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Three Cheers for Charlie

December 2, 2021

It started with persistent stomach pain and migraines.

Charlie Smart’s family thought it may be just a cold or the flu. Then, at one of Charlie’s basketball games, he was holding his side and not moving the way he normally did. His parents realized something more serious could be going on.

And they were right. Charlie was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in December 2017.

But thanks to treatment at Riley Hospital for Children, and his sister, the Smart family has a story of hope to share rather than tragedy.

Ultimately, Charlie’s rare cancer required a stem cell transplant. His younger sister, Lucy, was a match.

Riley Hospital for Children is the only place in Indiana where children can receive this treatment.

On June 26, 2018, when Charlie was as sick as he’d ever been, his Riley care team began his transplant procedure. Though he was weak and unable to speak because his chemotherapy made his mouth too sore, emotions silently flooded the room as Lucy held his hand and her stem cells began flowing into his body through an IV.

Her gift, and the nationally recognized cancer program at Riley, gave Charlie the best options for his cancer treatment.

“Charlie’s case is so unique and research is absolutely life-changing for him. But we can’t have the research if we didn’t have the money,” says his mother Julie Smart. “The donors who give their heart and soul allow us to have the best doctors in the world, and the research. That allows us to have our Charlie here with us today.”

Charlie’s father, Joe Smart, added, “Often when you donate money to different things, you hope it’s going to a good cause. We got to see firsthand that donations are making a difference. The experience helped me understand better how beneficial these donations are to the future of this horrible disease.”

Today, Charlie is a high school senior who loves spending time on the tennis court, the golf course and working on his football commentary in his radio and TV class.

"Cancer has changed me on two levels: physical and mental," Charlie explained. "On the physical side, the stuff that will stay with me, like my scars. But the mental side, it gives me a different perspective on life and how I lived it."