Cameron Acker: Small boy, big battle
South Side Lower Elementary student Cameron Acker is described as a vibrant student and one of the top ten athletes in the Picayune Youth Athletic Association.
From the age of four-years-old, Cameron Acker has excelled in school and athletics of every category.
This changed in February of 2013, when his family noticed Cameron was not playing as well in basketball and to act in an unusual manner. The change prompted his mother to take him to the doctor for a check-up.
As a result of the doctor visit, Cameron was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), which is also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia. This cancer attacks the blood and bones resulting in the formation of abnormal white blood cells (leukemia cells). The disease typically occurs in children less than 15-years-old but can also be found in people 45 and older.
His mother, Tricee Acker, was devastated by the initial news and while Cameron may not have appreciated the seriousness of his diagnosis, he understood things would be different.
“Cameron was devastated when he could not go back to school or play ball. The only thing left that they did not take away was his relationship with God,” Tricee Acker said. “Cam lost 15 pounds in a few weeks from intense chemotherapy which also caused severe muscle spasms and pain in his muscles and joints but he didn’t complain.”
In the midst of the uncertainty, the community stepped up to show the little boy with a big heart how much he meant to them.
“People have prayed for us who have never met us and do not really know our names,” Tricee Acker said. “When Timmy Craft, of PYAA found out about Cameron, Timmy immediately said that it was not an if, but a matter of when PYAA would do a fundraiser to help with chemotherapy costs.”
The “when” came in the form of “Slam 4 Cam” which was a tournament, blood drive and fundraiser for Cameron Acker, held at Friendship Park last April.
Craft, the vice president of baseball for PYAA and Eli Ouder, the vice-president of the board for PYAA, came up with “Slam 4 Cam.”
“I was saddened when I learned Cam was diagnosed with Leukemia. I hurt for him and his family,” Ouder said. “I vividly remember the planning effort that went into “Slam 4 Cam.” We had orange (the color for leukemia) bracelets made that said “SLAM 4 CAM” and they served as admission into the park. We painted Cam’s initials (CA) on the infield of every field. The park was buzzing with people and players all day long that beautiful sunshine filled day.”
Ouder said several vendors sold food and 42 baseball games were played that day. The event featured a special sponsorship program, based on player performance. A dunking booth featured commissioners, board members and volunteers who graciously participated to support the cause. All proceeds collected that day went to the Acker family.
The event raised approximately $12,000 for Cameron Acker’s medical expenses.
“That was really just a drop in the bucket,” said Craft. “But we are doing everything we can to support him in every way that we can.”
PYAA will hold another “Slam 4 Cam” event on May 10, since his chemotherapy treatments continue.
Community support also came in the form of a three day a week home-schooling program conducted by the Picayune School District during the year he was out of school. His mother said his illness was no match for his determination to excel in school and he maintained an “A” average throughout the year.
South Side Lower Elementary Principal Christy Pinero said, “I knew when Cameron came back to school in January that he was excited to return. That of his classmates, and our staff only matches Cameron’s excitement. He is extremely well liked and everyone watches out for him. Some of the students in his room have brought him blankets so he won’t get cold in class.”
Tricee Acker said support has come from so many directions, through her employer, First National Bank of Picayune, who allowed her to take off a year to be with her son. Her church, Rose of Sharon, and other churches in the community also helped the family with their needs.
The latest to reach out to the family is the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Cameron was selected to receive a family vacation to the location of his choice. He chose Disney World and will soon fly with his family for a three-day stay at the Magic Kingdom, a two-day stay at Universal Studios and a one-day stay at Sea World.
“I am so grateful to God – if we didn’t have a test we would not have a testimony. I have seen the Lord deal with both Cameron and myself. Cam’s courage is amazing; he is a little grown man in an eight-year-old body with a deep faith.”
His mother said that one day he would be able to return to his baseball team that he loves so much. In the meantime, he will focus on activities such as throwing the first pitch on baseball opening day (as he did last Saturday), school work, experimenting with his new found love of cooking which came from watching the Food Network when he was sick and asking his mom for a baby brother so he can teach him to play baseball.
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