Heartbroken Family Heals by Creating Care Packages for Sylvester’s Youngest Patients
After high school senior Andrea Camps was killed in a senseless act of gun violence in April 2020, her family members channeled their grief into fulfilling her lifelong dream: to help sick children. The beautiful spirit of the aspiring pediatric nurse lives on through a charity the Camps family established: Andrea’s Smiles for Hope. Through care packages filled with treats and toys, the charity aims to bring smiles to pediatric patients receiving treatment at Alex’s Place at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System.
As the anniversary of the first year since Andrea’s death approached, the family decided to honor her with Easter baskets for the young patients. On what would have been her 19th birthday, family and friends gathered to assemble the baskets, delivering them to Alex’s Place the following day. The Easter basket rally is a tradition for the Camps family and has expanded to six other events throughout the year.
“Recognizing the holidays and occasions throughout the year that the children miss when they are not in school and with their friends brings joy to our patients,” said Alex’s Place child life specialist Leslie Hutchins, M.S.Ed. “It is the little gifts like this that help make their day. It makes going for treatment a little more bearable. No one wants to get needle poked, but when the children know they are going to get something special after, they’re all smiles.”
That is exactly what the Camps family envisioned when they came up with the idea of Andrea’s Smiles for Hope, a name chosen because Andrea had a smile that would light up the room. Her nickname was Ms. Dimples.
“Our daughter always wanted to help children. She had a passion for it,” said Andrea’s father, Alex Camps. “In doing this, it feels like we are accomplishing some of what she would have done had she become a nurse. It is really rewarding, and it helps us cope.”
Hundreds of Gift Baskets for Patients, Families
Maria Lacayo-Camps says the family is proud of what they have started in her daughter’s memory, noting that she recognized the true impact of their actions after delivering the Thanksgiving gift baskets. Through the generosity of their supporters, Andrea’s Smiles for Hope was able to make 250 baskets — enough for all the families at Alex’s Place, as well as those of patients at Holtz Children’s Hospital, part of the Jackson Health System — and then deliver the extras to local charities serving Lotus House and Miami’s migrant population.
“Just looking around at all the baskets, I was like, ‘Andrea, are you watching this?’” said Lacayo-Camps. “I cannot believe all we have done in her name. It is rewarding and very fulfilling.”
Patients and families have great appreciation for the Camps family’s dedication and kindness, which extends beyond the patients and families at Alex’s Place.
Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., who is also the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean for research at the Miller School of Medicine, expressed his deep gratitude.
“It is remarkable how the Camps family was able to turn their personal tragedy into something so special and meaningful for the patients and families at Alex’s Place,” Dr. Nimer said. “At Sylvester, we appreciate the generous in-kind support of members of our community like the Camps family, which helps buoy the spirits of our youngest cancer patients.”