(MCT) — Acey Longley, a 9-year-old Plainfield third-grader, surprised his mother one day when he announced he wanted to do something, "just me and dad."
Acey never met his father, Ty Longley, who died in a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people. Longley was the guitarist for Great White, the heavy metal band on stage when the fire broke out. Acey was born 6 months after the blaze.
To honor his father's memory, Acey started a charity called B.E.A.T.S. — Bringing Everyone a Tremendous Smile. In August, the Tribune shared his story.
The charity collected drumsticks, Legos and iTunes gift cards for children in the hospital. At the time the story was published, Acey had paid three visits to Edward Hospital in Naperville, where he handed out donations using his own red wagon.
Since then, Acey has received hundreds of drumsticks and boxes of Legos and thousands of dollars in iTunes gift cards from donors around the world, said his mother, Heidi Longley.
Some donations came from musicians and drum companies. A police officer from Lake County sent $100 worth of iTunes cards. A woman in Rhode Island sent another $300 worth.
Neighbors of Jasper Dee, a Naperville boy with leukemia who was photographed with Acey, donated half the proceeds of their annual golf outing to B.E.A.T.S., said Adrian Dee, the boy's father.
Acey has made three more visits since August to Edward Hospital in Naperville and, with so many donations, added the hospital's Plainfield campus. During the most recent visit, Acey wore a Santa suit and carried his presents in a sack over his shoulder.
Later, the boy also made a special house call to the Dee family's front door. He wanted to drop off a Transformers Lego set he was sure Jasper would like.
"Amazing kid, that Acey," Adrian Dee said.
Acey said he's never sure what to say when people compliment his efforts on Facebook and in person. He plans to keep the charity going as long as he can and has asked for donations as his Christmas gifts, he said.
The best part of B.E.A.T.S., Acey said, is that it makes him think his father would be happy to see what kind of kid he turned out to be.
"I'm just making him proud," he said.