Community joins to raise funds in memory of 10-month-old boy

LITTLETON -- On Father's Day 2012, Littleton resident Matt Mallio was diagnosed with leukemia and immediately hospitalized for chemo treatments.

Less than two weeks after he was diagnosed, his 10-month-old son, Aidan, died in an accidental drowning in their backyard. His son survived for two days before he was taken off life-support.

Matt had to check himself out of his hospital against doctor's orders so he could be with his son and wife at another hospital. Too weak from chemo treatments, he was forced to return to his hospital knowing he might never see his son again. Aidan died the next day.

It has been a traumatic experience for the family. The good news is that Matt's brother, Andy, was a stem-cell match and he has recently passed his 100-day post-transplant period.

To honor the memory of Aidan and to help the family heal, Aidan's aunt, Kristi Bates, is bringing the community together to rebuild the young children's section of a local playground called Castle in the Trees located. The group's goal is to raise $50,000 by August and have a community build and dedication by late September, when Matt should be healthy enough to attend.

"We have several fundraisers planned, including a gigantic yard sale," explained Bates.

This yard sale idea won the "Oprah Magazine De-Clutter for a Cause Contest."

Along with O Magazine, Peter Walsh, professional organizer from TLC's "Clean Sweep," will be hosting the huge yard-sale event. The event will have entertainment, raffles, an auction, food and of course loads of treasures for purchase.

People wishing to find new homes for any gently used items can donate them at Littleton Storage Solutions on May 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Walsh will also be hosting an intimate meet-and-greet event at Mangia Mangia Italian Grille in Westford on Friday, May 31. Tickets are available at the Castle in the Trees website and all proceeds benefit Aidan's Playground.

In addition to the yard sale, many local restaurants have or are planning days when part of their proceeds will be donated to Aidan's Playground. Papa Gino's in Westford held a fundraiser on April 2 that raised $500, the second highest fundraiser to date for the restaurant. On May 6, the Littleton Sub Shoppe & Pub held a fundraiser. Not Your Average Joe's in Acton will be donating proceeds from those that bring in a flier every Wednesday in June.

In the spirit of bringing the community together, the Together We Build project has been launched. The website will showcase great projects that our community is doing in honor of the memory of Aidan. From bake sales to business donations, the site asks people to "do the thing you love best to make a difference." It couldn't be easier. Do something you already love and be part of this community project.

Whether you make $5, $25, or $50, it's all important. We can do this together.