Leader Blues

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TOP STORY>>Young cancer victim remembered

Leader staff writer

Those who knew and loved Lawson Phillips, a Bayou Meto Elementary School third-grader who died in 2007, honored his life yesterday by making a donation in his name for more than $10,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South. The funds were raised by his parents, David and Lorey Phillips, and their family, the Bayou Meto Student Council and the Junior Twisters football team.

Lawson, 8, slipped into a coma a few days after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that November, so he did not have an opportunity to make a wish. He died a month later.

The fund-raiser was conceived as a way to remember Lawson and to bring happiness to another child with a life-threatening medical condition, Lorey Phillips said.

The sale of rubber wristbands with Lawson’s name and football jersey number raised enough money to grant the wishes of two children.
When the word got around about the fund-raiser, many people wanted to contribute, Lorey Phillips recounted.

“It has been overwhelming – people we didn’t even know, people from churches, people from Arkansas Children’s (Hospital) who knew Lawson, they would email asking for 25 or 100 wristbands,” she said. “We want people to know that Make-A-Wish got every penny of it.”

According to those who knew him, Lawson was a quiet, thoughtful child whose smiles and kind ways made him popular with both peers and adults. He enjoyed football, riding his pony and playing with his cousins.

“He was awesome, always friendly, a good student, very loving and compassionate,” reflected Debra Rowlett, the school’s bookkeeper. “All the kids wanted to be his best friend.”

The Phillips family’s deep bond with the Bayou Meto school made the loss even harder for everyone there. His two older siblings had attended the school, and their mother has been a volunteer there for many years.

“It was a shock to everybody – with Mama up here all the time volunteering and the two cousins like brother and sister. It was really tough on them and all the kids in the third grade,” Rowlett said. “They are a real special family, a big part of everything at Bayou Meto. This is our way of giving back in honor of Lawson.”

In remembrance of Lawson on his birthday last February, his cousins and classmates sang “Happy Birthday” and wrote messages on balloons, then sent them skyward.

“Four hundred balloons all going up at the same time – it was really heartwarming,” Rowlett said.

As a way to celebrate Lawson’s birthday this year, his family and friends decided to participate in two benefits for children – the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Change Angel program and Make-A-Wish Foundation fund-raiser. Only later did they learn that both events are on Lawson’s birthday, Feb. 6.

“It was meant to be,” Lorey Phillips said.