TAUNTON — A brave and generous boy from Middleboro now has a connection to Taunton.
Ten-year-old Dylan Berio was diagnosed seven years ago with three brain tumors that have led to two brain surgeries, half a dozen chemotherapy treatments and the loss of half his vision in one eye and all vision in the other.
Dylan has always loved Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars. And for the past five years, he’s been providing moral support to other youngsters with cancer by passing out and distributing the toy cars.
His mother, Dawn Berio, says since 2013 Dylan has collected and distributed more than 14,500 of the car toys to kids with cancer in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, Pennsylvania, California and New Mexico.
Dylan has been the subject of news stories during his childhood dating back to 2012, when he and four other kids ranging in age up to 17 — all of whom were being treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — participated in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
In 2014, he was made an honorary member of the Attleboro Police Department, and two years later a story appeared about his participation in a Lakeville powerlifting event that raised money for Cops for Kids with Cancer, a charity chosen by Dylan.
David Patrick and his wife, Donna Miranda, live in Middleboro but since 2017 have owned and operated D&D Diner, formerly known as Jimmy’s Restaurant, at 22 Broadway in Taunton.
Patrick says he met the Berios five years ago when one of his sons was playing Little League baseball with Dylan’s older brother, Hayden.
In late July, Patrick said, he ran into Dawn, her husband, Philip, and Dylan in the Wareham Walmart.
Shortly thereafter, Patrick said, he saw that Dawn was posting notices and comments on Facebook reminding people that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, as designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Patrick says he’d been aware for some time that Dylan had been soliciting donated toy cars and giving them away, sometimes in person by walking into the hospital room of a child undergoing treatment in Boston.
“He’ll go in when the kids are having a tough day and make them happy,” he said.
During a subsequent phone call with Dawn, Patrick suggested he might be able to use his downtown Taunton business as a means of soliciting additional Hot Wheels donations on behalf of Dylan.
“I wanted to make it bigger,” said Patrick.
“My dad died five years ago from cancer, and it was very hard,” he added. “So I thought it would be great to help him do something like this that helps other kids.”
Patrick posted flyers provided by Dawn, entitled “Dylan’s Mighty Matchboxes,” in his window and on the front counter next to the cash register.
The flyers describe Dylan’s medical condition, his treatments at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic and his passion for collecting and sharing the Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars.
It notes that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and asks everyone donating to make sure the single- and five-pack toy cars are in their original, unopened blister packaging.
Patrick says he collected at least 200 toy cars from customers within the first three days of posting the flyers.
He also said Dawn is asking the police department for permission to attach gold ribbons to light poles, as she’s done in Middleboro, as a reminder about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Patrick, who says he’s publicized the campaign on Facebook, said he’ll accept donated toy cars at the diner through the end of the month.
Dawn Berio says she thinks Patrick’s goodwill gesture is “awesome.”
“Dave is such a great person. He’s a sincerely kind person (and) it didn’t surprise me at all,” she said, adding that “he’s gonna make a lot of kids happy.”
Berio said Dylan has personally handed out at least 50 toy cars to juvenile patients.
To do so, she said, the plastic packages first have to be thoroughly wiped and cleaned to avoid the possibility of infection.
“Their immune system has been compromised. Treatment is really a horrible thing to go through,” she said.
“He’ll say, ‘They’re really having a pretty crappy day.’ But he feels as though they’re a little happier when he brings something to them,” Dawn said.
She says Dylan, who is now in the fifth grade, goes in every six months for an MRI and has his vision checked every three months at Dana-Farber.
Dawn, who works at Walmart, said Dylan was collecting the small-scale toy cars before he was diagnosed with cancer.
After the diagnosis, she said, he received two pairs of Converse sneakers that had been painted and sent to him by Peach’s Neet Feet, a nonprofit group that attempts to spread joy to children with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
As part of the group’s theme of “paying it forward” with acts of kindness, Dawn said Dylan used $30 of his own money to buy the first batch of cars.
Preschool and kindergarten teachers, she said, helped him get rolling, which led to as many as 10,000 donated cars being sent to the Berio household from Massachusetts and other states.
Dawn says she and her husband, who works as an account associate for a copy machine company, employ a simple method for distributing the toys.
“We put them in bags and mail them out to other states and organizations,” she said.
Dawn says it’s been a year and a half since Dylan’s last chemotherapy session.
“And we’re grateful for that,” she said. “The tumors are stable and not progressing, and thank God for that.”