A little prince moves into his Camden castle

A little prince moves into his Camden castle

Photo by James A. McBride

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Jorge Cartagena, 9, plays on the swing in the backyard of his new home on Jasper Street in South Camden.

CAMDEN — This has been a year of change for 9-year-old Jorge Cartagena, who was left blind after being struck in the temple by a stray bullet.

He’s learning Braille and making other changes as he adapts to life without sight. He’s preparing for the sacraments of initiation.

And on Tuesday, April 10, Jorge — who prefers to be called George — was welcomed to his new home on Jasper Street, where he will live with his grandmother, Manuela Pintor.

At a morning event that was part press conference and part welcome ceremony, Msgr. Michael Doyle said that George is “leading us to learn anew what is truly important…his good humor (throughout his ordeal) and great effort inspire us to be better.”

Msgr. Doyle concluded his remarks by quoting the book, “The Little Prince”: “It is only with the heart, that one sees rightly.”

Msgr. Doyle is pastor of nearby Sacred Heart Church, where Jorge worships.

When asked about his new home, George, happy and smiling the whole morning, answered, “I’m so grateful. It’s bangin’!”

Mayor Dana Redd, Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson, and Helene Pierson, executive director of Heart of Camden also made remarks, along with Mimi Box, executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation; and Ann Baiada, co-chair of the Heart of Camden’s “Small Things With Great Love” gala.

The three-bedroom home for George and his grandmother, formerly abandoned, was renovated with funds from the Neighborhood Stimulus Programs and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.

Heart of Camden, an affordable housing corporation, will hold the mortgage and Pintor will make monthly payments until the two-story rowhome, with a playground set in the backyard, and steps from a garden and greenhouse, is theirs.

After his accident, George met Police Chief Thomson and Pierson of Heart of Camden, and he asked them to be his godparents. He hopes to be baptized in the upcoming months.

George is showing others how to overcome adversity, with “an intrepid heart and indomitable spirit,” said Chief Thomson.

“The distance he has traveled spiritually, physically, and emotionally, over these last nine months, has been nothing short of miraculous,” he said.

With his new house, in a new neighborhood, George “can be raised by a community of people that have a common interest in the betterment of each other, with spiritual focus; there’ll be nothing better for this young man,” said Chief Thompson.

“Out of challenges, come opportunities,” said Mayor Redd, reminding George to “keep the faith, and believe in God.”

At the end of the press conference, George stood with Mayor Redd on his porch, cut the ribbon tied on the metal railing, and invited everyone in for a welcome house, all to the tune of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme song from “Rocky,” emanating triumphantly from music speakers.

His godfather said, “He has the heart of a champion.”

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