Valley family honors late son by paying for another boy's birthday cake

The Modesto BeeMarch 18, 2014 

Something sweet came from a Turlock bakery, mixed up with something sad.

Brandon and Breann Smith of Denair wanted to honor their son, Colten, who was 19 months old when he died in a 2009 dog attack. He would have turned 6 on Saturday, so they asked the staff at Olde Tyme Pastries to let them anonymously pay for a birthday cake ordered for another child about the age Colten would be now.

The recipient, chosen randomly, was Sean Cameron of Modesto, who was celebrating his seventh birthday. When his father, Jerry Cameron, tried to pay the nearly $70 bill, an employee said it already was covered. In the cake box, he found a handwritten letter.

"Though we don't know you and you don't know us, we would like to wish your precious child a very happy birthday,"the letter said. "... This random act of kindness is being done in memory of our son, Colten James Smith, who would be 6 years old on March 16."

The cake decorator, Terri Coonce, told The Modesto Bee about what happened in an email. She is a cousin of Jerry Cameron, but said it was a coincidence that he was involved in the gift.

Breann Smith, reached by phone, said she did not mind that the anonymous gesture on Colten's behalf would become public.

"We think about him all the time, what his little personality would be like,"she said. The family includes three other boys and a 7-month-old girl.

On past birthdays, they have honored Colten with toy drives and blankets for hospitalized children, but this was the first time they provided a cake.

"Of course, we would much rather be buying it for him,"Breann Smith said, "but under the circumstances, I'm glad we could share it with someone."

Jerry and Danielle Cameron ordered the cake for Sean's party Saturday at Funworks in Modesto; his birthday was Thursday. It was chocolate with custard filling and bore an image of some Minion characters from the "Despicable Me"movies.

Jerry Cameron, a fiber-optic technician, said the gesture has inspired his family to "pay it forward,"perhaps by sponsoring a child in need at a church camp. They are members of The House/Modesto.

Olde Tyme Pastries has become a Turlock institution since it opened in 1981, and now it has connected people in a unique way.

"My eyes filled with tears and so did my cousin's as this letter was read,"Coonce said in her email. "This family did something so kind for a stranger on (what) I'm sure was a tough but memorable day for them. I personally would like to say, 'Thank you.' "

See more photos at www.modbee.com

The reporter can be reached at (209) 578-2385 or jholland@modbee.com.

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