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'He couldn’t look the other way': Fargo woman who lost two kids finds silver lining

Independence Elementary students Ian Carnahan, from left, Gowri Pillai, Mylee Briggs, Brooklyn Pickard, Addison McKroskey and Norah Casas are named finalists in the school’s Cam Cares award by Principal Michael Shea during a school assembly Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Fargo. Gowri Pillai was chosen for the award by Trista Curry in memory of her son Camden Dean who was a fourth grader there when he was killed in a traffic accident March 25, 2018. The award recognizes students that embody Camden’s giving and caring nature. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — On March 25, 2018, 9-year-old Camden Dean and 19-month-old Maxwell Dean lost their lives in a tragic car accident . Their mom, Trista Curry, and 3-year-old daughter, Avalon Dean, survived the crash.

Unfortunately, Camden was not able to fulfill his dream of becoming an NFL or YouTube star, which, according to his mom, was so that he could afford to open up his own homeless shelter.

Camden Dean, 9, died en route from their Fargo home to Stephen, Minn., to see relatives for the Easter holiday. Special to The Forum

As the anniversary of Camden’s death approached, Curry reached out to Michael Shea, the Independence Elementary school principal, about finding a way to remember Camden. They came up with an award for fourth graders that would encourage kids to spread kindness while honoring Camden’s memory.


“That was a really tough day for us,” Shea said. “He was a very kind, caring student, kind of one of the kids that doesn’t like to see anyone left out.”

Cam Cares Award

The Cam Cares Award rewards one student at Independence Elementary for displaying compassion beyond their years at an event open to students and parents of nominees.

The first ceremony of its kind was held on Tuesday, April 2, when one of six students nominated by their teachers was selected. Teachers are allowed to nominate one or two students. The winner receives a certificate, $50 to keep and $50 to donate to their preferred charity. The names of all future winners will be engraved on a plaque displayed at the school.

Trista Curry, left, and Principal Michael Shea presented the inaugural Cam Cares Award to fourth-grader Gowri Pillai on Tuesday, April 2, at a ceremony held at Independence Elementary. Special to the Forum

The inaugural Cam Cares Award winner is Gowri Pillai. Other nominees included Norah Casas, Addison McCroskey, Brooklyn Pickard, Mylee Briggs and Ian Carnahan.

“It’ll make them aware of doing good and that it doesn’t go unnoticed,” Curry said. “I don’t think every kid stops to think about what other people need, or other people’s lives because they’re so caught up in their own.”

Camden was always looking for ways to help people who were less fortunate than him, according to Curry.


“He seemed to look for kids who needed somebody to play with during recess time,” Shea said.

Camden Dean holds his brother, Maxwell Dean, before a car accident in 2018 took both of their lives. Michael Sustad / Sustad Photography

Curry also recalled the time he’d pleaded and cried to sponsor a child from an African country until she finally agreed.

“He was very sympathetic and sensitive, so when he saw someone in need it really affected him,” she said. “He couldn’t look the other way.

Curry’s daughter, Avalon, is now almost 4 years old. She also has 5-week-old twins, Eloise Maxwell and Esla Camden.

"It's a blessing for sure," Curry said of the twins, who were born three minutes apart. "I wanted to give them the boys' names, so that way we're always talking about them and they grow up knowing about them."

Through toy drives and charity, she's keeping their memories alive .


"I love doing things on their behalf because that's all I can really do," she said.

Trista Curry with 5-week-old twins, Eloise Maxwell and Esla Camden, and 3-year-old daughter Avalon. Michael Sustad / Sustad Photography

“We really want to have the mindset and the caring compassionate characteristics that Cam had, so that’s kind of why we’re promoting this,” Shea said.

Trista Curry with her daughter, Avalon, edited to show her sons Camden and Maxwell who lost their lives in 2018. Michael Sustad / Sustad Photography

Trista Curry, left, and Principal Michael Shea presented the inaugural Cam Cares Award to fourth-grader Gowri Pillai on Tuesday, April 2, at a ceremony held at Independence Elementary. Special to the Forum

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