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FHS community raises funds to honor late student with memorial

June 2, 2014

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Photo submitted by Patrice Fueri Ferndale High School staff, students and community members raised money throughout the school year to purchase a memorial plaque in honor of Mario Campbell, who passed away last year after collapsing at track practice. Pictured, Mario Campbell stands with his younger brother, Emilio, during Mario’s junior year.

FERNDALE — A little more than a year ago, the Ferndale High School “track hallway,” as athletes and coaches refer to it, was the site of a tragedy.

A seemingly healthy 16-year-old Mario Campbell was just beginning the track season March 14, 2013, during an indoor practice with hopes of being one of the team’s top hurdlers.

Then he collapsed.

He was transported to Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital and was pronounced dead a short time later. Campbell and his family didn’t know at the time, but he had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that is difficult to diagnose and often caused by a virus.

“It has been pretty tough, as Mario was really excited about going into his senior year, and that was all he was really talking about,” Patrice Fueri, Campbell’s mother, said of the time since her son’s death. “He was crazy about Ferndale and crazy about his friends. When this school year started, and certain events like homecoming and every special event, I couldn’t help but think about how Mario would be really excited about this, or he would be picking out his suit for homecoming.

“With this time of year being graduation and prom, I know how excited he was about his senior year, and to see all that take place, he would be going through this right now.”

While nothing could replace her son’s presence at the FHS graduation May 28, the FHS teachers, students and community tried their best to let Fueri know how much of an impact Campbell made on each of their lives.

After fundraising throughout the year, the staff presented Fueri and Campbell’s father, Donnell Campbell, with a memorial plaque with Mario’s face and a few of his quotes engraved on it. The plaque will be hung in the “track hallway,” where his fellow athletes can see it, as well as anyone leaving the school’s cafeteria.

“Honestly, it makes me feel even more proud of him, more than I already was,” Fueri said. “I know he affected so many lives and the school, and I always knew how special he was and how much he could affect people and his character, but then to see all of this love and appreciation for him, it is kind of bittersweet because I wish he was here to see it, but it just makes me proud. Mario would have been proud.”

Shaun Butler, an FHS assistant principal, was athletic director through last year and one of the track coaches when Campbell collapsed. He was instrumental in setting up the fundraising effort and helping to raise funds to produce the memorial plaque.

“It was something, because hopefully this is rare and never happens again; we wanted to make sure he was never forgotten,” Butler said of Campbell. “The idea behind the plaque is to put it in what we call the ‘track hallway,’ an 80-meter hallway where we do stretching and form running when there is snow outside. Our goal is to put the plaque there and not only will all the track kids see it, but people coming out of the cafeteria, so everyone can see it and he will be remembered forever.”

Butler said he doesn’t have a final tally for how much money was raised this year for the memorial plaque, as money is still coming in and the senior class — Campbell’s class — will be leaving their senior gift to help pay for the plaque and help establish a scholarship in his name.

At the graduation ceremony, the school staff not only presented Campbell’s parents with the plaque, but also the diploma he would have earned.

“At graduation, obviously, Mario should have been there, so at that point, we wanted to award him a diploma posthumously,” Butler said. “We wanted to show his parents and community this is what we have done, what the fundraising efforts went to, and show people who may never be in the school again that this is a great way to publicly acknowledge Mario’s life.”

As Campbell was growing up, Fueri said, he would constantly tell her and his father that he was going to be famous one day. While it wasn’t the way anyone expected, Fueri said she couldn’t help but smile when she thinks of how her son had touched so many lives in the short time he had.

“I told Mario that I knew he would be famous because I knew his talent, but myself and his dad and siblings, we joke — as that is one of the ways to get through the pain — that we never thought him being famous would come this quick or this way,” she said. “When he passed away, he was all over the news and it affected a lot of people. I walked into a store and had people who live in the community that I had never met before come up to me and show their concern and tell me how wonderful a kid he was.

“It gets better as time goes on, people tell me, but I don’t see that right now. Just being honest, that was my son, my baby, my heart and no one should have to go through that; no one should have to bury their child.”

About the author

Josh Gordon covers Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge along with the Berkely Schools and Ferndale Schools districts for the Woodward Talk. Josh has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and attended Central Michigan University. Josh won a Society of Professional Journalism award in 2015 and is an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers. During his free time, Josh likes to read, try new foods and snowboard.

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