Leukemia Survivor Inspires Union-Themed Kids Library at Council 4

Behind our union’s newly christened Cameron Wilson Children’s Library – a place for members’ children to sit and read a labor story or play games while their parents attend to union business at Council 4 – is a courageous child and his equally determined parents.

At the center of this story is 5-year-old Cameron Wilson, the son of  Jessica Wilson of Local 269 (P2 State Human & Social Services) and her husband Brendan. In 2017, doctors diagnosed Cameron with leukemia after he had just turned 2 and on the same day of his mom’s birthday.

Today, Cameron is officially cancer free and moving forward with his life.

“He’s thriving now. He’s growing,” Jessica reported. “He’s eating well, he’s taking swimming lessons and doing a lot better. He can finally be a kid.”

What’s also going to grow is the union library named in his honor.

It all started this spring, when Local 269 and Council 4 Vice President Ed Hawthorne asked the Council 4 Executive Board to donate union-related children’s books to the Wilsons. That discussion led to the Council 4 Finance Committee, chaired by Stacie Harris-Byrdsong of Local 3194 (CREC Paras), proposing something more expansive in the form of a labor-oriented children’s library and play space.

“Cameron really inspires us with his bravery and strength,” said Council 4 Executive Director Jody Barr.

It was wonderful to see our leadership conversation moved from a ‘good and welfare’ donation to what we have now, which is a fun and engaging environment for all members of our union family," added Barr, who has run two marathons (26.2 miles) and raised over $7k for the CT Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Cameron first started showing distressing signs in 2017, when he was suddenly unable to walk. Doctors at Smilow Cancer Center in New Haven officially diagnosed him with leukemia on Oct. 31, 2017, just a few days after his 2nd birthday and the exact day of his mom’s birthday.

“Going through this for 3-and-a half years has been every parent’s nightmare,” Jessica reflected. “We were in the hospital more than we were out of it.”

Fortunately, catching the leukemia early improved Cameron’s prospects for a full recovery. But the ensuing years – which included the COVID-19 pandemic – were difficult for the Wilsons. Cameron went through an arduous chemotherapy treatment. He lost lots of weight along with his hair. And he spent the time with a permanent “companion” in the form of an intravenous line (or port) needed for his survival.

Having the protection of her AFSCME union provided the Wilsons with an invaluable safety as they faced the challenges of Cameron’s cancer treatment and recovery. Jessica was able to take time off from her job as Career Development Specialist in the state Department of Labor’s Hamden office so she and Brendan could tend to their son.

“I’ve always been involved with [Local 269],” Jessica explained. “I’ve been a steward. I attend membership meetings. I’ve always felt supported by our union. I can’t imagine going through this [ordeal] and worrying about insurance costs and whether I would have a job.”

Cameron has always been a fun-loving friendly and curious child. Those qualities translate perfectly into the mini-library that now stands as testament to the strength of the Wilsons and the  importance of AFSCME representation.