got in two hours was amazing," she said. "I couldn't keep up."

Within days her post went viral and other Facebook groups in Tampa were sending her son cards. The charity arm of one group, the Chive, is organizing a birthday bash.

"Here at Chive Tampa, one of our goals is to make everyone feel like they are part of this world," said Chive member Colleen Hennessy, who is part of the effort.

Sharks are Christopher's favorite animal, so that will be the party's theme. It will be held on the Pop Warner football and cheerleading field at 707 S Miller Road. The Cruz Brothers band and disc jockey Jeff Brockman will provide music, and there will be food, costumed superheroes, pinatas, water guns and temporary shark tattoos, Hennessy said.

"This has touched so many people because this could be their child," she said. "It's great how these kind of things bring people together."

Christopher, who's missing his front two baby teeth, can't stop smiling. He knows he'll get to share a birthday with friends. He said he's excited to talk to them about sharks.

"I like great white, hammerhead and Megalodon sharks," he said. One day he hopes to work at an aquarium.

His mother and father, Chris Carmen, are happy for Christopher. The past year was tough on the family.

Because of his long stay in Tampa General Hospital, Christopher missed so much school that he'll have to repeat kindergarten this fall.

And even without having to pay $30,000 a month for Christopher's medicine thanks to insurance, the family of five is living on one income — Christopher's father works at the Amazon warehouse in Ruskin. The family now lives with Duffy's mother, but hopes to find a home they can afford that is big enough for all of them.

For now, she's taking it day-by-day and looking forward to showing her son that he is not alone in his battle.

"I really love the fact that we have this close community," she said. "There's still love out there, with all the hate out there in the world."

Contact Ariana Figueroa at afigueroa@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3350. Follow @ArianaLFigueroa.

How to help

If you want to send a card to Christopher, the address is: P.O. Box 1124, Valrico, FL 33495.

Community comes together to give boy with cystic fibrosis a birthday bash 07/07/16 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2016 10:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.