AUGUSTA — Cameron Folsom is, in most respects, a typical 14-year-old. The only thing he loves more than watching fast cars and flying motorcycles is getting behind the wheel and making a little speed of his own. He’s a regular on the race tracks of Maine and is already holding his own, and showing up, drivers more than twice his age.
But perhaps what sets the Cony High School freshman apart from many of his peers is the hard driving he does off the track to raise money and awareness for causes that take hold of the young man’s heart. It is, his dad Corey Folsom said, the way Cameron is wired.
“In sixth grade he was the highest donor for UNICEF,” Corey said. “He set a record and nobody has broke it since.”
Late last year, Cameron latched onto substance abuse prevention after a family friend, 19-year-old Jordan Ellis, died of a drug overdose. Cameron painted his race car with the Ellis’ number, 288, and the logo for Maine Alliance Addiction Recovery.
Cameron’s most recent challenge is taking him far away from Augusta, to India, and the orphans who live there. And as he has for the upcoming racing season, Cameron has set a lofty goal. He hopes to raise $10,000 by his birthday on June 14. All the money will go to the Agape Children’s Connection, which provides food, water and shelter to the children living throughout the Emmanuel Orphanages in India. Agape now has sponsors for more than 150 children.
“There are 31 million orphans in India,” Cameron said. “That just really struck me.”
It was Cameron’s passion for motor sports that led him to becoming one of Agape’s youngest and more committed fundraisers. Cameron and Corey attended a stunt show in Boston. The headliner was X-Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana, who once jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. He landed safely after meeting up with and connecting to another skydiver midair.
“I’ve been following him since I was like 6 years old,” Cameron said.
Pastrana’s sister, Debby Pastrana Williams, who founded Agape in 2011, had a booth at the show trying to entice new sponsors. She found a willing accomplice in Cameron.
“All the donations go right to the orphanage,” Cameron said.
Williams’ stories had an impact on Corey, too. Orphans in India not only lack food and shelter, but the caste system that is still in place relegates the children to virtual inhumanity, Corey said.
“They’re considered less than nothing,” he said. “When they turn 18 they can take a test and become something.”
Before they left Williams table, Cameron had convinced his dad to pull a bill from his wallet and give it to her, but that wasn’t enough. Cameron and Corey kept in touch with Williams, who suggested putting an Agape logo on Cameron’s car. Done.
But Cameron wanted to do more, so he and his dad visited area mechanics seeking donations. They hit upon 13 who agreed to donate to Agape a portion of proceeds from every oil change over the next six months.
“I’ve had people just start to donate,” Corey said.
Williams secured two tickets from team owner Robbie Benton to the Nationwide race in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The tickets, which include parking and pit passes with a seat and headphones in the pit box, will be used toward a fundraiser, Corey said.
Cameron, who will compete in a full-sized stock car this year, has no real explanation for why he latches onto causes to support. In the case of Ellis, Cameron said, he felt like nobody was speaking loudly enough about addiction, specifically heroin addiction. Cameron wanted to turn up the volume.
But Ellis was a friend and his death had a personal impact. The same cannot be said of orphans on the other side of the world.
“I’m very fortunate,” Cameron said. “I’m not an orphan. Giving back makes me feel good.”
Corey, who is a willing enabler to his son’s philanthropic passions, has trouble hiding the pride he feels for his son’s tender heart.
“There are worse habits he could have,” Corey said with a smile.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 [email protected]