Messages of love and appreciation have poured in to commemorate the life of Cameron Donaldson, who went missing March 16 during a scuba dive off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico.
The 30-year-old Shrewsbury, Quebec, native was a much-loved figure in the community of Waskaganish, where he lived for many years working as a youth counselor. He later founded the Kuuchiitaau therapeutic scuba-diving program for youth and people with disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder throughout the Cree Nation. According to its website, the program offers youth “the healing and freedom the waters bring in an educational program to support health, inspire learning and enjoy peace.”
“He wanted to introduce the youth to the beauty,” said Bonnie Good, Donaldson’s mother. “The underwater was just so beautiful. He wanted them to come to Cozumel and know that this planet is a beautiful place.”
Donaldson had posted a message on the Kuuchiitaau website reading, “With this potential for wellbeing and healing, we feel youth deserve this opportunity to experience it for themselves.”
Donaldson had been splitting his time between Waskaganish and Cozumel, which is reputed for its world-class diving. On March 16, he went diving with his mother in the waters near Las Rocas at the north end of Cozumel. When he failed to return to shore after the dive, a search-and-rescue operation was put into action, with a GoFundMe page calling on friends to help support the effort.
On March 23, an announcement on the GoFundMe page acknowledged that the search effort was not likely to succeed in finding Donaldson alive, and thanked the contributors for their help.
“He has been a blessing to all that have known him,” the announcement stated. “He has been a mirror into who we are and he has always validated us by his unconditional love, inspired by his deep connection with God. He has spent all his energies in search of knowledge and in finding ways to help others.”
In the days after the announcement, family and friends shared fond memories of the young man who had arrived in Waskaganish years earlier with a skidoo strapped to the top of his Oldsmobile. Many spoke of his warmth, his passion for life, and his love for helping others, regardless of culture or language barriers.
“There was nothing in the world that separated him from another human being,” recalled long-time friend Kathy Shecapio. “Not culture, not language, because he would learn it in order to be able to connect and communicate with everyone who was around him or who crossed his path.”
Shecapio added that Donaldson accepted life as it came. “He’d sit with it, and walk with it,” she mused. “It was the same way he would be with anyone who spoke to him. He would sit with them and walk with them, and would just make it okay.”
On March 25, seven of Donaldson’s family members gathered in Cozumel to commemorate the young diver. His brother Malcolm shared reflections of the commemoration on Facebook: “Together we agreed that his was a successful life, full of love for others, and full of the things that he wanted to do.”
“Through it all, he loved and respected the Cree culture,” Bonnie Good said. “It was about love.”
A memorial for Donaldson is planned for April 21 in Cozumel. A second memorial is planned for early July in Waskaganish.