Dr. Seus explained that one is “never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child” – and Camille was a woman who took this saying very literally. She admits to loving kids unconditionally and have admired them ever since she could remember herself. Working as a nurse at the Miami Children’s Hospital, Camille would spend many nights reading to disabled kids, seldom thinking about her own personal well-being and needs.
Simultaneously, Dr. Michael Geraldi was a pediatrician at the same hospital who had also dedicated much of his already booked time to assist others, mostly by enabling free of charge health services to low-income families. This match made in heaven was just waiting to happen – and in 1975, only two years after meeting one another, Camille and Michael decided to tie the knot.
“He never wanted to leave his patients unattended and what I’m seeing the most, from the thousands of texts, is he is the one doctor that always returned a phone call and wouldn’t go to bed until every single patient called back,” his wife said at one interview. “I’ve known that since the day I met him.”
“We both had such a tremendous fondness with the children. Being able to help them, that’s what drew us together,” said Michael Geraldi in a 1991 Miami Herald feature.
Realized they were both destined for great things, the Geraldis started adopting children with Down syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, autism, developmental disabilities and extreme facial deformations. People would abandon their kids at the Geraldis’ doorstep with nothing but a note, if that. 88 children were welcomed into their home, and the had started their very own non-profit foundation.
Sadly, recent years have been harder on the two, as Michael was battling an aggressive cancer – which eventually took his life.
“He loved his practice as much as he loved his family,” said his wife, Camille, who was honored as one of the nation’s “points of light” by President George H.W. Bush. “He really was a caring person. He loved us both the same and I understood that. We met in the middle and it’s been a fantastic life. I couldn’t have asked for it to be better.״
Before Michael’s untimely death at the age of 70, the family has had some other misfortunes, too. After Hurricane Andrew completely destroyed their first home, the family moved to a farm in North Carolina, but as fate would have it, the farm was struck by lightning and all was burned down to the ground. But good fortune stepped in and they were offered a home in Georgia, which they made handicapped-accessible using the insurance money from their previous home.
Asked about how she deals with life’s pebbles and speed bumps along the way, Camille replied – “I think sometimes you’re just cut out to do it or you’re not. I do know that I’m doing God’s work—he plans the day and I just carry it out. He motivates me along the way.”
Even more striking than her life story is that fact that neither she nor Michael had ever taken time off, nor have they gone on vacation. Now, having been gifted with a large team of volunteers who are constantly aiding Camille on an every-day basis, she can finally take the break she definitely deserves.
“Michael allowed me to follow my dream,” Camille Geraldi said. “Taking care of all those children is just a normal day.”