When Maiya Colón, who is facing a tremendous challenge at less than two years old, needed help in a big way, her family could hardly have predicted the identity of the man who would work to provide it.
Charlie Shuman, a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle committed to Penn State for this upcoming fall , took the initiative to help Maiya’s family cover the substantial costs of treatment for her rare condition.
She was born with a genetic abnormality known as progressive osseous heteroplasia, which causes bone to form in unusual places such as muscles and skin. It has already forced Maiya and her family to deal with difficulties such as emergency surgeries, internal infections and organ failure. And because of the extreme rarity of the condition, which is poorly understood, Maiya’s family has had to make trips to Philadelphia from their home near Rochester, N.Y. , to see pediatric experts — trips which take a heavy financial toll on the family.
These struggles are why Shuman founded Big Helping Little , a charity to help Maiya’s family cover the intimidating costs of her treatment. A senior at Pittsford Sutherland High School in Pittsford, N.Y. and an Eagle Scout, Shuman is no stranger to helping others, and when he found out about Maiya’s condition, he knew he wanted to do all he could to relieve their pain.
“I’m the kind of guy who goes big or goes home,” Shuman said.
After he decided to help, he says he knew “it wasn’t just going to be a bake sale.”
He managed to organize a number of corporate sponsors in his area, including Uno’s, Lattimore Women’s Health Center, two local bars and a number of physical therapy clinics. Fundraisers at some of these businesses will provide 50 percent of the resultant revenue to Big Helping Little. A “walking benefit” is tentatively planned for the future and will be an event that raises money but also celebrates the efforts of all who have rallied to help Maiya, with a silent auction and carnival-type entertainment featured.
Big Helping Little, which is hosted online through GiveForward.com, has raised $4,400 from 76 different donors thus far, while its associated Facebook page encourages visitors to make donations to the cause.
The effects of Big Helping Little on Maiya’s family are palpable. Maria Colón, Maiya’s mother, said the charity “opened up a lot of opportunities” for the family, from the financial help to simply having “someone to talk to.” She expressed her gratitude to Charlie with ease, describing him as a man whose “physical size is matched only by the size of his heart.”
“Penn State is lucky to have him,” she said.
Although Charlie, a lifelong Penn State fan, will relocate south in a matter of months to join the team as a preferred walk-on , he aims to keep Big Helping Little’s message going by turning the charity into a foundation after the fundraiser ends. The foundation will support fundraisers every year to raise awareness for Maiya’s condition and others like it.
The foundation will run until a deadline of May 17 , by which time Charlie hopes to have raised $10,000.
Zack Green can be reached at (814) 865-1828.