BOURBON – The beginning of the school year is usually an exciting time. Kids get to see their friends after summer break, friendships are renewed and the lights shine bright on Friday night football games. It’s a time of year most look forward to, and the memories can last a lifetime.

But for a large chunk of this community, that excitement has been overshadowed by heartbreak.

The tragic death of 17-year-old senior Triton football player Cameron Fairchild in an automobile accident that left two others injured Saturday has left a lot of people looking for answers. But it’s also led to the sharing of a lot of good memories. It’s led to a fond remembrance of the person he was.

It’s led to a celebration of life. Cameron’s life.

“He was very easy going, very loving. He would do anything for anybody,” Fairchild’s mother Ashley Carpenter said. “He would do anything for his family.”

Warsaw Community Church Pastor Ryan Langeland agreed.

“His kindness and his maturity really stood out. He was comfortable talking with anyone, and genuinely looked out for students that were younger than him because he wanted to be a good leader and a good example,” he said.

Fairchild was a part of WCC’s youth group, attending meetings as well as summer experiences like camping and mission trips. In 2019, he was part of a mission that helped people after Hurricane Michael. In every sense of the word, he was a leader.

“He was raised in a single household, and he was the oldest. Cameron led the family. He was always there for his sister. He’d cancel his plans if she needed him for anything,” Cameron’s grandmother Linda Swaidner said. “He’d give his lunch money to other kids. We’d put money on his lunch account every day and ask him ‘why do you need it again?’ and he’d say ‘well so-and-so didn’t have any money on their account so I bought them lunch today.”

Fairchild spent one year at Triton high school after transferring from Warsaw. Triton Superintendent Jeremy Riffle said even in just one year at the school, the impact he made will last for a long time.

“He went out of his way to connect with his bus drivers, our secretaries, his teachers,” Riffle said. “In just over a year he was here with us, his impact was tremendous. He walked into a room and it lit up.

“He made everybody feel special.”

 Cameron enjoyed playing video games, sports, hanging out with friends and other things typical teenage boys enjoy doing. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. At 14-years-old, he worked as a server at Grace Village Retirement Community. He spent his summers working construction for Heiman Construction.

“He was such a hard worker. The guys loved having him on the site, whatever you asked him to do, he would do it,” Heiman Vice President J.C. Stookey said. “He was a good natured kid and a good friend to my son.”

It’s not something anyone ever dreams of happening, and it’s not something that’s ever supposed to. But throughout this unimaginable time, Carpenter says the support she’s received from the community has been tremendous.

“Hundreds of people I don’t even know have reached out to me,” she said. “People who have dealt with similar things with their children have let me know I’m not alone,” she said. “Warsaw is making ribbons to wear on their jerseys Friday. Whitko turned their football field lights on [Saturday night]. Triton has done all kinds of stuff. Car decals, shirts, they’re cancelling school Friday so they can attend the funeral.”

The Triton community has been hit hard by the loss, but Riffle says the school has been doing a great job of being there for each other.

“A lot of that is hugs and conversations. You don’t usually see students coming in and walking through the halls crying and vulnerable to staff members,” Riffle said. We have a lot of students that are hurting right now, but they see their friends hurting too and they are there for each other.”

When one story about Cameron’s positivity and kindness ended, another one was quick to follow. Family friend Misty Piper-Mayle said that she admired his giving heart.

“My son admired him because he had a great fashion sense. He loved his clothes, he loved his shoes,” Piper-Mayle said. “My son fell in love with a pair of his shoes, and they were an expensive pair of shoes, and Cameron didn’t even bat an eye, didn’t even think about it. He just said ‘here’ and gave them to him. He did that all the time. He always looked out for his friends.”

Fairchild also enjoyed taking welding classes at Plymouth High School through Ivy Tech. Besides his dream of going to the NFL, he wanted to be a professional welder one day.

“He told me he would make some good money doing it and I would never have to work,” his girlfriend Kora Slone said.

 While the tragedy remains fresh and the current heartbreak seems insurmountable, it’s important to look back on the positive moments and cherish them. Cameron may no longer be on this Earth, but the impact he left on it and those who knew him will never leave it.  

“We will never forget him,” Swaidner said.

“He would do anything for me at the snap of a finger,” said Slone.

“I think he’d want us to be happy. I think he’d want us to rejoice that he was with us for 17 years,” Carpenter said tearfully. “I think he’d tell us all jokes to make us feel better.

“I know he wouldn’t want us to be sad.”