A Seaholm student is looking to create a new way to provide meaningful relationships and fun activities for seriously ill people her age.
Junior Ari Walters wants to make a difference for teens with illnesses like Collin Trask, a former Seaholm student and very close friend of hers who recently died of brain cancer.
Walters was in 7th grade when she first met Collin and decided to visit him at the hospital.
“I told my mom that there was a kid in the grade above me at my school that had been diagnosed with brain cancer and I wanted to go visit him at the hospital,” Walters said. “So my mom drove me and my friend down there and we stayed there all day, probably six hours, just playing games and we would come back and visit him.”
Over the years, Walters spent a lot of time with Trask, whether it was visiting him at the hospital, going to Cedar Point amusement park, or seeing a movie.
“By the end it was hard to hang out with Collin because when you become really close with someone and you’re going to lose them it’s hard to go and be with them because you don’t want to have to be so sad if they pass away,” Walters said. “It was easier because I knew that I was making him happy.
In Trask’s memory, Walters created Collin’s Castle, a group whose goal is to make patients with cancer or another illness feel welcomed and loved.
Two people who volunteer will spend an hour or so every week with a patient at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield. They will go and get together with the person, playing games and talking. The patients will fill out a small form and describe their interests as well as pick out whether they would be comfortable with female or male partners.
“That way the patient and volunteers have something to talk about and connect over,” Walters said.
Collin’s Castle is soon to become a new club at Seaholm to make organization and transportation easier. Walters hopes the club will attract more students to get involved but she is still working on setting up so the club is not expected to have its first meeting until late next month.
“When Collin got really sick I kind of thought about starting something like this because I knew that Collin wanted people to visit him,” Walters said. “All he really wanted was to be distracted because it’s a hard thing to know that no one has a cure for the illness you are dealing with. So I thought there would be more people who would just want the same thing that Collin does.”
After Walters’ speech at Trask’s memorial service on March 19th, students have stepped up and asked how they could help. One of those Seaholm students was junior Leah Lavigne.
“I knew I wanted I get involved somehow, and then it hit me. I talked to her about starting a branch of Collin’s Castle that focused on incorporating music,” Lavigne said. “The power of music is absolutely incredible. Music can provide these kids that are going through so much an escape. It can be relaxing and calming. It can be funny and make them smile.”
Lavigne hopes to join the club and teach patients a few chords on a ukulele, doing a sing-along, or playing their favorite song for them. She thinks the possibilities are endless.
“I am very excited about this project because not only do I get to help others but I am also able to provide my fellow students with the opportunity to do the same,” she said. “I am honored to be able to dedicate all of this work to such an admirable person as Collin Trask.”
Another Seaholm student, junior Josh Smith, was also interested in volunteering with Collin’s Castle.
“I decided to get involved because although I never even met Collin, I feel like I know him because of what I know about him and the influence he had on other people and even me,” Smith said. “The way he is talked about is inspiring.”
Smith is very close with Walters and heard a lot about Collin because of their friendship.
“I know that Collin was and still is a big part in her life and in many other people’s lives as well, and I really want to help his legacy to live on because I know that it is what he deserves,” Smith said.
By joining the club and volunteering, Smith hopes that he will gain a lot through making new relationships with sick teens his age.
“I am hoping to be able to help people, myself included, to gain the experience that Ari had by going to the hospital, meeting new people, making great friends and finding out things about other people and about yourself that you didn’t know,” Smith said. “I like to make and see people smile, so of course it’s always nice to just help someone else to have a good day, and they might brighten up your day up as well.”
Principal Dee Lancaster has a great attitude towards the start of the club celebrating Trask and believes the club will be a good addition to Seaholm’s community.
“I think that anytime you can take somebody who is a healthy, typical teenager and have them work with someone who is not so fortunate, they appreciate life more,” Lancaster said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
If interested in being a part of Collin’s Castle, contact Walters or simply show up to the first meeting which will be advertised with flyers around Seaholm.