Wednesday, September 25, 2013
By Chris Sokoloski
When Waccamaw High School’s Class of 2014 graduates in June, one of its members will be there only in spirit.
Cameron Ahalt was 12 when he collapsed and died during a Boy Scout Camporee in Hemingway in November 2008. He was a Waccamaw Middle School seventh-grader at the time, on track to graduate in 2014.
Soon after his death, Cameron’s parents, Sean and Kristi, founded a golf tournament fundraiser.
“He loved the game of golf and we set up a fund in his memory to give back to community,” Sean Ahalt said.
The event was an immediate success and has raised more than $40,000 in five years. Most of the golfers play every year.
In the first four years, the Ahalts made donations to the Waccamaw High band program and several animal shelters. They also gave a few thousand dollars to Cameron’s Boy Scout troop after its trailer and equipment were stolen.
The Ahalts also wanted to establish a scholarship in Cameron’s name, but waited until this year.
Instead of choosing one recipient, the Ahalts decided to “go big” and chose three: Andi Stevens, Mattie Wyndham and Tyler Elling.
“All three had a special place in Cameron’s heart and our hearts,” Sean Ahalt said. “It’s a good way to honor my son.”
The three girls volunteered at this year’s tournament and had no idea they were receiving the scholarships.
“It was really important to me because Cameron was a big part of my life growing up,” Stevens said. “He helped me through school and he’s still helping me through school.”
She had been friends with Cameron since the second grade and said it is “weird” to be a senior and not see his smiling face in school.
Stevens’ parents play in the golf tournament every year.
“The tournament is a great way to keep his memory alive … and celebrate everything he meant to everybody,” she said.
Stevens wants to study design and technical theater and have a career as a stage manager.
Wyndham had been friends with Cameron since kindergarten.
“[The scholarship] means so much to me. It came out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting it,” Wyndham said. “It’s an amazing thing for them to do to honor Cameron’s memory.”
Cameron’s death made his classmates “realize the fragility of life and how fleeting it can be.”
“A lot of us have noted that [Cameron’s] loss kind of brought us together,” Wyndham said. “Middle school is a formative age, you’re trying to figure everything out and here comes that awful blow.”
Wyndham wants to study English and political science and have a career in the nonprofit field.
Sean Ahalt credits his mom, Anita, with organizing the tournament every year, and is grateful for the community’s support.
“Everybody around here has been awesome,” he said. “They’ve been a great support system for us.”