In 2011, after several years of trying to start a family, Rick and Cheryl Cardarelli, of Stow, became pregnant with their first son, Dominic.
On Nov. 11, 2011, following a normal pregnancy, the Cardarellis’ “lives stopped” when Dominic was stillborn at 36 weeks.
“To this day we don’t know what caused Dominic’s heart to stop,” said Rick. “He was a perfect little boy, weighing 6 lbs. 15 oz. and 21 inches long with a full head of hair.”
In the face of such an unexpected, devastating loss, Rick and Cheryl decided to turn their grief into something positive for the patients at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Sometime in January or February 2012 Cheryl got her hair done,” said Rick. “She came home and told me the salon, Gavin Scott, was collecting change for Akron Children’s Hospital’s ‘Have a Heart, Do Your Part’ radiothon.”
The Cardarellis added their own change to the salon’s collection in Dominic’s name.
In addition, the Cardarelli’s family and friends also donated money. With the help of the Cardarellis, Gavin Scott donated more than $3,000 during radiothon in Dominic’s memory.
Additionally, the Cardarellis decided to use the gift cards they received from Cheryl’s baby shower to purchase toys for Akron Children’s.
“We didn’t need the gift cards. They served no purpose to us, and we just thought by putting them to use for the hospital perhaps they could brighten a sick child’s day,” said Rick. “We bought all sorts of toys, infant items, cars, trucks and action figures. We delivered them during the radiothon that year.”
And the Cardarelli’s generosity didn’t stop there. In 2012, the Cardarellis spent more than $1,500 on toys for the hospital.
“During Cheryl’s pregnancy with Dominic, I would sit sometimes and calculate how much money we could save for him by the time he was 18,” said Rick. “The figure I always came back to was $25 a week, which would equal $1,300 a year. We decided we would spend that amount of money, more if possible, on toys and donations. This is money that would have bought toys, clothes and other items for Dominic. It does not belong sitting in our bank account.”
Giving has turned into a family affair, and both Rick and Cheryl’s parents have donated toys to the hospital on Dominic’s birthday and Christmas.
“I guess it is just a very small way for us to keep his memory alive,” said Rick.
This year, there will be someone else giving back to Akron Children’s: Rick and Cheryl’s infant son, Andrew, who was born in December 2012.
“We think he (Andrew) is a gift from his big brother,” said Rick. “When Andrew gets bigger, he will definitely be a part of the toy shopping. I don’t think he will ever really understand why we do it, but I do know that he will be a part of this every year. Maybe one day when he is a grown man he will see the importance of giving something back.”