Before Cameron Gallagher died tragically at age 16, collapsing from an undiagnosed heart condition as she finished a half marathon in Virginia Beach in 2014, the Richmond-area teen used to scribble her feelings and emotions on paper.
“Fight. Finish. Faith.” “I will hold on.” “It takes a long time to fully become who you are.”
In a project designed to raise money for a nonprofit foundation created in her legacy, quotes from Cameron’s notes are being inscribed on jewelry and printed on wall canvases and T-shirts and sold at an online store on Etsy, a website for creatives.
Cameron’s parents, David and Grace Gallagher, have teamed up with Andrea Edmunds, co-founder of the children’s furniture business PoshTots.com, to launch the online store.
Running was a way for Cameron to fight the severe depression and anxiety that affected her moods. So were the notes, which she wrote to herself and collected from others who supported her in her efforts to stay mentally well.
The notations are from songs, scriptures and other inspirations. Cameron covered the walls of her bedroom with them, her mother said.
“So when she wasn’t feeling (well) she had something positive constantly surrounding her. It gave her hope and strength to get up,” said Grace Gallagher, co-founder of the Cameron K. Gallagher Memorial Foundation.
“When you see the quotes and some of the things she put in her own handwriting, it just personalizes things a little bit more. For that other 16-year-old or that other mom watching their 16-year-old struggle, it gives them something to say, ‘I’m not alone, and somebody very real was struggling just like I am or was,’ and that you can make it.”
Edmunds, whose oldest daughter was friends with Cameron, helped select the quotes and the artists to create the items, which also include pillows, canvas bags and spirit jerseys.
The items are for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/SpeakUpbyCameron.
Prices for the items vary. A gold-plated necklace inscribed with “I will hold on” is $79. Some T-shirts are $20.
Edmunds said she and the Gallaghers sorted through the collection of notes.
“I felt honored and privileged that they trusted me with this,” she said.
The Gallaghers wanted the words to be exactly as Cameron had written them — any misspellings and all — and in her handwriting. Edmunds traced them and worked with Virginia artists who designed the items.
Sale proceeds are supporting the work of the foundation, which is doing outreach and programs on youth depression and mental health, including offering programs at schools and classes in mindfulness practice.
“We are really trying to give these teens what they deserve and not just saying we are going to get rid of the stigma and raise awareness, but you deserve this and here’s a gift of some coping skills and education that can really last a lifetime,” Grace Gallagher said.
Bach to Rock in Midlothian
Gary S. Mizhir started playing guitar at age 6, switched to drums at 7, and has played since.
“Basically, my entire life has revolved around music. I’ve been in a number of bands throughout my life,” said Mizhir, 36.
That love for music is one of the reasons he and two friends, Dave Albaugh and Chris Wood, have invested in the Bach to Rock music school franchise. The three know one another from attending graduate school at the University of Virginia, Mizhir said.
Through their company, Game 7 Ventures LLC, they recently opened one of the music schools at 11400 W. Huguenot Road in Midlothian and have plans to open five more schools — three in Virginia and two in North Carolina.
“We will have another one in the Richmond market, most likely the Short Pump area,” Mizhir said.
Additional Virginia locations are planned for Charlottesville and Northern Virginia.
Bach to Rock, based in Maryland, opened its first music school location in 2007 and has grown to 15 locations, with schools in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas, according to the company website. More than 35 additional schools are in development nationwide.
The schools typically offer individual and group instruction for children and adults in voice and various instruments, including drums, guitar and piano; music camps; and programs in music production. Some Bach to Rock franchises also offer instruction in disc jockeying.
Mizhir said the school’s teachers have a variety of backgrounds — including music therapist, performing artist and formally trained music educator. In addition, the school has a professional recording studio and three audio engineers on staff used for recording the students and to teach audio engineering classes.
Class price varies. According to the website, private 30-minute and 60-minute guitar lessons are $38 and $72, respectively. A group piano class is $32.50 per participant.
The Richmond area has a number of music schools. In addition, some city and county parks and recreation departments offer music instruction classes.
The social benefits of music can’t be overstated, said Mizhir, recalling his own high school years where music class — choir or studying an instrument — was mandatory. At Bach to Rock, students are encouraged to join bands and ensembles that the school puts together.
“It creates a different atmosphere around learning,” Mizhir said. “Students want to go home and practice. They don’t want to let their band mates down. It creates a sense of teamwork.”
For more information, go to https://midlothian.b2rmusic.com.