Police officer goes above and beyond call of duty to help family in need
SUMTER, South Carolina (WKRC) -- A South Carolina police officer went above and beyond the call of duty for a teenager who called 911 to say he wanted to run away from home.
Officer Gaetano Acerra said 13-year-old Cameron Simmons called 911 from a convenience store distraught and saying he didn't want to live in his home anymore.
"He was so upset," says Acerra. "I asked him questions about why he didn't want to live there, and I was complimenting him on his clothes. He had nice clothes and shoes on."
Cameron's reason for running away from home may seem minor, his mother yelled at him for using his brother's gaming system, but as Officer Acerra found out when he took Cameron home, there was more to the situation.
"He took me to his room and it was four walls, two windows and hardwood floor," says Acerra. "It was just empty. He had his clothes on the ground in a black garbage bag. I asked him where he sleeps and he said, 'Sometime on the couch and sometimes on a blow-up mattress.'"
The police officer was dismayed by Cameron's response. He found out that Cameron's family had fallen on hard times financially when he, his brother and his mother moved from Texas to South Carolina to help a sick family member. Over the next few weeks, Acerra worked hard to get the family necessities, but also to get furniture so Cameron could have a proper bedroom.
On May 6, Acerra and his brother, Ferdinando Acerrs, dropped off a new bed, new TV, desk, chair, a brand new comforter and a gently used Wii game system for Cameron.
"The kid was in tears," said Acerra. "He was just in shock, so happy. He still is."
Since that day, Acerra and Cameron's story has gone viral. Acerra was contacted by the Sumter community to donate items and funds for the family, and people from all over the world wanted to know how to contribute. Cameron's brother also received a proper bedroom.
The boys' mother, who Acerra said is a religious woman who had just fallen on hard times is incredibly grateful for the donations.
"She said she's been praying for her boys and she can't be more happy. She's so thankful," says Acerra.
Acerra has also set up a GoFundMe account to make it easier for people to continue donating funds for household needs such as a washer and dryer, dinner table and blinds.
As for Acerra, witnessing the huge impact he's had on one family's life makes him want to keep the momentum going. He wants to continue using his job as a way to help more families who may find themselves in unfortunate circumstances.
"I didn't expect this, and I'm not one to gloat or brag or even ask for help, but with all these people standing behind us, we can change a lot of lives," he says.