On 28 March 2022, the day after Mother’s Day, Cameron Milton, ‘Cam’ went to bed having said “love you” to his family as usual.  Following some time off school because of an illness, he and his mum were due in school to discuss university, apprenticeship or work options for Cam the following morning.

Cam had spent the Sunday evening with his parents Marcus and Jo and his grandmother, at a meal to mark Mother’s Day; a meal and venue he’d arranged with his dad.

The following day, Marcus made plans to spend the upcoming weekend with his son. He told him, “Next weekend will be your weekend. We’ll do what you want to do”. Cam agreed and spoke about spending the time watching the three recent Spider-Man movies. In the family, each of the three sons has their own favourite Spider-Man. Cal’s – the eldest– is the first Spider-Man (Toby Maguire), Connor’s – the middle– is the second (Andrew Garfield), and Cameron’s was the latest one (Tom Holland). A film fest was not unusual for the family to share.

Sadly, the weekend did not go ahead, as on the morning of 29 March at 7am, Jo discovered her youngest son had lost his life to suicide. Marcus was on his way to work at the time and was called to come home immediately. He arrived to see two ambulances outside the family home and says he ‘knew’ that the family had lost Cameron.

Growing up, Cameron was a “sunshine or rain” child, funny and daring yet sensitive and loving towards his family and friends; he was someone who “wore his heart on his sleeve”. He cherished his close relationships, and throughout his life he would give 100% of himself to them. He was optimistic, cheeky, constantly moving and would talk deeply about many topics. Cam was also gentle with animals and insects and had a love of wildlife and the beauty of nature. Above all, Cam appeared positive and was known for his wide smile and confidence in sport, right up until his last day.

“His favourite place was a pond which had been nicknamed ‘Old Russia’,” Marcus shares. “He would go there on his own as it had lots of wildlife. He also took friends, and they would swim in the water in the summer months. I remember he came home one day and told me he’d seen an otter, but I’d told him it wouldn’t have been, it’ll be a mink. But after he’d gone, someone who lives close by captured an otter on camera, so Cameron was right all along.”

“Local kids used to go down to the pond to drink and party, leaving cans and litter, and Cameron would go afterwards and clear up after them.”

As one of three boys, ‘The Three C’s’ as they were known, Cam was inspired a lot by his older siblings, particularly in sport and education – though Marcus jokes that his brothers were jealous of Cameron’s athletic build. Over the years they would often race and have press up and pull up competitions, and during his last year Cameron started to outdo his brothers – many a discussion would follow on who actually ‘won’ the brothers’ last fitness test.

During his younger years while trying out clubs: cubs, athletics, cricket, football, guitar and chess, Marcus says he and Jo often struggled to find things that captured Cam’s interest. At that time, Cameron had one best friend who he shared adventures climbing trees, sleepovers and exploring. A few years went by, and Cameron’s friend emigrated, leaving him devastated for several months. He never recaptured a friendship like this one.

Following in brother Connor’s footsteps, Cam secured a place at a highly respected local secondary school. Here, he fell in love with rugby and his natural talent and flare was recognised by all who watched him. One school coach described him as a “missile” on the rugby field. Marcus says when Cam put his eye on something, “you couldn’t stop him, he was absolutely fantastic.”

Marcus adds, “Cameron was a team player; he wanted to help his teammates and others in general to ensure they could succeed. A trait he carried with him throughout the entirety of his life, and he would later be honoured for by teammates and friends”.

Due to the physical nature of rugby, Cam encountered his fair share of injuries during his years playing, more so as he moved up the age groups and there were signs these were taking a toll on his positive outlook, confidence and mental health. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Cameron suffered three concussions as well as an injury to his shoulder, each of which meant he couldn’t return to training for different significant periods of time. The impact of missing rugby was exacerbated by Covid , which meant Cameron and his friends missed attending school and having any social contact.

