Donation drive makes sure Arlington man isn’t forgotten

ARLINGTON — People remember Cameron Howell, the tall, friendly man who loved sports, old cars and the outdoors.

He graduated from Arlington High School in 1996 and balanced work with his favorite pastimes — coaching basketball, hunting and fishing. He had a symbol tattooed on his wrist that meant longevity, got engaged to a girl he met in Darrington, and spent a lot of time with his older sister and her daughters in Stanwood. Cameron adored his nieces.

His family adored him.

He was 26 when he died on Jan. 13, 2004. He’d battled squamous cell carcinoma — a skin cancer usually diagnosed in older patients — for at least three years. Doctors found it when he went in for a shoulder injury, and they’re not sure how long he had it before it was identified.

“Your biggest fear when you lose a child is that they’re forgotten,” said Debbie Howell, Cameron’s mother. “That hasn’t happened.”

The community found ways to remember Cameron, and to give back.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Cameron’s death. It’s also the 10th birthday of the holiday donation drive created in his honor.

Magic Shears Styling Salon, owned by Debbie, 57, and her husband,Randy, 60, has a drop box for new lap blankets, hats, activity books, stationary and pens, coloring books, toys and other small activities. The items are donated to Cascade Valley Hospital for oncology and other departments where patients and their families spend hours at a time in the hospital.

Debbie remembers long days during Cameron’s chemotherapy. He had a hard time staying warm, and the family struggled to entertain themselves and keep their minds off the cancer. Her goal is to make sure other families have warmth and fun when they need it most.

Debbie plans to keep the box in the salon, at 306 N. Olympic Ave., until Dec. 20. People can stop by any day of the week to drop off donations or call 360-435-3833 for more information.

A handful of families work with the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation on memorial drives and fundraisers, but it’s not common and the donations are always needed, foundation spokeswoman Heather Logan said. Last year, the donations from Magic Shears included brand new toys that went to children in the emergency ward.

“In an emergency, parents don’t have time to grab a toy or a game, they just have to get their kid to the hospital,” Logan said. “These donations make a difference. That kind of sensitivity to patients, especially children, is great.”

All of the gifts are used at the hospital, so the donations stay with local families, Logan said.

Debbie thinks Cameron would like to be remembered through kindness and generosity.

She carries a photo of him, a bright smile on his stubbled face, in her wallet. She walks in the Relay for Life every year wearing his letterman jacket.

Cameron’s friends from high school still stop by the salon or the Howell’s home in Darrington to check in on them. Their son was well-liked, and his friends have provided constant support for the family, Debbie said.

“I didn’t want to do a Christmas tree the year we lost him, but his buddies came by and said, ‘You will have a tree,’” she recalled.

Cameron’s friends have hauled a Christmas tree to the house every year since. Others drop by with flowers and gifts on Mother’s or Father’s Day. Some have named their babies after him.

“We have three girls and three boys named Cameron, so we get to watch them grow,” Debbie said.

The Howells knew they were part of a generous community, but the response after Cameron was diagnosed shocked and humbled them. Dances in Arlington and Darrington brought in thousands of dollars, as did change jars at Magic Shears and other local businesses. The community helped pay Cameron’s medical expenses. What wasn’t covered was given, Debbie said. Some doctors volunteered their time, and a local pharmacist provided medicine for free.

Debbie and Randy, high school sweethearts who have owned Magic Shears for 35 years, started collecting donations the November after their son died. A friend suggested the drive, and it seemed like a good a way to pay forward the kindness that was shown to the family. For about six years, they donated to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For the last four years, the family has given to Cascade Valley Hospital.

“I just tell everybody to give your kids a big hug and love them because you never know,” Debbie said. “Things happen. We were a really close-knit family. Cancer took a lot from us.”

Kari Bray: kbray@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3439

Talk to us

More in Local News

Kevin Duncan puts his ballot in the ballot drop box outside of the Arlington Library on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 in Arlington, Wash. The Arlington school District has three measures on the February ballot, including one to replace Post Middle School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
High court: State must pay for some, not all, ballot boxes

Snohomish County sued to recoup the cost of adding 21 ballot drop boxes to comply with a 2017 law.

Jesse Spitzer (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Sultan man wanted in Washington, Idaho arrested in Montana

Jesse Spitzer, 30, is accused of multiple thefts and was on the run from law enforcement for a week.

‘Armed and dangerous’ carjacking suspect last seen in Edmonds

A man in a stolen truck led troopers on a chase. He crashed, assaulted another driver and took that car.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lynnwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lynnwood bookkeeper gets federal prison for embezzling $298K

Judith Wright, 75, was sentenced Friday to six months for writing fraudulent checks to herself. It wasn’t the first time.

Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, left, speaks on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., during debate on a measure that would delay implementation of a long-term care program and the payroll tax that pays for it. The Senate passed the measure, which was passed by the House last week, and Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the measure on Friday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Delay of Washington’s long-term-care program signed into law

The bill addresses concerns about the program’s solvency and criticism about elements of the underlying law.

Anthony Boggess
Man charged with first-degree murder for killing of Marysville roommate

Anthony Boggess, 30, reportedly claimed “demons” told him to hurt people. He’s accused of killing James Thrower, 65.

Les Parks, left, talks with his daughter, Kenzi Parks, after a laser etched drum finished printing Tuesday afternoon at his home in Tulalip, Washington on January 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After 1,200 positive cases, Tulalip Tribes face ‘deepest fear’

“We used to be big on family doings — not anymore.” On top of a cultural toll, the pandemic has exposed health inequities.

Stevens Pass on Dec. 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Amid rocky ski season with 300 complaints, Stevens Pass offers deal

Vail Resorts said returning customers can get discounts for 2022-23 if they renew their passes by May 30.

A car drives by Everett Station where Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin's proposal for its ARPA funds includes funding a child care center at station. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) 20211118
Council approves lease for Bezos Academy at Everett Station

The preschool will be tuition-free. “I just know how darned important it is,” Councilmember Liz Vogeli said.

Most Read