Special graduation for St. Helen student

St. Helen student with cancer has died

Funeral arrangements have been set for Cameron Neal, the 14-year-old St. Helen Catholic School student who died yesterday following a 6-year battle with cancer.

According to school officials, visitation for Neal will be held at St. Helen Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. and the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

Classes will not be held at the school Friday.

UPDATE @ 4:20 p.m. (Sept. 14)

Cameron Neal, the 14-year-old St. Helen Catholic School student who had a graduation ceremony in August because he was too sick to return to classes, died today after a 6-year battle with cancer.

“You will never meet a more positive individual,” said Chrissy Buschur, principal at St. Helen.

Buschur said the school would have grief counselors available Tuesday.

Cameron had anaplastic ependymoma, which is a type of tumor that grows from cells inside the brain cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It tends to affect children and adults younger than 25.

The Dayton teenager became an honorary graduate of St. Helen in August as school started.

“I am glad we had a chance to do that for him,” Buschur said. “This is a huge loss for our community, just because of the example he shared and way he led his life.”

Melissa Leaman, who began helping the Neals through fundraisers and then became a family friend, said Cameron was “always wanting to make someone laugh. He is definitely an inspiration to everyone.”

Survivors include his parents, Jason and Shawnalee Neal.

“They are still trying to come to terms with what happened today,” Leaman said.

Cameron enrolled at St. Helen when he was in third grade and would have been in eighth grade this year. He played flag football and enjoyed attending soccer games.

Buschur taught Cameron in fourth grade before she became principal.

“So we have been on this journey for quite some time with him,” she said. “You will never meet a more positive individual.

“Through all the pain, all the treatments … he always had a smile.”

FIRST REPORT:

Cameron Neal graduated from eight grade this week during a special ceremony in his honor at St. Helen Catholic School.

Neal, 14, of Dayton is suffering from cancer and will not be returning to classes when school starts because he is too ill.

“We wanted to make sure we made him an honorary graduate,” said Chrissy Buschur, principal at St. Helen’s Catholic School. “His friends wanted to see him graduate too.”

Neal has been battling cancer for six years, his father, Jason Neal, said. The younger Neal was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, which is a type of tumor that grows from cells inside the brain cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The illness tends to affect children and adults under the age of 25.

Cameron Neal first enrolled in St. Helen’s when he was in the third grade, and would be an eighth grader this school year. As his condition worsened, he learned he would be unable to return to school this fall. He told his principal that he wanted the chance to experience graduation.

Cameron Neal played running back for the school’s flag football team and enjoyed attending soccer games, his father said. He had to stop playing as his cancer progressed, but he does not complain about his treatment.

“He has had 64 radiation treatments,” said Jason Neal. “But he would still be one of the happiest people you’ve ever met.”

Cameron Neal was in high spirits during the ceremony. He laughed and joked with his peers and former teachers. The teen’s positive attitude has been inspirational to his family and friends, despite his terminal illness, said his parents.

“He’s a tough kid,” said Jason Neal. “I am very proud of him.”

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