Meet Michael and Camille Geraldi, a husband–and–wife, doctor-and-nurse duo who put their heart into everything they do. The Geraldis’ story starts in 1986 at Miami Children’s Hospital, where Camille sat by the bedside of critically ill children who had been abandoned. Here, Michael found Camille night after night, long after her shifts had ended, reading to the children or just holding their hands. Camille started bringing these kids home with her—the ones whom hospital staff could do nothing more for—and told Michael this was what she wanted to do with her life.
After Michael and Camille married, they started adopting children with Down syndrome, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy. Some had autism, developmental disabilites and extreme facial deformations. People would drop them off on the Geraldis’ doorstep with nothing but a note—or no word at all. Eighteen adoptions and three healthy birth children later, Camille and Dr. Mike, as he’s called, were running a nonprofit, then called the Up With Down Syndrome Foundation. The children were surpassing doctors’ expectations—and their own life expectancies.
“In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.” -Janos Arany
A Modern Family
To date, more than 40 children, many of whom are now adults, consider the Geraldis their parents. Countless others stay with them for extended periods of respite care, hospice, therapeutic rehabilitation and sometimes specialty day care. Ranging in age from 3 to 63, their lives resemble that of the nuclear family. They study, do chores, go to church, sing, dance and play. Many of them have even become certified dog trainers.
They are friends, they are family, they are home.
Building a New Dream
In 2015, the couple celebrated their 40th anniversary, making plans to travel the following year on their first-ever vacation. However, life had other plans, and in January 2015 Michael Geraldi was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos. He passed away on March 8, 2016, a day after his 73rd birthday, and less than a month from the time he and his wife had originally planned to spend on a cruise to Cancún.
Many of Michael’s patients – and their parents – remember Dr. Mike as a kind man who cared for and about everyone. Stories and outpourings of support for Camille and the large Geraldi family at the Possible Dream Foundation followed immediately from the news of Michael’s death. Camille herself remembered her husband as a man full of affection and esteem.
Now, Camille is continuing the work that she and her husband started decades ago, building the Possible Dream Foundation and helping others through education and resources on how to care for individuals with special needs. Although her husband is no longer here physically, his spirit lives on in those who have come out to help her through raising funds and carry on the mission she has always pursued.