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Adams candlelight vigil for eighth-grader draws more than 200 supporters


ADAMS — Candles created an orange glow on the faces of more than 200 people Thursday night outside the Adams fire hall, many of them eighth-graders who came to show support for their classmate Cameron C. Berry.

Cam, 14, underwent surgery Thursday at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse to remove a brain tumor that was discovered on Christmas Eve. Angie M. VanWormer, Cam’s aunt, told the crowd that the surgery ended about 6:30 p.m. and appeared to be successful.

“They removed most of the tumor, and right now it looks like what’s left is benign and everything is OK,” she said, relaying the news from Cam’s parents, Christopher W. and Nichola T., who remained at the hospital. Cam had been experiencing headaches, and the tumor was revealed in an MRI at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown. Though the news was alarming, the community rally that was organized on Facebook motivated Cam and his family to tackle the surgery head-on, Mrs. VanWormer said.

Evidence of that support was seen everywhere Thursday. Inside the fire hall before the vigil, South Jefferson Middle School boys stood patiently in line to get their heads shaved like Cam’s. Some girls volunteered for partial haircuts also.

The vigil “motivated him when he heard about all the people,” Mrs. VanWormer said. “I think it was encouraging for Cam going into surgery.”

Friends described Cam as outgoing, always smiling and fun to be around. Luke A. Tyrrell, 13, said he’s been best friends with Cam since third grade. The two play on the same football and lacrosse teams.

“I think he’s going to do awesome in surgery,” said Luke, his head freshly buzzed. About 50 of Cam’s peers had their hair cut.

In another demonstration of support, index cards with handwritten notes from Cam’s peers were tied to helium ballooons and released into the sky during the vigil.

“Hope you recover well! Sending prayers for you and your family,” read a note from 13-year-old Kaitlyn M. Mesler, who said she is one of Cam’s best friends.

Amber L. Roberts, friend of the Berry family who has two children Cam’s age,organized the vigil Christmas morning on Facebook by posting a message.

“I spent the last couple of days before Christmas Eve feeling sorry for our family, because our budget was tight this year,” Mrs. Roberts said. “But then when I found out about Cam, that put things into perspective.”

The Facebook post yielded a widespread response. Teachers from the South Jefferson Central School district drove from Lowville, Brownville and Watertown to attend the gathering.

And relatives of Mrs. Berry from Scotland attended the vigil “in spirit” by hosting their own gatherings overseas. Along with Cam’s contagious personality, Mrs. Roberts said, he is a positive influence for his peers.

“He’s an honor student and athlete, and the way you see him conduct himself on the field and around people is impressive,” she said. “He’s a kid you hope your son will be like, or your daughter will date.”

Making a speech during the vigil was Earl J. LaLone, who talked about how life’s unpredictable calamities may be “conquered by love.”

Looking around to admire the sea of candlelight, he said, “The power of love here right now is amazing. And we’re going to be throwing all of that love to Cam and his family. We’re taking these lights of this love and it’s going in their direction.”

The village community has a track record of hosting gatherings to support people in need, said Joseph C. Reff, an Adams Center resident who is a Watertown city police sergeant. A similar event was hosted by the village three years ago for Mr. Reff’s stepson, Benjamin R. Towles, who lost his hair as a 16-year-old after undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“The Berry family was there to support my son, so I’m here to support them,” Mr. Reff said. “This crowd here isn’t unusual at all, because the community here is amazing and always has been.”

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