Kameron Jacobsen Youth Award & Memorial Garden

This year at the Pets Alive Annual Fur Ball (our most important fundraiser of the year), we awarded the very first annual Kameron Jacobsen Youth Award.

The award was in honor of 14 year old, Kam, who took his own life, after suffering intense peer bullying in his school and via social media.

I admit to being AWARE of bullying (and how heinous it was), but I was unaware exactly how prolific it was. How invasive. How viral, and how frequent, and often it occurs to children in this “new world”. I’ve watched as Wanda and Kevin and their family shattered and fell apart, and how they have been trying to rebuild themselves. I read the anguish in their posts online, and their reaching out to others, and their determination to make sure that Kam is never forgotten, and that people are aware of this insane epidemic that is attacking our children.  I can see how desperate they are to help save other people’s children and other families from going through this, or losing their children.

Read that word again.

Children today are such victims in so many ways.

I remember as a kid riding my bike miles and miles, all over Staten Island, all day long. Mom’s rule was that we had to be in at dusk. Can you imagine your seven year old out all day, on their bike, MILES from home (with their dog running alongside)?

No way.
Not a chance.
Today is a different world.

gardenchimesBut the very word “children” denotes an innocence. It brings up images in your heart of purity and even a naivety.


Little creatures that are out there in the world trying to make their way, trying to come out from under mom and dad’s wing and figure out a life for themselves.


Yet these same little innocents are not only targets of vicious attacks, – it is perpetrated by other “innocent” children.
I have spent many hours wondering if these kids that hurt others know what they do. Are their brains so under developed that they simply don’t get it?

How can such an evil lurk in a child, that they could do such harm and such damage to another, so the result is that the victim can think of no other way to stop the pain, humiliation, grief, and sadness of their little lives, than to snuff it out?

I didn’t know Kam really. I met him a handful of times, mostly in passing. I did know his mom though. She is one of the greatest people I know. A WONDERFUL mom. A giving person. A loving soul. A faithful and religious woman. I’ve spent many hours wondering how this could happen. The truth is, it could happen to ANYONE. I’ve seen through Wanda’s posts, the hundreds of parents that have lost their CHILDREN …CHILDREN…to suicide. Children. Little children.

The evil ones have such a market now.

Now you can knock a kid down, or slap his books out of his hands, and your friends can video it, and take pictures and it will be on facebook and in text messages to thousands of people, in seconds. It is truly a different world. And once out there, how does the victim, the CHILD, move past that horrific image of himself looking the fool, or looking silly, or put upon by his peers – other CHILDREN. Children. How does he get past ….perhaps the girl he likes…, seeing that and making a comment under the thread on Facebook?

My god.
How do they survive it?
The fact is, that many don’t.

I am begging you all to check your children’s FaceBook pages and their posts. Don’t say “my kid would never”. Don’t. Go see what they are doing, and if you find they are even participating in such a heinous thing, please, think about how you would feel if YOUR child was the victim. And stop it. Stop it in any way you can. Thinking of your child, no longer with you, and STOP IT. Because that is someone else’s beloved, and loved, and cherished little child. Make sure your own is not one of the ones that is aiding, abetting, helping, or even randomly commenting on such disgusting things. Please. Or if you think it is no big deal, then I challenge you to go to Wanda’s page and read her anguish. Listen to her screams and the echos of grief that this family will never completely recover from. And then take your child aside, sit them down and make sure they don’t get up again until you have made the point VERY VERY clear to them. Do you understand?  If so, then you are responsible for making your child understand and you can not, you may not, look the other way. These are our CHILDREN.

wandanikkiAnd so Pets Alive started the Kameron Jacobsen Youth Award. (KAM = Kindness Above Malice). And each year we will pick one CHILD that exemplifies the GOOD that CHILDREN can show to each other and the great things they can accomplish by being selfless and giving and KIND.

This year the award went to Nicole Bagley.

Nikki is a sweet little kid that I have grown to love a great deal. She is kind, and innocent, and giving, and generous of nature, and like Kam, she loves animals and wants to do good things for them. She is one of our best dog handlers and one of our best volunteers. She was well deserving of this award, and I hope she always has that innocence about her, and that kindness to others and to animals that she has now as a CHILD. A CHILD that is GOOD to other CHILDREN. I think that she will.

We wrote about the KAM award, and about Nikki, and we got an email from one of our long time supporters, MaryEllen R. She asked if she could drive the more than three hours to Pets Alive and plant a memorial garden for Kameron. I (after checking with Wanda) told MaryEllen yes! This week she came (with five other volunteers helping) and planted the most gorgeous garden. Rocks.. and chimes… and a bench … and an arbor… and beautiful plants. One of them is a bleeding heart plant. How appropriate. Bleeding heart. Surely there is a lot of those around right now Kam. Many bleeding hearts, grieving for who you would have been, who you once were, and who you still are to everyone.

kamharden2I asked MaryEllen why she would come all this way to do all this work and spend 10 hours in the dirt, in the 90 degree day to plant a garden for someone she didn’t know and never met. The answer – astonished me. MaryEllen has her own personal experience with this terrible stigma. Her son, is thankfully still alive, but MaryEllen said something like: “I knew that this could be me. Grieving for my son, and I cried, and I hurt, and I wanted to do something for this family”…and something for herself, maybe, I think. I think this is two families, touched by suicide, one with a hole burned right through their hearts, and another a hole that they are desperately trying to keep closed.

To both of these families I wish I knew something to say. I wish I knew the answer.
But honestly, I can’t even understand the question.
Can you?


I will end this blog, with a speech that Kam’s dad, Kevin wrote in response to the Kameron Jacobsen Youth Award. I wish we had the time at the Fur Ball for him to do it publically, but I post it here so that it will be forever remembered.

kevinwandaAs a family we are so grateful to Pets Alive for honoring our son Kameron – in a way that genuinely remembers the kind of young man Kameron was. — By commemorating his legacy of compassion to others, we are humbled by this sincere tribute to his memory.

Whenever Wanda would foster a dog like Mufasa or Lulu, among others, — it was she who took on the responsibility — and gave them a comfortable and a healthy environment in which to thrive. She provided the all around well being of those dogs, but it was Kameron that took on what we believe — was a pivotal role in that rehabilitation. — With patience and loving perseverance –Kameron allowed those dogs to trust again to accept love , in some instances – from the innocence of a child for the first time.
Kameron enabled them to feel like they wanted to be part of a family — loved and respected – and all they wanted in return really, was to love someone back and HE showed them – that it was ok to do that.

Kameron embodied the mission of this sanctuary in its efforts to rescue – rehabilitate – and place animals into loving homes. We are so very proud of him and we miss Kameron very much. We are equally proud that Nikki has been chosen as the first recipient of this award for the tireless work she does and the energy and exuberance she brings here.

Nikki sets the bar high — and demonstrates the kind of excellence and attributes in youth that reinforces the notion -”That We cannot change the world by saving one dog….. BUT we can change the world for that ONE dog” .

Rest in peace Kameron.
You were but a little child.
You are so terribly missed in this big world.
We grieve for all that you would have been and how you could have changed the world.

– See more at: http://petsalive.com/blog/2011/06/27/kameron-jacobsen-youth-award-memorial-garden/#sthash.cZOIUpeR.dpuf

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