AUGUSTA — Cameron Folsom never imagined there wouldn’t be another day, another race. He loved watching Jordan Ellis fly around the track. The race, like Ellis’ life, ended way too soon.

Folsom fought back the only way he could, in a race car built in honor of Ellis, who was just 19 when he died May 31 of an apparent heroin overdose inside the bathroom of a Bangor Street McDonald’s.

The 288 on the door of the race car was the number Ellis always took for his motocross bikes. The Maine Alliance Addiction Recovery logo on the hood is a plea for anyone in the throes of addiction to seek help before it’s too late.

Last week Folsom, the 14-year-old Augusta teen, climbed in behind the wheel of the car he had helped build and drove it as fast as he could at Wiscasset Speedway. Folsom finished 27th after his car blew a motor, but for a while at least, Folsom is sure Ellis was with him in the passenger’s seat, racing again.

“There was just no closure,” Cameron said. “We wanted to see the 288 fly one more time.”

Ellis, a close friend of Cameron’s brother, Francis Folsom, was a regular in the Folsom household. Cameron remembers the times he and Ellis spent working on dirt bikes together. Cameron’s father, Corey Folsom, smiles at the memories of poker night and watching Ellis on the baseball field. Memories are still fresh of the kind, happy-go-lucky young man who brought so much joy to those who knew him.

“Jordan was a lot of things besides someone who died of a drug overdose,” Corey said.

Cameron and Corey began hatching the plan to honor Ellis with a car soon after his death in May. They got their hands on a 1996 Saab that was donated by DNK Select Cars & Trucks in Farmingdale. Cameron spent several hours over two weeks stripping the car of its unnecessary gear — such as windows — before beginning the process of installing the safety equipment and other gear to create a race car. Family friend Scott Tucker, a mechanic in Winthrop, helped with the big push to finish the car in time for the Aug. 31 race at Wiscasset.

Though he is unable to drive a car on the street, Cameron is already an experienced racer. He finished first in the adult modified class at The Pit Stop racetrack in Kingfield.

“The average driver was 30 years his senior,” Corey said proudly.

Ellis’ father, Keith Ellis, along with other family, attended the race on Aug. 31. Ellis plans to honor Cameron’s effort by giving him one of Jordan’s racing trophies that Ellis keeps on display.

“I’m glad I attended,” Keith Ellis said. “I’m sad the car didn’t last.”

Keith Ellis said the Folsoms’ effort is just the most recent outpouring of support his family has received. The Augusta East Little League, for example, has retired Jordan’s number, and one of the parents made a shadow box display with the jersey. Ellis said the league is planning an honorary game next year at which he and Jordan’s mother, Leslie Ellis, will throw out the first pitch.

The tributes have extended beyond Augusta. Corey Ellis said the September enduro race at Wiscasset Raceway next year will be called the Jordan Ellis 288 in honor of Ellis and September being National Recovery Month.

“I don’t think Jordan realized how big a community he was living in and how many people really care for him,” Keith Ellis said. “He was a well-liked boy.”

Darren Ripley, coordinator for Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery (MAAR), hopes Jordan’s story and the Folsoms’ effort to help spread the word that help is available to those who struggle with addiction will help lead someone to recovery.

“It can be anyone’s child,” Ripley said. “It could be your brother, your sister. You don’t know who it’s going to be.”

Keith Ellis hopes Jordan’s story will help people make the better choices that his son failed to make. That hope is bolstered when Ellis considers Cameron and the effect Jordan’s life and death has had on him. Keith and Leslie Ellis decided to have an open casket so that the hundreds of young people who attended Jordan’s funeral would see firsthand how drugs can leave a family in tatters.

“It’s about taking the time to make the right choices,” Keith Ellis said. “The way he died, I hope that influences other people not to make those choices. I think Jordan would want to save one of his friends.”

Corey and Cameron Folsom hope the Ellis’ memorial car will continue that effort. The car will soon go on display on the lawn of one of Corey’s friends who lives next door to Cony High School. The idea is to provide a daily reminder to students coming and going to school. The car will be taken to Waterfront Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 for MAAR’s Recovery Wellness Rally. The event will include food, music and other entertainment as well as information on recovery programs.

“Recovery is a reality,” said Ripley, who has been free of alcohol and drugs for 21 years. “People do recover.”

Corey Folsom is glad the 288 will continue to affect lives in a way that’s similar to the young man it represents.

“Nobody has any idea when the last time you’re going to see that number fly,” he said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
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