ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — After the heartbreaking loss of a young boy at Camp Winnebago years ago, his family hopes to support other children throughout the county.
Cameo Severson lost her son two years ago at Camp Winnebago. She says her son has inspired her to send more kids to camp.
“He was running down the hill at camp and his heart just stopped,” Severson said.
It was 7-year-old Gabriel’s first time at summer camp. He died of an undetected heart condition while at Camp Winnebago two years ago.
“I can’t stay stuck in it, it’s really difficult to do, but some days are easier than others,” Severson said.
Severson remembers the week he was away and says she had never seen him so happy.
“He would just come home enthusiastic about his day and couldn’t wait to talk about it,” Severson said. “He just loves making new friends, he was a social kid.”
Since Gabriel’s passing, his mother decided she wants to help other kids have that same joy, so she’s raising money to send students to Camp Winnebago.
Last year, she raised just over $3,000, and this year she has a fundraising page to send a second child.
Michelle Polivka, Vice President of the YMCA, says what Severson is doing is magical.
“That’s amazing you know they certainly did not have to do that, but to know that other children who might not have been able to experience the magic of camp are going to be able to in Gabriel’s name,” Polivka said. “That’s quite something.”
There is also a bench at the camp that’s dedicated to Gabriel.
His mom says she knows Gabriel would approve.
“Gabriel would have loved to see another kid have as much fun as he got to with this event, you know, and that was kind of what struck me about doing this,” Severson said.
You can donate to help send a kid to Camp Winnebago next year in Gabriel’s honor on the Gabriel Henze Camp Scholarship Facebook page.