CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A West Ashley coach who has been lighting up lives and playing the role of Santa for local children for over 20 years is using the power of giving and healing despite recent heartbreaking health news.
The outpouring of love and support after being diagnosed this past October with a rare blood cancer has been overwhelming for 63-year-old Charlie Schump.
Schump is not only known for lighting up his entire house with Christmas lights every year, but for helping countless children learn gymnastics.
Better known as Mr. Charlie, the coach says he began educating and helping kids at the YMCA when he was a young boy. He has since taught the sport of gymnastics to thousands of preschoolers through his mobile gymnastics company.
His illness now not only keeps him from working, but from bringing a smile to the faces of children and teachers he has grown so close to throughout the years.
"It breaks my heart," says Mr. Charlie. "It's the job I've done forever and now I can't do it anymore. It breaks my heart."
While it has been his job to teach gymnastics, others say he has done more than that for his students.
"He has taught the children about love and compassion, and that's so much more than gymnastics," says Irene Buenting of Carousel Daycare.
Although his cancer has kept him from coaching, Mr. Charlie is determined to continue making Christmas brighter.
Neighbors are pitching in this year to help wrap his home with more than 22,000 Christmas lights.
"He brings everybody a lot of spirit so I wanted to try to help him out since he could not do it all this year," says Alisa King, one of Mr. Charlie's neighbors.
The daycare centers where Mr. Charlie has taught for two decades are also trying to give back. They are collecting monetary donations for he and his family to help pay for his medical expenses.
"I was floored at how many people want to help," said Mr. Charlie.
But for those who have met him, offering help during this time of need is the least they could do.
"Mr. Charlie has shown us so much love and respect, and now it's time to give back," said Buenting.
Donations to the Charlie Schump relief fund can be made at any First Federal location. Carousel Daycare on Sam Rittenburg is also accepting donations.