Mother pursues scholarship funds to honor lost son
PULASKI — The mother of a Pulaski County teenager killed last April in a car crash hopes to raise money to continue a memorial scholarship established to help college-bound seniors with their expenses.
Nearly a year after Cameron Fitzwater died, his mother Terri Fitzwater Palmore is spending her days organizing a 5K run/walk set for April 6, and she said she hopes it’s the first of many such events.
“I just want to make sure this is around forever. There is always going to be a need,” Palmore said. “Education was very important to Cameron and to us. He was determined to go to college.”
The scholarship was established immediately after Fitzwater, 18 at the time, died in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 81 on April 4, 2012, two months before he was set to graduate from Pulaski County High School.
Fitzwater left school driving his Mazda Miata that Wednesday afternoon and was on his way to his job at Panera Bread in Christiansburg, Palmore said.
According to police reports at the time, Fitzwater ran off the left side of the interstate at mile marker 101 near Claytor Lake. The convertible went up an embankment, struck a tree and overturned.
Fitzwater’s death devastated his family and his friends in the community. Palmore has kept her son’s upstairs room exactly as it was when he died, except that now his bed is made.
“This is where I come to seek solace,” Palmore said upon opening the door.
“This is Cameron at his best,” she added.
As responsible as he was, she said, her son didn’t often make his bed.
On the walls, friends and even strangers moved by Fitzwater’s death have written messages to him that point to the things in life he loved, like hiking, kayaking and rock climbing.
“Climb some rocks in Heaven for me,” one message reads.
After giving a tour of the room, Palmore closed the door gently, careful to make sure it latched behind her.
Downstairs in the family dining room, Palmore said the scholarship was established immediately after her son’s death.
The family asked for donations to the fund in Fitzwater’s obituary. The Pulaski County High School marketing department sold memorial T-shirts, and friends have sold necklaces similar to one her son often wore. All told, Palmore said about $12,000 has been raised. But she wants to raise enough each year to keep the fund going indefinitely.
So far Palmore said four students have received $1,000 scholarships from the fund, all going to members of Fitzwater’s 2012 classmates who now are enrolled in colleges, including New River Community College and Virginia Tech, she said.
While Palmore organizes events to raise more funds, she said the scholarship itself is administered by PCHS officials.
The school processes the applications and picks the winners, who must meet one of several criteria, including financial need or participation in certain school activities such as drama.
Fitzwater was a well-known school athlete and Eagle Scout, who also participated in school arts programs. A writer, an outdoorsman, a volunteer Boy Scout summer camp leader, Fitzwater was multi-talented and dedicated to his friends and his community, Palmore said.
“The best way to describe Cameron was that God took a handful of Crayons and scribbled him inside and out. He brought color into a black and white world,” she said.
To celebrate this spirit, the 5K fundraiser will be a “color run,” titled “Color Me Cameron.”
Such runs have grown in popularity as fundraisers for cancer research and other causes. Runners wear a white T-shirt and volunteers stationed along the route toss powdered food coloring on the participants.
Among the volunteers for the memorial run will be members of Boy Scout Troop 249, which Fitzwater was a member for about seven years.
“I know he was an inspiration to all these boys,” Troop Leader Archie Boothe said. “He was different, and he loved everybody and he hugged everybody.”
Boothe said it was shocking to hear of Fitzwater’s death nearly a year ago.
“I had just seen him,” Boothe said. “If you ever met him you never forgot him. He was just that kind of young man.”
Palmore said the color run will leave participants with a souvenir shirt resembling the tie-dyed ones her son liked to wear in the summertime.
Palmore is promoting the event and recruiting volunteers to throw color and help with other aspects of the race through a Facebook page.
Runners/walkers and event sponsors are also needed.
Want to participate?
“Color Me Cameron”
5K fun run/walk
When: 9 a.m., April 6
Where: The untimed run starts and ends at the Pulaski gazebo at 42 First St. N.W.
Registration: $25 before March 6; $30 after March 6
Cause: All proceeds benefit the Cameron Fitzwater Memorial Scholarship Fund at Pulaski County High School.
Website: More information and online registration link at www.facebook.com/
The Roanoke Times | 381-1675
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