Art of Aging: Retiree builds "kustom kars" for kids with cancer

September may be "National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" - but one Gloucester County resident is making it his mission to bring awareness year-round, by demonstrating how small acts of kindness can lead to big rewards.

Over the past year, Rich Nardiello has been acquiring quite a car collection.

"There's a tremendous amount of folks that donate cars to me," Nardiello said.

Nardiello uses them for a non-profit he started called PopPop's Kustom Kars. It began as a hobby.

"I was retired and looking to do something else with my time. I also made a cozy coupe, the first one an Eagles car because I'm an Eagles fan for my grandson, and I saw that he smiled," Nardiello.

Nardiello decided to pass along that positivity and now personalizes Little Tikes Cozy Coupes for sick children.

"I started talking to my friend's daughter and I got a good feeling of defiance and resilience just like I had when I was going through my stroke recovery," Nardiello.

In 2012, a stroke left Nardiello unable to walk or talk. He says staying positive through rehab helped. He thought giving cars to kids might help them with their treatments too.

"It reduces their stress level of stress and anxiety," said Nardiello.

"So I did the first one for a little girl named Arianna from Marlton, New Jersey. I delivered it to her house and I saw the smiles," said Nardiello.

Nardiello created what he calls a warrior board, covered with pictures of his car recipients.

"I did a Cookie Monster car, delivered it to him, got the same smiles. So then all of a sudden it almost became addictive," said Nardiello.

Nardiello has done sports-themed cars, a rocket car, and even a rubber ducky car.

"The caregivers or the moms tell me what the kids like. It's definitely a surprise," said Nardiello.

Nardiello personally delivers each car. Kisses for Kyle, an organization that assists families fighting childhood cancer, pairs him with children in need.

But he also donates cars to hospitals in honor of children that have passed as part of his latest initiative, My Kindness Kar program.

For instance, there's a batman car that will be put into the St. Christopher's Hospital.

Nardiello won't take any monetary donations. He says he just wants to bring awareness to pediatric cancer...and smiles to children's faces.

"That's all I really want, because that brings such joy to me as well as to the child," said Nardiello. "They do not have to think about what they are going through that one minute, to me is just priceless."
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