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Kids make a mess in 'Muddy Puddles Project' to raise money for pediatric cancer

When their 5-year-old son Ty lost his battle with pediatric cancer, Cindy and Lou Campbell decided they would honor his memory.
/ Source: TODAY

When Ty Campbell's parents asked him what he wanted to do when he got better as he battled pediatric cancer, his request was one that any 5-year-old could appreciate.

"He just said, 'I'm gonna jump in a muddy puddle,'" Cindy Campbell told Dylan Dreyer on TODAY Wednesday. "And it was just the simplest thing, and it stuck with me forever because I thought as a grownup, 'That would be the last thing on our minds.''

Ty ultimately lost his fight with cancer in 2012 when he was five years old, two years after being diagnosed. But Ty's parents, Cindy and Lou Campbell, developed a very special way to honor him. They created the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation, which has put on the Muddy Peddles Mess Fest for three straight years to celebrate his life and other children who lost the fight or are still battling cancer.

With a carnival-style atmosphere complete with zip lines, dunk tanks, a whipped cream pie toss, and of course, the chance to go face-first in a muddy puddle, the event encourages everyone to have fun like a kid for a day while also raising money for pediatric cancer.


"Let's celebrate the idea that these kids can have fun and do these great activities in honor of those that can't,'' Cindy said.

Families gathered in the hamlet of Mahopac in the town of Carmel, New York, on Aug. 8 to celebrate this year's Mess Fest.

"This day is about having fun and remembering at the same time,'' a mom who lost one of her twin sons to cancer told Dreyer.

Kids like 4-year-old Brinley, who had leukemia and is now in remission thanks to a bone marrow donation from her younger brother, were all smiles at Mess Fest.

After Cindy and Lou Campbell lost their 5-year-old son Ty to cancer, they created the “Muddy Puddles” project in his honor to celebrate kids who’ve faced the disease. TODAY’s Dylan Dreyer reports for our Hope to It series on “Mess-Fest,” a unique way to celebrate special kids and raise money for pediatric cancer research.TODAY

"Last year at this time, she wasn't allowed to go in the mud pit,'' her mother told Dreyer. "She wasn't allowed to go in the pools. This year she can do it all."

Another mom who lost her son Tanner to a brain tumor at three years old was thankful for a special way to remember him. A fire truck comes every year to help hose everyone off after they take a plunge into a muddy puddle.

"He believed that he was a firefighter, so every year we're always so touched that Cindy and Lou dedicate the fire truck to our Tanner,'' she said. "It means so much to us."

Ty endured 20 surgeries, 11 cycles of chemotherapy and countless other treatments in his short life, but now his memory is all about food fights, mud puddles, and everyone having a great time.

"Even though he's not here to witness it, I feel that he is watching and loving this, year after year, every moment of it,'' Cindy said. "It's like he made this day."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter and Google+.