SUMTER, S.C. - It's not the type of emergency phone call the Sumter Police Department in South Carolina gets too terribly often, but what happened after Officer Gaetano Acerra responded is even more rare.
"He called and was very distraught and very upset," Acerra, 24, told ABC News of the unusual call they received from 13-year-old, Cameron Simmons. "He was threatening to run away and leave the house. That's all the information I had."
When Acerra responded to the call, Cameron was across the street from his home at a corner convenience store. The boy had used the store's phone to dial 911 to tell them he no longer wished to live at his home.
"He was so upset," Acerra recalled of their initial interaction about a month ago. "I asked him questions about why he didn't want to live there, and I was complimenting him on his clothes. He had nice clothes and shoes on."
Although Cameron's reason for wanting to run away that day may seem minor, because, he told Acerra, his mother was yelling at him for using his older brother's gaming system, what the police officer found when he returned the boy home was not something he could easily forget.
"He took me to his room and it was four walls, two windows and hardwood floor," Acerra explained. "It was just empty. He had his clothes on the ground in a black garbage bag. I asked him where he sleeps and he said, 'Sometime on the couch and sometimes on a blow-up mattress.'"
Cameron's bleak response pulled on the officer's heart strings, as it now has done for so many people worldwide, from the Philippines to Denmark, who have heard what the kind police officer did next.
For the next few weeks, unbeknownst to Cameron, his mother or brother, who have fallen on hard times after abruptly moving from Texas to South Carolina to help take care of a sick relative, Acerra worked hard to gather some essential items for the family, but most of all, a proper bedroom for the little boy.
On May 6, Acerra and his own older brother, Ferdinando Acerra, dropped off a new bed, TV, desk, chair, a brand new comforter and a barely-used Wii game system for Camero
"The kid was in tears," said Acerra. "He was just in shock, so happy. He still is."