One day, sixteen-year-old Cameron agreed on going with his mom on a trip to Target. He thought it was just another trip to buy some essential things for the house. Also, he thought, it would be nice to spend some time with his mom and to give her some much-needed help, of course. But when he got to Target, something happened right in front of his eyes that triggered him to become the hero he has always been. He stood up for someone in a way that many people didn’t and ended up all over the news. Here’s his story.
An Ordinary Request
When sixteen-year-old Cameron Cook said yes to going shopping with his Mom, he never could have anticipated what would happen. Little did he know that he would be faced with one of the hardest dilemmas possible, and would be plunged into his own real-life adventure story, leaving him an unlikely hero, and a media celebrity at that.
It was absolutely the last thing on his mind, but that was exactly what was going to happen.
A Regular High School Student
Cameron lived in Boston and attended Catholic Memorial High School like any other sixteen-year-old kids. Most of them probably don’t jump at the chance to go shopping in Target with their parents, but when Cameron’s Mom asked him if he wanted to head down to the South Bay Plaza Target, he said sure.
He probably wanted to pick up a few things, or just be there to help out his mother with carrying bags or keeping her company.
A Demonic Look
But not long after they arrived, he says that something odd caught his eye. It was an older guy, who was acting suspiciously. Cameron says that he had a “demonic look” to him, a frightening term that I’m sure he doesn’t use lightly.
Cameron felt uncomfortable, so kept his attention on the stranger, and soon saw that the man had his own attention fixated on someone else, an eleven-year-old girl who was pushing a trolley nearby.
An Unusual Situation
This by itself might not have been enough to make Cameron question what was going on, but the man wasn’t acting like he was glancing casually over, or that he knew the girl in question and was trying to place her. In fact, he was acting in a horrible way.
As Cameron looked on, he saw that the man was actually touching himself in the groin area through his clothing. This was not a usual situation.
Somethings Going On
This was enough to make Cameron realize that something wasn’t right, and he wasn’t about to keep moving and leave events to play out by themselves, even though his Mom encouraged him to do just that. Cameron remembers seeing the man begin to behave even more strangely.
“I saw the guy grabbing himself, and my mom goes, ‘Cam let’s go, keep walking,’ I was like, no, something’s going on.”
Heather Cook is Cameron’s mother, and she remembers being worried for their safety, and that the stranger in question was not just acting in a weird way, but he was also undoubtedly intoxicated, he had been drinking alcohol.
“I was close enough that I could smell the liquor coming from his mouth,” she told CBS Boston in an interview. “It was horrible.” While Heather just wanted to get away, Cameron felt that they couldn’t leave without being sure the man wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
A Mother’s Instinct
No one can argue with Heather Cook’s thought process. When you see someone behaving erratically, and you can smell alcohol, and you aren’t sure whether they have any mental health problems as well, you have to protect your child.
Cameron was focused on this eleven-year-old girl, but for Heather, her focus was on protecting her own child- Cameron. But Cameron knew what he wanted to do, and he was too suspicious to ignore his gut instinct.
Just moments later, the stranger gave Cameron a reason to be more than just suspicious. The man went towards the young girl who he had been staring at and thrust his body up against her. Cameron didn’t hesitate.
He immediately put himself between the man and the young girl, making sure that he couldn’t touch her again. The confused girl had no idea what was going on, but Cameron acted on instinct.
Recollecting What Happened
When Cameron retells the story, he remembers exactly what happened, and what he saw, and he remembers realizing the girl herself had no idea what was happening. “He made contact with her, he rubbed himself against her and she didn’t even notice it.
She probably thought someone just brushed by her.” But that wasn’t what had happened, and Cameron wasn’t going to let him get away with it. He approached him and spoke.
“Excuse me sir? Do you know her?” Cameron asked the man. At this point, the teen wanted to be sure that the girl was a stranger to him.
While it seemed extremely unusual and the man appeared to be acting on some kind of sick impulse, Cameron wanted to find out if maybe the man was related to the girl somehow, or they had just become separated while shopping. He didn’t think this could be the case, but he needed to know for sure.
A Shocking Reply
The man’s answer told him everything he needed to know. While Cameron was expecting him to just say a simple yes or no, or tell Cameron to mind his own business, he instead immediately started insisting “I’m not a pervert, I’m not a pervert.”
