Mother uses rocks to tell late son’s story of organ donation

Cameron Bolton's memory lives on. So do his heart, liver, kidneys & corneas

Closeup of a hand holding a river rock painted blue with "Donate Life" logo and a rainbow. A playground is in the background.
Closeup of a hand holding a river rock painted blue with "Donate Life" logo and a rainbow. A playground is in the background.

Sarah Fisher lost her son Cameron Bolton to a car accident in early July of 2018. When it became an undeniable reality that he was gone — his vital organs were operating but he was not coming back — the family made a decision that has since saved lives.

Two years later, Fisher listened to her son’s heart with a stethoscope. It was now inside Jeremy French of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s nice to know that part of him is still here,” she told Valley News Live in Fargo. “And (French) promised to take good care of it.”

Cameron Bolton’s liver is in a woman in Illinois. One of his kidneys saved another woman. His corneas have given people sight.

Since her son’s death, Fisher, a nursing assistant in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) at Sanford Health in Fargo, has discovered that nothing moves people to sign up for organ donation quite like a good story.

So she keeps telling her son’s story, sometimes in unconventional ways.

Organ donors and rocks

How unconventional? Well, she’s using rocks to spread the word.

Fisher and helpers paint rocks that have a “Donate Life” graphic pasted to them. This recognizes Donate Life America, a national organization that promotes organ donation. The rocks are put in small resealable plastic bags and include these instructions: “If you find this rock, please post to ‘Crosses for Cameron’ FB page or email to CrossesforCameron@outlook.com.”

Fisher distributed 150 of these rocks in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She has since made more rocks. After Fargo station KVRR-TV did a story on the rocks and her efforts, things really got rolling.

“It’s just been crazy,” Fisher said. “Everybody wants a rock.”

The numbers indicate her efforts are making an impact. In 2019, seven Sanford Fargo patients donated organs. Sanford Medical Center Fargo also transplanted 17 organs in 2019. Due in part to the support of Sanford employees, the organ procurement organization LifeSource facilitated more organ, eye and tissue donations than any other time in its 30-year history.

It all began when Fisher got to know a woman named Terri Reed via Facebook. Reed lives in Colorado and she had also lost a 22-year-old son of her own. Like Fisher, her son’s organs are now keeping others alive.

Fisher bought T-shirts from Reed that promoted a running event that benefited organ donor campaigns. When she received the package, the T-shirts were included. But so were 15 rocks.

A note from Reed encouraged Fisher to leave the rocks around town.

Encouraging correspondence

In time, she began distributing her own rocks bearing her son’s likeness with a similar message that encouraged becoming a donor. The goal is to get at least one rock in every state.

The reward, apart from promoting organ donation awareness, has come via the correspondence she has received from those who have found the rocks and sent her letters.

“Yesterday we were traveling back from Montana and found this amazing rock in a park in North Dakota,” one letter began. “It wasn’t until I read the amazing story behind its creation and realized just how special this rock is. I will not be re-hiding it but instead I will go back to my town and hide even more in Cameron’s honor. Please read his story and consider being an organ tissue donor just as this selfless young man was. His legacy lives on in all the lives he has touched and whose lives have continued because of the gift he gave them.”

There have been many other notes from those who have found the rocks posted on the Facebook page. A steady stream of them continues.

“That’s what I was hoping,” Fisher said. “I was hoping people would find the rocks and say ‘Hey, so what is Donate Life?’”

Organ donors make a difference

Another post went like this:

“I just wanted to say I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I read the page and it breaks my heart. I have a son and I don’t know how I could possibly go on without him. You are doing an amazing thing with these rocks. People will find them and the seed will be planted in the minds to become an organ donor. Thank you for sharing your son with all of us. It’s been a very long time since I had a cry like this. God bless you. And remember we will be united with our loved ones someday. In the meantime keep Cameron’s story alive.”

It is with no shortage of inspiration, then, that Fisher keeps designing and distributing more rocks. She keeps sending the message, too, via speaking engagements at clubs and organizations about organ donations. Though the pandemic has curtailed some of her talks, the coronavirus has no effect on rocks. She’s very grateful for that. And for her son.

“The response has been really heartwarming,” Fisher said. “It shows that Cameron did make a difference. Obviously, we loved him here but we’ve had a chance to talk with the recipients and their families. Cameron is their hero.”

By registering as an organ donor, you could help save as many as eight lives in the future. Learn more at life-source.org.

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Posted In Community, Fargo, Organ Donation

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