Remembering Carson: New fields keep memory of Woodbrook student alive
The shock from the year-ago death of third-grader Carson Raymond moved many in the community, particularly with his parents' ability–- just days after their son's death from swine flu complications atop a pre-existing heart condition–- to comfort others by urging calm and assuring that other children were not at risk.
Today, that combination of outreach and generosity remain evident as the parents keep their son's memory alive through the Carson Raymond Foundation, which has introduced dozens of students to t-ball through clinics and equipment scholarships and built a t-ball field at Woodbrook Elementary, which the 9-year-old attended at the time of his October 10, 2009 death.
"The Foundation is accomplishing what I was hoping it would do–- getting kids out to play," says John Raymond, citing a four-week t-ball clinic the Foundation sponsored last school year for Woodbrook kindergartners.
"The interaction with the kids, their big smiles, bright eyes when they got their certificate of accomplishment. They were jumping on us," he recalls. "That was nice."
Less enjoyable was the pre-construction dispute with some residents of the Woodbrook neighborhood, who expressed concern in meetings and on the Woodbrook neighborhood's blog that the new field's dugouts could shelter criminal activity. Raymond says he was surprised by how contentious the dispute became, as the Foundation board and residents met separately and in front of the School Board to hammer out a compromise. But while the process slowed down completion of the field, he believes the end result is a better design.
"We just changed the dimensions of it from 24 feet in length down to 18 feet in length, changed from block concrete to split face concrete– opened it up totally so the backsides are windows with chain-link fence," he says.
The Foundation has raised "in the $60,000 range," says Raymond, voicing hope that donations will continue to fund future projects–- such as a planned field at the city's Johnson Elementary School.
"We're definitely going to have clinics at Woodbrook and Johnson," he says, "and anybody who needs equipment, we'll provide it for them."
Raymond says that focusing on positives has helped the family, including Carson's two younger brothers, now ages 7 and 5. But family milestones–- such as Carson's September 25 birthday–- remain particularly difficult. Meanwhile, Carson's mother, Jennifer Raymond, has gone back to school to study nursing, a direct result of the death of her oldest child.
"Another positive comes out of a huge negative," says Raymond, who believes Carson's death changed him as well.
"This whole tragedy has changed my priorities, my focus," he says. "I'd always volunteered and done coaching, but when this happened, I thought, 'I have more to give.'"
On October 9, the Rock for a Cure fundraiser takes place at Fairview Swim Club with a portion of the proceeds going to the Foundation. For information on donating, volunteering, or suggesting a future project for the Foundation, visit www.carsonraymondfoundation.com.