Jun 24, 2013
Larry Ronstadt, 9, knows from experience how receiving a toy while hospitalized or receiving treatment at an outpatient clinic can brighten one’s day. That’s why he asked for birthday gifts that could be given to other children coping with illness and he donated them to Kids of Steele, the family auxiliary of the University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center
Since December 2011, Larry has been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He has been hospitalized countless times at The University of Arizona Medical Center – Diamond Children’s and, when not hospitalized, receives monthly treatments at the pediatric hematology-oncology outpatient clinic at UAMC. So, while most children dream of all the cool gifts they might receive on their birthday, Larry had a different dream for his big day.
“As Larry’s birthday approached, we talked about all he has and how much he has received,” said his mom, Tiana Ronstadt. “Larry said, ‘I want to have my friends bring gifts for the kids at Diamond Children’s. I loved getting something when I was there and would like to do that for someone else.’ So, Larry asked his friends to bring gifts that could be given to children coping with illness.”
Tiana and Larry explored options for donating his birthday gifts, and Larry chose Kids of Steele (the family auxiliary of the UA Steele Children’s Research Center) because they were holding a toy drive the same day as his birthday, May 18, and the Ronstadt family had participated in other events that supported Kids of Steele in the past.
After his birthday party, Tiana and Larry drove the gifts to the Kids of Steele toy drive. “As we approached La Encantada, Larry began feeling overwhelmed,” recalled Tiana. “I reassured him that it was going to be quick, fun and wonderful. Larry said, ‘Mom this is hard because I know what it’s like and it’s weird to be on this side, doing the giving.’ I reassured him that life is about giving and receiving.”
When they arrived, Larry was greeted by players from the UA football team who were volunteering for Kids of Steele. They thanked Larry for his generous donation. “The players were friendly and gracious,” said Tiana. “Larry had fun interacting with them.”
“At first I was nervous to deliver the gifts,” said Larry. “But then I felt great and happy.”
Larry’s pediatric oncologist, Brenda Wittman, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, was delighted to hear of Larry’s kindness. “He is always thinking of other people,” she said. “Larry is full of spunk and has a wonderful sense of humor. He cracks me up—it must be his red hair,” she said with a laugh. She continued, “What’s so inspiring about Larry is that he doesn’t let leukemia rule his life.”
Ben’s Bells, the Tucson-based organization whose mission is to promote kindness and community, heard about Larry’s kindness and surprised him with a “belling” on June 19.
“I was thrilled with Larry’s decision to donate his birthday gifts,” said Tiana. “My husband Jeff and I strive to instill stewardship values in our children. Both Larry and his sister Mia continue to amaze me in their generosity, kindness, happiness and joy. We are blessed to be their parents.”
Through various activities that appeal to children and their families, Kids of Steele creates a community of support for the UA Steele Children’s Research Center. The group provides children and their families with opportunities to learn about community service. Children of all ages are welcome to join. Member families are invited to help recruit others, raise awareness and attend quarterly meetings and social events.
The UA Steele Children’s Research Center is one of the Centers of Excellence within the UA College of Medicine. Steele Center researchers and physician-scientists are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge through research to improve children’s health. As researchers, they seek to discover answers to children’s medical mysteries. As physician-scientists, they provide compassionate care to hospitalized patients at The University of Arizona Medical Center – Diamond Children’s and pediatric outpatient clinics throughout Tucson and the state. And, as faculty members with the UA Department of Pediatrics, they teach medical students and train the next generation of pediatricians and researchers through the department’s residency and fellowship programs.