Cameron Terrell forgoes birthday gifts for others
"Everyone kept asking me what to get Cameron for his birthday. I told them I didn't know, but I would find out," said Lori Terrell about her son.
Cameron, a sixth-grader at Benton Middle School, had not been helpful with clues of any kind. "I really couldn't think of anything I wanted," said Cameron. "I thought I had too much stuff already."
Then, on the way to school one morning, Cameron made a decision. "I know what I want," he said to his mother. "I want a pair of shoes so I can give them to someone who needs them."
While full of pride at the suggestion from her son, Lori said she was not altogether surprised by her son's request. When the staff at the middle school heard of Cameron's request, neither were they. "Cameron is a leader." says Karen Heathery, sponsor of the school's ELF Club. "He always volunteers for things we do. He is always asking 'What can I do?' and looking for ways to help."
The ELF Club is a group at the middle school that gets involved in activities that teach members to show charity toward others. For the Christmas 2012 holiday, the ELF Club raised $25,0000 that was used to purchase toys and bicycles for children in the community who might otherwise have had no presents at all.
"The club first began as 'Champs' more than 20 years ago." according to Principal Sue Shults. "We don't have sports teams at our level, so our groups are more focused on service toward others."
Cameron's birthday was Jan. 2 and, per his request, gifts that he could donate for others were the norm. On Jan. 22, Cameron made good on his promise, but he brought more than a pair of shoes to his school to donate. Through the kindness of others, Cameron collected a box of coats and other articles of clothing as well.
Heathery, along with sixth-grade counselor Fanny Jones and seventh-grade counselor Pasley Butler, were present to accept Cameron's donation. Also present were Shults and Cameron's mother, Lori.
When asked their opinions regarding Cameron's effort, Jones and Butler commended the young man. "This is awesome," Butler said. "It is impressive to see this kind of concern for others in a sixth-grader."
Jones agreed. "This gives me hope for our country and the next generations," she said.
Pasley and Jones are no strangers to helping the needy either. The two counselors coordinate the school's program of providing bags of food for students who might otherwise go without eating once they return home after school. During a normal week, more than 30 bags of food are sent home with students who are identified by the counselors as needing help or referred to them for assistance. Food items such as Pop-Tarts, microwave macaroni and cheese, crackers, Rice Krispy Treats and other easy-to-prepare foods are placed in bags and given to the children who carry them home in their backpacks.
"Sometimes we send home one bag with a child. Sometimes the need is greater and we send two,"Jones noted.
Supplies for the effort are supplied by local organizations and churches including Parkview Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church and others.
"We also have an individual who sends us a sizable sum of money each month," Shults noted.
"Right now, if there is a need, there are people whom we can call and it is taken care of," Butler said.
Currently, a supply room is the location for racks of clothes, stacks of shoes and counters of food items stored specifically for distribution by the counselors. "We hope at one point to need a bigger room," said Butler.
In the meantime, the shoes and other items Cameron brought to the school were carried to the storage room, taking their place in line. "These shoes won't be here long. I think we already have someone who needs them," Butler told Cameron as she removed them from the box.
Cameron, also the son of Mike Terrell, is the grandson of Jerry Beaty, administrative assistant at the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce and a retired Benton High School teacher and assistant principal.
Helping others and being involved in the community is a trait passed down to him naturally, Beaty said. She added "If there is a chamber event, he is there helping out."
Cameron assisted workers in passing out hot dogs to spectators and participants following the Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Jan. 21.
"I am pretty proud of him," said Lori of her son.
Cameron says he wants to be a pharmacist when he grows up.