But despite the challenges faced, combining Covid, rugby-related injuries and social isolation, the loss of Cam came as an unexpected shock to all who knew him. He still spoke about the future and his goals. He was ambitious and driven. At the time of his death, his family believed Cam aspired to follow the pathway of his mum and brother, regularly talking of attending Loughborough University. He hoped to transform his passion for sport and fitness into a rewarding career as a sports and fitness trainer.

Since his death, Cameron has been honoured by many whose lives he had touched. His funeral was attended by the village’s families, school, and rugby club. The family organised available support for anyone who needed it, both before and after the service.

Due to his popularity at school and rugby, with both teachers and coaches, after he passed his school arranged a memory book which took several days for his school mates, teachers and colleagues to complete.

Working closely with Jo, Bolton Rugby Club and Cameron’s Colts teammates held the Cameron Milton Memorial Day to raise vital donations that will help develop and improve junior rugby at the club last year. Jo has worked with the club to develop recognition and awards for players who demonstrate qualities beyond those that score tries – for those who always turn up, train, respect each other and the game, and support all the players in the squad, these were qualities Cameron was known for and that were commented on by team and school mates in his memorial book.

His school rugby team posthumously awarded him the Players’ Player of the Year 2022/23 last May and his headteacher organised a memory bench overlooking the school rugby levels.

Earlier this year, Marcus’s good friend Bret Parker set himself the challenge of running Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for the PAPYRUS at the request of Marcus and Jo. Following a dip in the Irish Sea, Bret and his friends Adam Potts, James Moon, and Daniel Jemmett, spent the weekend running 90 miles from Cumbria to the border of Newcastle, raising an incredible £4,600 in Cameron’s memory.

His dad says “I don’t think Cameron ever realised just how amazing he was and could be, because of his own insecurities. It’s a sad testament that he has made such a difference after we lost him. I’d swap everything to have him back, but unfortunately life is cruel, and we’ve got to carry on.”

Marcus and his family continue to honour Cameron’s memory each day in their individual ways. Marcus and Cameron’s brothers wear rings which feature Cameron’s birthstone and contain his ashes, allowing the family to always have a piece of Cameron with them. Jo wears an antique locket gifted by Cameron’s godmother which holds a lock of Cameron’s hair. Marcus also has a tattoo of an angel on his chest in honour of Cam.

Marcus adds, “Whoever drew the original drawing must have been looking at Cameron when they created it; he was broad shouldered, slim waisted with long legs, but it was his personality, smile and humour we miss most.”

Wanting to ensure Cam’s memory can live on in his favourite place, Marcus and Jo sought permission to have their son’s ashes spread at the lodge where he spent so much time. The landowners had also lost their son in his early 20s and allowed them to place a memorial stone at the pond. Marcus says this has provided his family and friends with somewhere to go to feel close to Cameron and speak to him.

“I’d give anything to have him back and there’s nothing that will ever stop that, but there have been positives; would the family and me have helped Bret, helped the rugby club, or helped those other people we have since Cameron’s death? Would I have been able to raise awareness to stop this happening to other young people? Probably not. It’s given us something to focus on and it’s allowing us to keep Cameron’s memory alive.

“It’s tough. The hardest thing I have experienced, but we just try to remind ourselves that we are making differences in his name.

“If you’re struggling or you know someone is struggling, there are things that can help. It doesn’t change overnight. You’ve lost your way on the path of life, but somebody just needs to guide you back onto it, that’s what you need. Speak to anyone, speak about your feelings.”

Cam’s parents both add that PAPYRUS’s commitment to increasing the discussion around suicide and sharing that there is hope and support for those struggling is close to home for Cameron’s family. Both Jo and Marcus continue to share PAPYRUS’s mission whenever possible as they say positive actions make their grief journey more bearable; helping them to carry on with their own life journeys.

Their message to others is, “should you be worried about a friend, family member or school mate; tell someone else in that person’s family or in their school.”

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and need a safe non-judgmental space to talk. PAPYRUS is here for you. Call HOPELINE247 for free, confidential advice and support on 0800 068 4141, text 88247 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

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