As Cameron hadn’t suggested anything like that, he could see that his initial assumption had been correct, the man was defensive about his actions because he had been doing something disgusting and illegal.
An Empty Store
The story becomes even more frightening when you consider that the victim’s own mother was in the restrooms while this story was happening. This eleven-year-old girl was all alone in the store, and if Cameron hadn’t been there to protect her, who knows what could have happened next?
Cameron knew that he had to make sure the man left the store without any more violence happening on the way. There was no one else around to help.
Towering Over Him
Heather remembers that there was a size difference between Cameron and the stranger and that Cameron wasn’t on the winning side. “He was big, and Cameron had no fear at all,” she said. “He just stood firm on the fact that he knew what this man was doing was wrong.”
It’s hard enough to imagine approaching a stranger who seems under the influence of alcohol, but even worse if you imagine that they are physically stronger and larger than you are.
Making a Difference
No one would have blamed Cameron for carrying on walking, and not getting involved. But he would have blamed himself. Even leaving the girl alone for a few minutes to go and find a member of staff or someone else to help might have been the difference between something terrible happening to this young girl, and being able to make a difference.
Whether this thought crossed Cameron’s mind, we don’t know.
It’s Time to Leave
Cameron told the guy that he thought he should leave the store, all the while remaining in between him and the young unaccompanied girl. The man did leave, but felt the need to curse and shout all the way to the exit, no doubt making everyone in the shop feel even more uncomfortable.
Heather and Cameron went to report the incident to the store management, so that they could then escalate it to the police.
It goes without saying that the young girls’ mother was exceptionally grateful to Cameron for his help, and praised both his bravery and his quick thinking.
There are many stories which have a similar beginning to them, but unfortunately, some of them have a much more sinister and upsetting end. Cameron says that he is just grateful that he was in the right place at the right time, but we feel that it is so much more than that.
A Quick Getaway
In this case, the man was seen leaving in his car, which shows that he also doesn’t respect the laws of drunk driving, but the girl remained unharmed, and Cameron also got away unscathed. No doubt when his mother Heather told him to keep moving, she was afraid that Cameron would end up getting hurt by this guy, or even getting into some kind of fist fight.
Perhaps the stranger might have a weapon or refuse to leave.
A Real Hero
All of these thoughts must have run through Cameron’s mind too, but he still decided to stand his ground and stick up for the girl, who had no one else around to protect her. In the eyes of the city, this made Cameron a true hero, and he was honored as such.
Cameron was interviewed by a bunch of media outlets, including CBS Boston and the Boston Herald, but one of his most incredible honors came later.
It Only Takes a Minute
As well as an amazing story, Cameron’s act reminds us that it’s never safe to leave our kids alone, even for a second or a minute while we run to the rest room. If we wouldn’t allow them to go out shopping alone, then we shouldn’t be leaving them in store by themselves.
It only takes a minute for something unthinkable to happen to our children, which we can never take back. It’s worth making our lives more difficult by leaving the basket or taking our kids with us.
While there are security cameras around, that doesn’t mean that a stranger couldn’t approach, harm, or even kidnap our kids when we are away from them.
The cameras might be a deterrent to some strangers, but other people might not care that they are being recorded, especially if they are mentally unstable, criminal, or like in this case, they have been drinking alcoholic beverages.
Heroes Amongst Us
The Boston Celtics are a basketball team who run the Heroes Amongst Us program. They give special honor to regular people who act with extraordinary bravery or heroism to make a difference in the community.
If anyone is going to fit that description, Cameron, who put his own safety second to look after a young girl who was being approached by a predator, is definitely top of that list. And the Celtics thought so too.
A Great Honor
In December 2016, Cameron stood in front of the whole crowd at a Celtics game at the Garden, and was honored for his contribution to the Boston community. They present one award at every home game, and it’s an incredible opportunity for any citizen, sports fan or not.
Cameron looks pretty pleased with his recognition, seen here waving to the fans, and getting the applause he deserves.
His mother was in no way surprised that Cameron acted the way he did, in fact, she thinks it’s totally within his usual character to stand up for other people who need support, and not to just keep his head down and keep himself to himself. “
I’m very proud of him, but it’s totally within his character,” Heather told CBS Boston. “He’s not afraid to do what’s right.” You have to think that she brought him up pretty well for him to have acted this way on instinct.
