Superheroes Come in All Sizes. So Must Their Chariots.
Ben Manzi is busy. He's raising funds to buy pediatric wheelchairs for Baystate Children's Hospital. He's in the second grade at Academy Hill School in Springfield.
And he's battling leukemia.
Seven-year-old Ben Manzi and his little brother, 5-year-old Gabriel, had an exciting summer — including visits to Lego headquarters in Enfield and family in New Mexico. One not-so-fun activity was also included. Ben had to make time for chemotherapy.
It all started last fall. Always a remarkably well child, Ben suddenly seemed to catch every cold.
"He was sick for five weeks straight," his mom, Kati Otero, remembers. "He had a lot of bruises. And he was absolutely exhausted."
Kati knew something was really wrong when Ben was too tired to play on his beloved Holy Name soccer team.
When he was a toddler, Ben used to tell his mother that he would be a superhero when he grew up — disguised as a doctor. Battling leukemia has called on all his superpowers.
The child life specialists at Baystate Children's Hospital made sure Ben was surrounded by Legos, dinosaurs and all of his favorite things. But there was no pretending that his winter and spring were anything other than a blur of inpatient and outpatient treatment.
There have also been kidney stones.
A little boy in a big wheelchair, Ben spent a lot of time traveling around the hospital for tests and procedures — mostly in wheelchairs designed for people a lot bigger than he was. They were not very comfortable.
And sometimes even kind of scary — even for a superhero.
"He was such a little boy in such a big wheelchair," Kati remembers. "Going for procedures was already creating anxiety for him. Being in the big chair made everything seem even more ominous."
Ben and Kati found out that children's wheelchairs do, in fact, exist — and that they're actually in use in Baystate Medical Center's Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department.
Ben decided to make sure that Baystate Children's Hospital had them, too. Team BAM to the rescue! With help from friends and family members, coming together under the banner of Team BAM (Ben's initials), Ben and his mom have raised $1,500 — enabling Baystate Children's Hospital to purchase four pediatric wheelchairs. But that's still not enough to make sure that every child will have a child-sized chair, every time.
Ben needs some new friends to help purchase five additional chairs at $350 each.
If you would like to help Ben and Team BAM provide pediatric wheelchairs for patients at Baystate Children's Hospital, or learn about other opportunities and needs, please contact Kylie Johnson at 413-794-7789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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