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Gavin Smith: The boy who always smiles

He may be young, but he has a mighty heart. Nine-year old Gavin Smith of South Boston has seen his share of battles in his short life.

Currently Smith is in Greenville, N.C., at the Vidant Medical Center traveling back and forth between the hospital and rehabilitation center.

“He’s such a happy little boy,” said his mother.

“If he’s not smiling, they know something’s wrong,” she added.

According to his mother, Tanette Smith, who regularly travels the nearly three hours from the Greenville, N.C., hospital to South Boston, Smith has been sick since May.

Recently diagnosed with Sweets Syndrome on his skin and eyes, Smith has been in a hospital since the end of May. 

His journey began when ulcers and open sore lesions formed on his body and in his airway. His mother took him to Duke University Medical Center, and after seeing Smith he was sent to North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care where he was placed in ICU for three days. 

Young Smith would stay in the burn center for three weeks before he was diagnosed.  

“They think they finally know what has caused it. They believe it was acid reflux,” said Tanette. “His airway was reduced to 5 percent, and he was on a ventilator for three weeks.” 

The rising third grade student at South Boston Elementary School has been dealing with his illness wearing the same smile he has had since he was an infant, his mother said. 

“He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eight months old,” she added.

He also was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden, a blood disorder that develops blood clots.

His grandfather, Alvin Tucker, said that seeing his grandson go through this has been one of the hardest things he has experienced.

“He’s a tough kid,” said Tucker.

“The nurses come in to stick him, and the things he goes through make me cringe, but he just takes it with a smile,” he added.

Smith’s 15-year-old brother, Skyler, said he couldn’t go through what his brother has been through.

“I freak out about going to the dentist, and he has needles in him all the time,” he said.

Tucker will be helping with a benefit American Legion Post 8 will be holding for his grandson on Saturday to help offset the overwhelming medical bills the family is facing.

The benefit will include food, musical entertainment, a raffle, racecar drivers and race cars.

Food will be provided by Butch’s Concessions offering fresh hamburgers, bologna burgers, hot dogs, French fries, homemade lemonade and other beverages. 

The musical entertainment line up includes Adam and Ronnie Snow’s Yellow Snow Band from 12:30 to 5 p.m. , Phil Puryear and Wilson Memorial Jamboree from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Kyle Martin and the Halifax Hillbillies from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Race cars will be on site with race car drivers Austin Thaxton, Bruce Anderson, Danny Willis Jr., Bruce Mayo, Jimmy Wade, Randy Hupp, Jake Brown, Kenny Mills and Justin Tucker.

A raffle and a 50/50 drawing also will be held Saturday during the benefit. Tickets for the raffle cost $1, and the first place prize will be $250, second will be $150, third will be $100, and tickets can be bought in advance at the American Legion Post 8 or from members.

According to Tucker, on July 27 Sons of American Legion Pick 3 held a cash drawing raffle to help with Smith’s medical expenses with $1,000 going to Gerald Hatcher of South Boston.

Smith loves racing, going to South Boston Speedway and watching baseball.

“He loves when my dad comes to see him because then they can watch baseball and talk about racing,” said Tanette.

Tucker travels to Greenville often to relieve Tanette. She hates leaving Smith but tries to get home to South Boston to spend as much time as possible with Skyler. 

After being in the hospital since May, Tanette said Smith is eager to get home and go back to school. 

“He still has a long ways to go, but he’s improving, and I know he’ll get through it. People have been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Smith’s mother.

Tanette is an employee of Walmart in South Boston, and she said she’s very thankful to management and associates for all the cards, donations and prayers during this time.

Smith is a member of First Presbyterian Church, 800 North Main Street, South Boston. Anyone wishing to send donations can send them to the church. 

For more information on the benefit to be held Saturday, contact Pete Talley at 470-4017, Randy Tingen at 579-2297 or Alvin Tucker at 572-4816.