Re-posted with the permission of MCA Warrior Stories.
Since the early 1980s, Camille and Michael Geraldi have been caring for children with special needs. Together, the two have adopted or become guardians for more than 88 children with various physical and mental conditions, including Down’s Syndrome, spina bifida, mental retardation, cardiac problems, and many others.
Through the nonprofit organization created to help them in their mission, the Possible Dream Foundation (originally called the Up with Down Syndrome Foundation), the Geraldis have built not one but two homes where their children can grow up in an environment where their unique requirements can be met in a loving and advantageous manner. The Geraldis have focused on helping their children learn to do what they can – rather than what they can’t – and as a result they have exceeded expectations of many people, including friends, family, doctors, and the birth parents of many of the children they care for.
Sadly, however, the Possible Dream Foundation suffered a terrible loss earlier this year when Michael Geraldi – known affectionately as “Dr. Mike” to the patients of his pediatric practice – passed away due to mesothelioma.
Making Dreams Come True by Following Your Own
When Dr. Mike was alive, he used to tell everyone the story about how he met Camille. It was in 1972 at the Miami Children’s Hospital in Room 238. Camille, who was a nurse at the time, was holding an infant who was terminally ill, and Michael Geraldi was a pediatrician assigned to the case. “It was not romantic,” Camille told the Miami Herald in 1991, but nonetheless Michael would tell all his patients the story, and it became something of a legend.
From that initial meeting, Camille and Michael shared their desire to help children, especially those in need. Sadly, during the course of their professional lives they met many children with special needs who were abandoned by natural parents who were unable or unwilling to care for them. Their relationship grew over these children that nobody else seemed to care about, and over the next several years the two fell in love and were eventually married.
Camille had always known that she wanted to help children, and despite her initial hesitation at marrying Michael, she ultimately came to understand that his dedication to helping kids was as strong as her own. After being married the couple had three healthy children of their own, and they began adopting children who had special needs of one kind or another.
Over the next several decades, the Geraldis received a lot praise, but they also faced a lot of struggles. Camille was recognized as one of President George H. W. Bush’s “Points of Light,” and the family has been featured twice on the news documentary program 60 Minutes. At the same time, the family was also the target of vandalism and hatred within their original neighborhood in a suburb of Miami. Acts of violence and the vitriol of their neighbors forced the family to move to a 25-acre farm in North Carolina, near the border of Georgia.
Nonetheless, throughout their time together, Camille and Michael were able to weather the things that life threw at them, from the devastation of Michael’s pediatric practice by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, to the fire that burned down their North Carolina home in 2011. Camille devoted her full time to the Possible Dream Foundation and also has traveled around the world to offer talks and training about caring for individuals with special needs. Meanwhile, Michael supported the Foundation through his practice, and gave free care to many children with special needs.