HASTINGS, Minn. - We all appreciate hospitality when we are far from home, but seldom can we return the favor like Cameron Perra has.
The young Hastings man had just finished high school at Cretin-Derham Hall when he went to live and work for nine months at a Catholic parish in Venezuela.
Gregoria Ramos Rivas was the secretary at that parish and brought Cameron home often for meals.
"Oh, it was great," he said recently. "It was fun, they were all very welcoming."
Ramos Riva has a 17-year-old daughter named Greicys. Over time Perra learned of Greicys' painful spinal condition that might eventually threaten her life. Greicys had already undergone two surgeries in Venezuela, with a third still to come. Nothing had helped.
But Perra had an ace up his sleeve. His father, Dr. Jerry Perra, is an orthopedic surgeon. His mother is a nurse. His uncle is a spine surgeon. And for good measure, his aunt works for a company that builds the hardware used in spinal surgeries.
And what did Cameron Perra bring to the table? Persistence, says his mother, Eileen Perra. "So he's the champion."
Cameron's family was even more convinced of the need to act after visiting Venezuela themselves, and meeting Greicys.
"It would just be a tragedy if we didn't make this happen," said Jerry Perra.
Both Greicys and her mother are now in Hastings. Monday Greicys will undergo surgery at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. The hospital is donating its services and Cameron's dad and his uncle will perform the surgery.
"It's really fitting together nicely," said Cameron's father. His mother considers it returning a favor. "It's the way we can repay them too for keeping our son safe and fed," smiled Eileen Perra.
A grateful Gregoria Ramos Rivas bristles at the comparison. "I think that I have done very little for what Cameron has done for us," she said.
Greicys will recuperate in the Twin Cities before returning to Venezuela. "I'm very grateful to the Perra family," she said.