After losing her son, mother fulfills his last wish by crafting cards to support others
Just a couple days before he passed away from stage 4 esophageal cancer, Samuel Paul Rex had a request for his mother, Marie Rampello: Do a fundraiser to help others impacted by cancer.
Marie, a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital, and her sister Joyce Rampello, a nurse at Wilmot Cancer Institute, say this kind of request is emblematic of who Sam was.
“He did everything with his whole heart and soul,” Marie says.
Marie took that same attitude as she sought to fulfill her son’s wishes; she poured her own heart and soul into finding a way to not only honor him but to grow her son’s request.
Samuel – known as Sammy to those near him – served in the Army during Desert Storm. After a Scud missile hit a barracks where he worked as an IT specialist, Sammy helped pull 20 people to safety. That act earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
After four years of active duty, Sammy joined the Reserves and stayed active in the military community, serving as Commander of the VFW Post 8495 in Fairport and often participating in the Fourth of July parade in Fairport each year. His esophageal cancer diagnosis in June 2015 threatened his participation in the annual event, but he remained strong. He walked the 2-mile parade route and spectators even held up signs reading “Sammy Strong” to show they cared.
“It was touching to see all the support from the community,” Marie says.
Sammy received treatment for 10 months at Wilmot Cancer Institute with Marcus Noel, M.D., and Sue Fowler, R.N.
“From the very beginning, they made us feel like Sammy was their only patient! They took time to listen to him, to answer his questions, and to explain every detail of his care along the way,” Marie says. “We were so grateful to them.”
Unfortunately, Sammy died in February 2016. It was a very difficult time for Marie. But one activity she already loved became even more therapeutic then: Card making.
She had been making cards for years, initially for Operation Write Home, which sends cards to troops. But after Sammy’s death, with her son’s request in mind, her cause shifted: She began making cards and selling them for donations to Wilmot. Her first “gig” was with a monthly group her mother hosted. She’d bring cards and request $1 donation for each. But people loved the cards so much that they often gave more: In the first year, she raised $1,000.
“I think what happens when you go through that, your brain tries to make sense of it and that’s what selling the cards has done for Marie,” says Joyce.
Marie continues to make the cards and when she met someone from Wilmot’s Advancement team, she decided she wanted to pursue the ultimate fulfillment of her son’s wishes on the University of Rochester’s Day of Giving. She agreed to match any donations up to $7,500 made to Wilmot Cancer Institute on the University of Rochester’s Day of Giving, in tribute to Sammy as well as Marie’s father, Samuel Anthony Rampello, who also died from cancer, in 2015.
“My commitment to fulfill my son's plan to raise money to support the efforts of WCI and the Patient Needs Fund is strong,” she says. “I know he (and my father) would approve!”
The University of Rochester’s Day of Giving is Tuesday, May 1. To give a donation, visit Wilmot’s Day of Giving page.
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