Charlotte 8th grader honors terminally ill cousin by donating toys to sick children

“I just want to bring some happiness.”

Eighth grade student Mia Avellan has a big heart and big ambition. But her ambition isn’t focused on herself. Rather, it’s on how she can help others.

Mia is a special student at Piedmont I.B. Middle School, and she’s collected nearly 100 new toys for kids who are sick or injured at Atrium Health Levine Children’s.

“I have a passion for helping people. Not just older people but younger people too. Kids and making people smile,” Mia said.

Her journey to help others began when the family learned a younger cousin, Kalel, was diagnosed with Mucopolysaccharidosis type II (MPS II), also known as Hunter syndrome.

Hunter syndrome is a condition that affects many different parts of the body and occurs almost exclusively in males. It is a progressively debilitating disorder.

The life expectancy of these individuals is 10 to 20 years.

“When my cousin was diagnosed, it had a really big effect on my family we didn’t know how to take the news,” Mia said.


She launched a nonprofit and calls it Making People Smile.

“I started my nonprofit because I just love Kalel. He’s like my little brother,” she said. “I want to put smiles on kids faces of kids who have to stay in a hospital. Giving them that at-home feeling like unwrapping a gift at Christmas.”

On Saturday, volunteer students from her school joined Mia at The Freeman Law Group where they sanitized the toys and wrapped the gifts in a room full of joyful middle school students.

“Getting these toys wrapped means so much to me. I’ll be able to donate all of these toys to children at Levine,” Mia said. “I hope everyone has fun and feels the same connection that I felt receiving these gifts joy.”

Each of the students said they understand a big part of helping kids in the hospital is giving them what they crave most, the opportunity to just play like a kid.

They unloaded boxes of toys, books, arts and crafts, puzzles, games and other items to help the patients at Levine Children’s to just be kids.

Along with the gifts, the students made cards for the patients. Mia thinks the cards are a great way to bring cheer and offer a distraction to children, young adults and their families who are staying in the hospital.


Piedmont has a history of charitable students. This giving spirit has been part of the culture of the school since 1925 and is ingrained in the staff and students.

Many of the students at Piedmont have developed a love for doing good deeds for others. The culmination of Mia’s caring spirit has come together for her Making People Smile project.

<b>“I love babies. I love kids. When Kalel got sick it just hit me different,” she said. “I just want to bring some happiness.”</b>


Life for a lot of people isn’t easy, but this young lady is focused on doing her part for the common good of everyone.

With all the challenges facing the community, it is obvious that Mia is committed to making life better for others.

If you have an inspiring story, please contact Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at