By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4)– Rita Contreras remembers her son Nathaniel as a fighter with a curious side.

“He just had the mindset of building. He would take his trains apart and put them back together,” said Rita.

When he was diagnosed with cancer at age six, their lives changed. Nathaniel was in and out of the hospital getting treatments. One day, Rita decided to give him a LEGO set.

Nathaniel (credit: CBS)

“It really kept his mind off of the treatment that he was receiving and his mind off of the cancer,” said Rita.

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Building LEGOs became one of Nathaniel’s favorite pastimes and something he could do even while he was in the hospital.

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When Nathaniel died three years into his battle with cancer, his mom wanted to do something to keep his memory alive. She started Team Nathaniel, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting LEGOs for kids being treated for cancer.

Rita Contreras (credit: CBS)

“For a child who is sitting in a hospital for days at a time it gives them something to focus on,” said Rita.

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Wednesday at the University of Denver campus, Boettcher scholars gathered donations of new LEGO sets from their fellow students to give to Team Nathaniel.

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“It’s a really great cause, and it’s very inexpensive to donate,” said student Luke Srsen.

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Luke Srsen (credit: CBS)

Luke organized the event. His little brother also fought pediatric cancer and he knows personally how much little things can mean to a kid going through a hard time.

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“It makes their day a little brighter and helps them get through those sticky situations” said Luke.

Rita says it helps her remember and honor her son when she sees other kids like Luke’s brother get a smile from Nathaniel’s favorite toy.

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“Seeing the smiles on their faces you realize how that tiny contribution can make a big impact,” said Rita.

LINK: Team Nathaniel

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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