AXTELL (January 31, 2013) -- It was rare for someone to meet Cameron Garland and not be drawn to that smile.
It didn't take long for 9-year-old Faith Lautzenheiser to warm up to Cam. Here she is spraying him with silly string the very first time they met. The two became best friends. They talked, played jokes and even wrote songs.
"He was just my best friend in the hospital," Faith said.
Cam was in the hospital because he thought he had the flu. He'd had it before and knew what it felt like. Only this time, it was leukemia.
"It was just shock. Like somebody had slapped you in the face with a brick," said Bubba Garland, Cameron's dad.
"I felt more of a helpless feeling than I've ever felt as a coach because you can't fix it, you can't do anything about it," Axtell head coach Mike Cadell said.
But cancer didn't stop Cam from making others smile.
"He like put a balloon right above the door and it was full of flour so when someone opened the door, he would shoot it with a dart gun and the flour would fall on the nurses," Faith said.
Cam's teammates wore his number 55 on the back on their helmets, they held the number 55 up with their hands and in one game, they even scored 55 points in his honor.
"Every time you buckled your chin strap, you put your mouthpiece in, it was for him," said teammate Lucas Helleck.
Axtell had its most successful season in seven years and the news was even better for Cam.
"Cam had beat cancer. There were lots of hoops and hollers. That was a great day," Smith said.
"We were going to bring Cameron home by march. We were moving on," said Cameron's mom, Tammie Garland.
But Cam's body was so weak from all the treatment, he was struggling to fight off an infection. Soon, it was hard to move and talk. But Cam was still making everyone smile.
"You sit here and look back over the 17 years, it was always like that," Bubba said.
Nobody had lived more than two days with that same infection. Cam lived 10.
"I'm going to finish out my career in honor of him and coach like he lived," coach Cadell said.
"He just said be strong, be brave, be bright so that kind of made me realize I had to be strong, be brave, be bright," Faith said.
A little girl has hope because a young boy decided to make a difference.
Cam's family will hold a benefit dinner on February 2 from 11 a.m. to midnight at the Tradinghouse Bar and Grill in Waco. Barbecue dinner plates will be served starting at 1 p.m. and go as long as supplies last.
The event will also feature a chili cookoff, horseshoes tournament, silent auction and live music.
Cam's family says all proceeds will go to help families at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth.
For more information, contact Stephanie Amy at 254-717-0388, Vicki Pierce at 254-315-4157 or Bill Radde at 254-315-4157.