The recent death of Camron Cozzi sent shockwaves through Bonney Lake, but the community is ready to rally together next month to celebrate the life of one of the most recognized names on the Plateau.
Camron died March 10 shortly before midnight on his 18th birthday.
“It is with deep regret to inform all of our family, friends and supporters, our amazing son Camron Cozzi, earned his Angel Wings last night and has gone to heaven to join the Lord,” father Paul Cozzi wrote on Facebook on March 11, announcing the news. “He is forever free of this horrific disease that stole his life from him.”
Like his older brother Jordan, Camron was known for his athleticism.
“He played every sport in youth that he could get his hands around,” Paul said, including junior football with the Wolf Pack and the Bonney Lake High School lacrosse and wrestling teams, as well as the Maniax select lacrosse team, during his freshman year.
Much of that came to an end when he was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) when he was 15 years old.
Camron was being monitored for a concussion he suffered during a lacrosse practice in fall 2015, and his symptoms worsened over several weeks instead of getting better.
A CT scan and MRI revealed the true culprit of Cozzi’s pain and sickness — a highly aggressive brain tumor growing on the brainstem, causing neurological issues like muscle weakness, problems balancing, and nausea or vomiting from brain swelling.
The cancer is rare, affecting about 200,000 people per year in the U.S., mostly children.
The cancer is also fatal. According to the Defeat DIPG Foundation, 10 percent of children with the cancer live for two years after the diagnosis, and less than 1 percent live for five years.
Camron lived for three years, thanks to the community support that came his way, especially from the many people the Cozzi family met through sports, Paul said, and they have extreme gratitude for everyone who helped.
“From that first initial diagnosis and trying to get it all together, they were very instrumental in us being able to make decisions and being able to travel abroad and take off work,” Paul said. “When you’re son is handed a two to nine-month survival time, and to extend it out to the almost 28 months, it was a blessing for us, and we would not have achieved that unless we were able to seek and afford the treatment Camron received.”
All in all, Paul estimated the community raised close to $850,000 for travel and treatment costs, as well as DIPG research.
After Camron’s death, members of the Plateau community gathered at Bonney Lake High School for a candlelight vigil on March 14.
“It was nice for Paul and myself to see the kids come together. We were hearing stories about Camron, and we love him and we knew him, but they had extra stories to talk about,” mother Cyndi said. “It was a beautiful night.”
Another celebration of life is scheduled for Sunday, April 8 at 5 p.m. at the Federal Way Christian Faith Center at 33645 20th Avenue South. It is open to the public.
The Cozzi’s are also hosting another auction to raise funds for DIPG research on June 2 at the Puyallup fairgrounds.
Money raised at this auction will be donated to TGen, an Arizona-based nonprofit medial research institute that helped the Cozzi family make decisions on medical treatment, and other medical research facilities that helped treat Camron.
Camron’s tumor was also donated to TGen for further research, in order to find more effective treatment for the cancer.