Officer starts non-profit to help needy children after photo goes viral

Officer Acerra and Cameron
Officer Acerra and Cameron

SUMTER, SC (WIS/CNN) – When Sumter Police Officer Gaetano Acerra decided to help a 13-year-old boy, he never thought his simple gesture would garner world-wide attention.

“I didn’t think it was going to get this big,” said Acerra. “I’m shocked.”

Officer Acerra bought Cameron Simmons a bed after he found out the boy was sleeping on an inflatable mattress that he said deflated during the night. He also gave him a desk, television, and had a game system donated. Once word got around, more donations started coming in.

Officer Acerra asked his brother, Ferdinando, to help him deliver the bedroom furniture to the boy, and that’s when a simple Facebook post went viral.

“I just wanted to brag a little bit about what he was doing,” said Ferdinando who posted a picture of his older brother hugging Cameron. “I posted it on Facebook, and next thing I know, it went viral.”

The picture was posted online May 6 and three days later, an online donation fund was set up.

The brothers started getting responses from all over the globe.

In just four days, 140 people donated more than $5,000 to Cameron and his family to help fund basic needs.

“I appreciate all the support and kind words I’ve been receiving from all over,” said Officer Acerra.

It’s not just money. A young boy donated his bicycle, and business owners are donating furniture and gift cards. Officer Acerra has since been able to provide a bed for Cameron’s brother, as well as dressers for both boys.

“I love kids,” said Officer Acerra. “I try to help kids out all the time.”

Some people are calling Officer Acerra a hero.

“I did not want any of this. I just wanted to help this kid out,” Officer Acerra replies.

In order to help more people, the Acerra brothers are in the process of setting up a non-profit. Officer Acerra has filed the paperwork and the non-profit should be official in about a month.

“It’s always the best feeling, knowing that you can help somebody out that needs the help,” said Ferdinando.

The brothers credit their mom and dad for raising them to know that helping other people is the right thing to do.

They hope to help as many families as possible once the non-profit is official.

As for the Simmons family, they are overwhelmed by the kindness.

“She said that she was praying, and that I answered her prayers,” said Officer Acerra about Cameron’s mother.

Officer Acerra describes himself as a mentor to Cameron and is thankful for the international support.

“You really changed his life,” said Officer Acerra. “Gave him some hope.”

And it’s hope, that Acerra plans to spread throughout the community, and maybe even, the world.

For more information on The Officer Acerra Children’s Foundation, visit

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