When you lose a loved one in traumatic fashion, experts say that one way to cope with the grief is to find meaning in the loss, channeling your grief and love into something positive.
As important as suicide prevention awareness and destigmatization is, focusing our efforts towards that in Charlie’s memory never felt right to us. While the darkness that was his ADHD and depression was a part of him we never ignored, it only existed because of the very bright light that was the rest of him. We want to celebrate how Charlie lived—and he lived loud and large.
This kid had an imagination and a unique way of thinking and problem solving. Despite having some truly talented teachers, school wasn’t the best fit for him to express that. That’s why Camp Invention was one of his favorite things.
Camp Invention was one of the highlights of his year. A week-long program focusing on hands-on STEM activities and fun, it encouraged the best parts of Charlie, rewarding out of the box problem solving, imagination and curiosity. He loved hanging with like-minded kids and connecting with the teachers and student counsellors in a non-school environment. In fact, here’s a quote:
Every year, I’d go to the ending ceremony, where the kids showed off their inventions. He was always SO excited to share what he and his “team” had done. We’d bring home his creations and he’d continue to tinker with them, or ask for supplies so he could build a different version. Like this:
Of the four boxes that are all I physically have left of him, one box is half-filled with mementoes from his time at Camp Invention. He proudly and carefully displayed them in his room. I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, I will open that box, see that robot and remember how much Charlie loved having the chance to let his creativity soar.
Ever since we lost him, my husband and I have funded a scholarship for a couple of local kids to be able to attend Camp Invention. My wonderful boss heard about it, and reached out to the National Inventors Hall of Fame to see how this could be made permanent. One of my lovely clients asked to be a part of any efforts.
And so the Charlie Bledsoe Endowment Fund for Camp Invention Scholarship was born. As an endowment, the fund will become self sustaining so that every year, kids in our local school district who could otherwise not afford it will be able to attend Camp Invention. I can think of no better way to honor Charlie’s spirit than this.
And it is inexpressibly comforting to think that a little bit of Charlie’s light continues to shine in this world.