“When I say we love, you say, ‘Kaely! We love Kaely! We love Kaely!’” So sang one of the lead students of Kaely Camacho’s eighth grade class to an answering chorus from her fellow classmates. The throngs of kids gathered together in honor of Kaely Camacho cheered loudly on an otherwise quiet sunny Wednesday morning outside the Southwood Middle School campus in Palmetto Bay.
Hundreds of sixth, seventh and eighth graders took turns swinging their hands together and marching around the school block in a sea of blue tee shirts (Kaely’s favorite color) at a memorial walk in honor of the 13-year-old Southwood Middle School student killed by a drunk driver on April 13.
The day began with threatening, dark clouds and heavy rain, but cleared into a promising bright sunny day just in time for each grade to take their sponsored one-mile walk around the school to raise awareness about the danger of drunk driving. All 21 members of the Camacho family were present according to Southwood Principal Deborah Leal at “The Walk for Kaely,” an event organized by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Southwood PTSA.
Kaely’s 17-year-old sister Bree Ann Camacho led the students with supporting family members around her pushing strollers or carrying kids on shoulders. Each family member wore the same tee shirt of a smiling Kaely with her hands positioned upside down over her eyes in a funny spectacle fashion, while cheerful blue eyes peeked through.
“This morning was a little bit overwhelming,” said Bree Ann during an interview. “I miss her a lot and I was crying, but also happy crying because just look at all of the people she has brought together; it’s amazing.”
Bree Ann spoke confidently to the numerous reporters from area television stations vying for her attention as she walked and cheered for Kaely along with the crowds that filled the streets, some even with pet dogs in tow.
“Drunk driving really needs to stop and we can stop it,” she said loudly over the roar of the crowd. “My entire family and I are here to get the word out. Next time you have a decision to make about getting into a car with someone who is intoxicated, think of my sister and what it did to her.”
Principal Leal said most students at the school knew Kaely personally, were moved by the tragedy of her untimely passing and wanted to do something about it. “This was a way to channel their energy and do something that was positive for Southwood and the community,” said Leal. “We have been planning this walk for over a month and the students went out to ask for pledges and donations for MADD.”
In addition to the walk, the dance magnet program dedicated a performance to Kaely that afternoon and planted a tree in her honor. Kaely’s mother, Angela, walked just behind Bree Ann alongside her husband Kirk, family and friends.
“This is great support we are receiving here,” said Angela. “We are so grateful to Southwood and the community and MADD. We want to make sure all of our children are aware of the terrible dangers of drunk driving.”
For more information, contact MADD victim advocate Helen Witty at 305-273- 7122 or visit www.madd.org