Other recent winners of the Heroes Amongst Us award include Kelly Driscoll, who is the coordinator of the Concord Pan-Mass Challenge Kids Ride, which has raised more than $300,000 over the past decade.
She started working with the PMC soon after her own husband died of colon cancer, and the work she has done to raise money and provide important schemes for kids is incredible.
Another deserving winner is Yaakov Horwath, who as a Starbucks barista, was opening his store at 4am, when he saw a Dunkin Donuts employee collapse across the street. He ran to help him, called emergency services, and waited with him until the ambulance arrived.
As this happened in the middle of the night, without Yaakov noticing and getting the man the help he needed, he may not have survived.
Tom Chafe won the award last year for going above and beyond in serving our country. His full title is Lieutenant Colonel Tom Chafe, and he has been in the Navy and Air Force for the past 22 years. After 9/11 he led the very first medical flight crew into Afghanistan to rescue our troops.
Not just a hometown hero, but a national one, he was awarded this extra honor of being recognised by the Celtics.
Barbara Jenkins was never expecting any kind of accolades or applause for the three decades of work she has done for children with special needs.
She has been a mentor for Project Support in Billerica, which works to create an environment of inclusivity for any children who have either intellectual or physical challenged. Barbara is 84 years old, but still works for the program, and she has actually helped over 500 children over the years.
Sometimes, the honor will go to someone who has overcome tremendous adversity. One such example is Stephen Teague, who was honored more recently in 2017. In 1993, he was involved in a tragic accident which left him needing over a dozen surgeries on his arm.
Rather than get downhearted, he has channelled his feelings into running for charity, and has raised over $20,000 for the Stepping Stone Center for Trauma Innovation.
We teared up when we heard the story of brave Brian Tomlinson, who was diagnosed with bone cancer at just 16 years old, and ended up having to have his leg amputated after several months of unsuccessful chemotherapy.
Despite this, he returned to his local YMCA as a swim instructor, and is actually now one of only a handful of amputee lifeguards! He is an inspiration to any children who suffer from any kind of illness, and want a strong example to get back to the things that they love to do.
Jesse Carrier and his friend Justin Petterson actually managed to save the same man’s life twice in one day! They were around the Merrimack River and saw a man, clearly struggling with depression and standing over the bridge, preparing to jump.
The teens grabbed hold of the man, and convinced him to leave the area. When the man returned to the same spot just hours later, they again managed to stop him from jumping, calling 911 and getting him the help he needed.
Some of the most amazing recipients of this honor are actually just children when they are tested with adversity. Kalsie King is one such example, who was only in her sophomore year of high school when she realised that many of her classmates did not have adequately warm clothes for the cold winter months.
She organised a clothing drive, which has now become an annual event, and this year raised more than 1,200 pieces of clothing for Boston families.
Sometimes, the award can go to the family of someone who has already passed away, I’m sure acting as a small piece of support to a grieving family. Fire rescue captain Joseph Vinacco was one such posthumous winner, and here is his family accepting his award.
He was an Army Medic for more than eight year, and then became a firefighter, saving many lives. When he passed away from cancer it was a great loss for the whole community.
Christy Gardner is an inspiration to any amputees out there, as she voluntarily lost both her legs after being injured in the line of duty as an Army Sergeant. She saw that disabled vets could do more with prosthetic limbs than their own damaged ones, and underwent a double amputation.
She actually has since run a 5k race in just 41 minutes, proving that her life as a hero and an athlete was far from over just because of her injury.
Nurys Camargo founded the Chica Project, which is a mentoring organization which hopes to close the opportunity gap for many young Latinas in Massechusetts. While it began as just eight women, it is now a statewide initiative, and empowers Latina youth into the leaders of tomorrow.
More than 400 young women have been served by the project, and Nurys is clearly a very deserving honoree for this incredible work.
Something to be Celebrated
Cameron joins these ranks as another hometown hero who went above and beyond to possibly even save a young girls life. All of the people who get this amazing recognition from the Celtics and the Heroes Amongst Us award have something in common.
Incredible bravery and perseverance to do the right thing. This is what Cameron showed on that fateful day when he thought he was just browsing in Target, and this is what is being celebrated.