Tom Cameron’s dying wish was to flood the blood banks with blood.
His hope was to not only replenish all the blood he used during his months of treatment and transfusions for leukemia – he aspired to overflow the bank with donations for hundreds – if not thousands – of others in need.
“This is not your regular man here,” explained Cameron’s best friend Lorraine Bates, who is coordinating a special blood drive in honour of the former citizen of the year.
Cameron, 74, died at Ridge Meadows Hospital in December.
He had recently received the Canadian Fair Champion award, presented by the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions. He wasn’t able to make it to the convention in New Brunswick for the presentation, but was presented with the award Dec. 9 at the Maple Ridge branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
He was a recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2002 and more recently a Golden Jubilee Medal for contributions to the community for exemplary commitment and service.
Bates is now challenging all to donate blood in February, to fulfill his wish.
“This was a huge thing for him. And knowing a blood drive would be done, it put his mind at rest,” she added.
Cameron never like the limelight, never asked for anything in return for his compassion and community outreach, Bates said.
He was always the guy working quietly behind the scenes, giving anything within his power to help a human or animal in need – whether giving of his time, energy, or other resource within his power.
In recent years, however, Cameron dealt with a series of health issues, including a couple of strokes and blood in his lungs.
Then he was diagnosed with aggressive myeloid leukemia and underwent chemotherapy and blood transfusions.
Despite deteriorating health, he never left the helm of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Agricultural Fair Association, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society, or any of his volunteer efforts – Ghost Ridge, Christmas Haven, Cops for Cancer, Mountain Festival, helping out with the Royal Canadian Legion.
He was always there, doing whatever he could to help.
Cameron was quick to give, but struggled with asking for help for himself. That remained true as he fought to defeat the disease – determined to the end that he could beat it.
However, knowing the end was near, when the doctors approached him in the final days and ordered another blood transfusion, Cameron was racked with guilt.
He was upset he might be taking blood away from someone else in greater need than himself, especially a child, Bates explained.
“To his dying day, he was always worried about other people,” she added. “He questioned if it was right.”
He didn’t need to feel guilty, Bates added.
“I kept telling him, ‘You’ve given more than your share, now let us worry about replenishing the blood bank,’”
She promised him that she would organize a blood drive to put back every unit of blood that he received, and more.
Bates is doing just that during heart month, hoping the hundreds of people – in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and beyond – will help out.
It’s time for all of those touched by “this exceptionally compassionate man” to donate blood in his memory, she said.
Bates is hoping people across the country will step up and give.
“If for any reason you cannot give blood, please consider asking a friend to give on your behalf,” Bates said, who plans to reveal a tally at the end of the month.
“It’s time to help Tom by giving in a way that was meaningful to him,” she said. “He touched so many people’s lives during his 74 years of living, and now it’s time for those who are grateful to express their thanks. It would mean so much to Tom.”
RCMP Const. Dayne Campbell, a Maple Ridge resident, plans to donate blood.
He met Cameron and Bates four years ago. Together they organized events for Cops for Cancer at the Albion Fairgrounds.
They hoped to attract 50 or so children to the first Albion Easter Egg Hunt, but 500 showed up. The following year, Campbell said, 2,000 attended.
“It was crazy.”
He estimates that Cameron and Bates helped raise $50,000 for Cops for Cancer, which benefits pediatric cancer research and kids programs, such the acclaimed Camp Goodtimes in Maple Ridge.
Celine Phillion, her son Sedrick and daughter Jannelle are also anxious to help with the blood drive.
They first met Cameron six years ago, when – as part of a group of longboarders holding a three-day breast cancer fundraising trek from Hope to Stanley Park – they stopped over in Maple Ridge. The riders needed a warm place to stay overnight. They camped out in one of the barns at the Albion Fairgrounds that year, and several that followed.
Each year, they were greeted and sent off by Cameron, who embraced their efforts and made the group feel welcome.
“Tom was always joking and positive. I really, really loved Tom. He was awesome,” said Phillion.
The longboarding family will be giving blood, and Phillion is throwing out a challenge to other past and present Christmas hamper recipients to pay their respects.
• The Canadian Blood Service is holding its regular clinics in Maple Ridge on Feb. 10, from 12:10 to 6:15 p.m., or Feb. 24, from 12:25 to 6:15 p.m. at the Maple Ridge Alliance Church, 20399 Dewdney Trunk Rd. Times must be booked one week ahead with Bates at 604-463-6922 or 504-841-8422 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifty of the donation appointments on each of those days have been set aside for people wishing to donate “For Tom.”
Anyone can attend a Canadian Blood Services blood clinic and donate in Cameron’s honour. To make an appointment to donate blood, phone (1-888-236-6283) and mention that it’s “in memory of Tom Cameron.” Cite this number, INHO507290.
Celebration of life
While he loved a party, and was especially passionate about live music, there was no wake following Cameron’s passing.
Instead, granting another of his wishes, his family and friends are planning a celebration of life at the Albion Fairgrounds – where he spent a third of his life – this spring.
It will be held on April 22, Earth Day, and will include a musical tribute.
It will also include the planting of a memory tree in Cameron’s honour. The City of Maple Ridge will plant a mountain ash next to the main stage at the fairgrounds – the same stage where Cameron had proudly introduced hundreds of performers through his years.