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Family supports Eat'n Park's Tips for Tots

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 12:03 a.m.

As Eat'n Park collects funds for youth hospitals across its market region, waitress Taurniece Cromerdie and her daughter are helping McKeesporters understand how Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh touches the lives of everyday people.

Through Dec. 13, Eat'n Park is running its 26th annual Caring for Kids campaign. In McKeesport on Wednesday, servers took part in the Tips for Tots initiative that has helped to raise more than $5 million for children's hospitals over the past quarter century.

Cromerdie, an Eat'n Park waitress for the past 18 years, introduced customers to her daughter Naudia Mya Cromerdie-Grigsby, 11, who was treated at Pittsburgh's UPMC facility when she was diagnosed with a parvo virus infection at age 3.

“I didn't even know that people could get parvo,” Cromerdie said of the virus that, in most forms, is deadly to canines.

Naudia was lethargic and simply wasn't acting like herself, her mother recalled. Already familiar with Children's Hospital because of a sickle-cell disease diagnosis at birth, Cromerdie took her daughter straight to the hospital, assuming she soon would have a medical crisis related to her condition.

“Within 20 minutes, Naudia went from the sickle-cell floor to the ICU,” Cromerdie said. “The virus attacked her major organs almost instantly.”

Naudia was on life support and had undergone a month of treatment when her family was prepared for the worst.

“She was gone,” Cromerdie said. “But she's here now, and she's a blessing. When we visit Children's Hospital today, they say it's a miracle that she made it through.”

During her recovery, Naudia was on transplant waiting lists for several vital organs; and over time her body has healed. She's now off the transplant lists, and her care consists of regular checkups with UPMC physicians.

“Children's Hospital is a part of my life,” Cromerdie said. “Being a waitress at Eat'n Park, I'm proud to be helping out. Tips for Tots is the least we can do to help a hospital that helps so many people.”

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko visited the restaurant twice on Wednesday to check in with the Eat'n Park staff and guest servers including Councilman Keith Soles, police Chief Bryan J. Washowich and officer Justin Toth.

“It's an exciting opportunity for community leaders to take part in this program, which donates 100 percent of collected tips to children's hospitals,” Cherepko said.

Cherepko served as Naudia's fifth-grade teacher for the first half of the 2011-12 academic year, before taking over the mayor's office.

“She's a wonderful young lady,” he said. “She's a good student who is very kind-hearted. She's the type of kid who gets along with everyone.”

Cherepko said it's amazing what Children's Hospital was able to do for Naudia's family. He said support from programs such as Tips for Tots helps youth hospitals make a difference in kids' lives on a daily basis.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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