TIVERTON, R.I. (WPRI) — You may remember “Super” Shawny Smith, the 11-year-old boy from Tiverton who battled an inoperable brain tumor.
He was well known locally and nationally for his optimistic goal of seeing different parts of the country before his brain tumor stopped him from doing so.
12 News first featured Shawny days after his diagnosis, when he was 10 years old, and followed his journey until the day he died last December.
Shawny always had a light of positivity that has since motivated his mom, family, and community, now more than ever, to keep his memory alive.
“Shawny put us on a path, absolutely, 100%, and the path’s long. It’s still there. Every time we get a chance to say, ‘What would Shawny do?’ That’s what we’re going to do,” his mom Monica Velozo said.
He created a bucket list days after his diagnosis, and at the top was meeting his favorite football player — Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
That dream came true for Shawny. Cox gave him a tour of the stadium, and even his own jersey.
The positive way he chose to live his life has turned into a blueprint for how his family and friends should live their lives without him.
“This year has been a lot of the ‘love moments,’ where as soon as you’re feeling down, somebody comes and brings you up,” Monica said. “The football league that we’re a part of has just been, I don’t want to get emotional, it’s been everything.”
The team surprised Monica by incorporating 99 into the players’ helmets, not as a temporary gesture but permanently. His sister Chloe also showed off the cheerleaders’ bows, which also have the number 99 on them.
They say it’s all about the “Number 99 Mentality,” which for Shawny it wasn’t about winning or losing the game, but how it was played.
In September, 12 News was there when a buddy bench in Shawny’s name was dedicated to Chloe’s school.
“A couple days ago, me and my friends sat on it,” Chloe said. “We couldn’t give hugs and stuff, so they made me a special sweater that had everyone’s handprint on it. A hug sweatshirt.”
Family friend Josh Barboza, who Shawny once called ‘coach’, said he still always hears people talk about Shawny.
“It’s great. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know that little kid, what happened?’ And they tell me the whole story. It’s great,” Barboza recalled.
Shawny wanted to be famous, and his Facebook page — The Super Shawny Chronicles — became well known in the area with people helping support his many adventures and sending joy.
His family is continuing to cross off the remaining items on Shawny’s bucket list, like exploring Virginia, Pennsylvania, watching the sunset in Florida, knowing he too, in some way, will enjoy the ride.
They are also giving back this holiday season by collecting donated toys for the Izzy Room, where they spent hours while visiting Shwny at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
“It’s making a hard time, happy. Talking about it makes me a little upset, but right from here, we’re going to be elves, and all of the joy you get out of it,” Monica said. “I can feel how happy he would be to be drawing and writing these letters and going to deliver them.”
Monica says she knows they are all making Shawny proud.