NIAGARA FALLS — Sarah Campbell was always looking out for others, her father, George, says.
Now they’re looking out for her.
Less than five months after she passed away from lung cancer, the family was at Heartland Forest dedicating a memorial bench in her honour.
“Sarah was always so generous,” George said, holding back tears. “(She) was always putting everybody else ahead of her.”
Sarah was 34 when she passed away on February 17 of this year. When she became ill in November of 2014, it was first thought she had come down with a case of pneumonia. She was prescribed round after round of antibiotics but didn’t improve. In early February, after complaining of pain in her side — thought to be from constant coughing — she was taken to hospital by her mother, Donna. After tests, the cancer was discovered.
“It was that night our family had a bomb dropped,” Sarah’s younger sister, Emily, said. “My oldest sister was told she had cancer. Each test showed more and more. The cancer was so extensive — she was just full.”
Just a week later, Sarah had passed away. But she did get a chance to snuggle with Emily’s then two-month-old daughter, Riley, beforehand.
Sarah was also to be the Maid of Honour at Emily’s wedding this coming September.
So Emily, wanting to do something in Sarah’s memory, waged a campaign through GoFundMe.com and raised $500 to cover the cost of the bench.
Best of all, she managed to keep the whole thing a secret from her mom and dad.
Brought to Heartland on Monday under the ruse of taking some family photos with Emily and her brother, Jesse, the elder Campbells were more than touched when they became away of what was really going on.
“I have the best kids,” George said through tears as he looked over the plaque with Donna.
“This is overwhelming,” Donna added.
Emily chose the bench at Heartland because she saw it as a place where families could come and enjoy the peaceful surroundings and that it represented a quiet place where her family could come to reflect.
And that was something that wasn’t lost on George.
“I always wanted to come here,” he said. “Now I have a reason to.”
In addition to the memorial bench Emily’s brother, Jesse, created an award for a graduating student at Stamford Collegiate Secondary School, where all of the Campbell children — Sarah, Emily, Jesse and Marlayna — attended. The award is handed out to the student who is dedicated to community involvement.
The inaugural winner was Sarah Anderson.
“As it turns out, my parents went to school with her parents,” Jesse said.
George, meanwhile, thought there was a greater meaning and the fact than the award recipient turned out to be a child of someone they went to school with.
“I always says nothing happens by coincidence,” George said. “We were all crying.”