WESTHAMPTON – It may seem bizarre to a viewer that Charlotte Wood gave her daughter Charlene Bordonaro a can of kidney beans for Christmas last year.
For Wood, however, this “gag gift” had a personal meaning, as it was a gesture of admiration for her daughter who donated a kidney to her boss, Chris Quental, in January 2020.
In the 22 years that Bordonaro was Director of Project Management at CIGNA Healthcare, she and Quental developed a high quality relationship.
“He has always been very good to me as a manager,” she said.
This was especially true as Bordonaro struggled with her father’s death in 2018 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Wood said Quental (Bordonaro) “gave all the time and everything she wanted” to help her recover from the loss.
After receiving this kindness, Bordonaro remembered her mother asking her, “How will you ever repay him?” When Quental needed a kidney in 2020, Bordonaro said she felt obliged to see if her kidney would fit.
“She was as good a donor as if they were siblings!” Cried Holz.
A year after the operation, Quental put together a song called âThere’s a Partâ to capture his gratitude for Bordonaro’s gift. Kidney donation has become part of their relationship when she gave Quental kidney-shaped cookies from the Pure Love Bakery promotion to “share your replacement,” said Bordonaro.
To honor her daughter’s kindness, Wood donated $ 25 on behalf of Bordonaro to the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, one of two Wood donations that year.
Named for a former Gazette executive, the Toy Fund began helping families in need during the Depression in 1933. Today the fund is handing out $ 40 worth of vouchers to families for every child ages 1 to 14. Eligible families must reside in every parish in Hampshire County except Ware or in the towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett in southern Franklin Counties. and in Holyoke, Hampden County.
The CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst will verify families’ eligibility and the Gazette will cover the cost of the trip and approve any donations to fund the vouchers.
Wood’s other donation, also of $ 25, was made in memory of Don MacLeod and Debbie Brooks, two former educators at Westhampton Elementary School, where Wood taught language, reading and writing for 25 years until they retired 11 years ago.
Wood said that Brooks was a close friend of hers and mentioned that the two even shared a retirement party after leaving school. Brooks worked at the school as a kindergarten and first grader for 35 years, long enough that all three of Wood’s children, now in their 40s, were all Brooks’ students when they were in elementary school themselves.
MacLeod served as the principal of Westhampton Elementary School for 34 years and was also close to Wood. Although he died in 2007, Brooks’ death last October inspired Wood to donate to honor both educators. The two were passionate about their jobs, and Wood summed it up in one word: “dedicated”.
Wood has been donating to the Toy Fund for 25 years, often in memory of people who are important to her, such as her late husband, Kenneth Wood, and even “Jeopardy!” Host Alex Trebek last year.
“This year I tried to be a little different,” she said of her decision to commemorate her daughter instead.
“She’s a very caring person … she always has time for others,” said Wood.
Bordonaro could claim that her generosity was learned from her mother, said Wood, who argues that her daughter is even more selfless than she is.
“I planted the seed and then the seed grew bigger with her,” said Wood.
Donating a kidney is “something most people don’t,” added Wood. “What a wonderful gift to give to someone!”
The following stores are participating in the Toy Fund this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble / Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once Upon a Child, 1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitter, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookstore, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.