Parents’ memory of Shawnee grad inspires movement for heightened fentanyl awareness

Cameron Brucker’s family plans mentorship program, sunset 5K event ‘to keep the best part of Cameron alive’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Cameron Brucker loved sunsets and sports. Known as a positive influence on everyone he met and having a goal of being a diving instructor defined the teen who just graduated Shawnee High School in 2021 and seemed to have bright future.

A fentanyl overdose in September 2021 ended those dreams and left his family looking at sunsets in a different way.

Few people may realize today is National Fentanyl Awareness Day as established a year ago.

It’s a bitter reminder for Cameron’s parents, Karen and Dave Brucker, who don’t want anyone locally to forget it anytime soon and are working with Clark County Partners in Prevention (CCPIP) on a mentorship program called Cameron’s Crusaders. It would educate others on the risks of fentanyl, which is often laced with other illicit drugs and is highly addictive.

CCPIP will host the first Cameron’s Crusaders Sunset 5K at 6:30 p.m. May 30 at the C.J. Brown Reservoir. The fundraiser will be open to all ages.

Karen Brucker suggested the idea as it honored Cameron by combining his love of sunsets and athletics. She said one of her favorite memories was his coaxing her to watch a sunset or he would go to the reservoir just to watch them. She is using that as part of the educational platform.

“We wake up every morning and deal with the reality,” Karen Brucker said. “It’s strange that we can close down the country for COVID but can’t put the same amount of focus on this epidemic that’s killing more young people. We need to work together to help stop it.”

Illicit drugs being laced with fentanyl has been a growing problem in recent years, and new variants are introduced frequently, the latest being Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer. Like many young people, Cameron Brucker experimented with drugs and alcohol as a student.

Unfortunately, the marijuana he used was laced with fentanyl, leading to addiction, compounded by having family addiction issues, which caused the outgoing teen to become distant and spiral. Cameron fought to get clean in the summer of 2021 and stayed that way until he overdosed on Sept. 19.

“People have experimented with drugs for years, but this isn’t the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s anymore. Fentanyl is easy to mix with other drugs, and it rewires the brain, which is what happened to Cameron,” Karen Brucker said.

Given their experience with Cameron, the Bruckers chose to form Cameron’s Crusaders to help educate the local community, particularly students. Middle school children are the pilot program’s target group.

“We want to get to kids at a young age and build awareness to parents as to what’s out there,” said Karen Brucker.

She also wants the program to reflect Cameron’s personality, saying he was the type of kid who saw someone not participating or left out and he would make them feel included — or kindness 101 as she described it.

The Bruckers have already had success with some of Cameron’s close friends. They sought them out to make sure they stopped any substance use and focused on building their lives.

Carey McKee of CCPIP invited the Bruckers to be part of the group, representing a sector of parents and giving insight as to what their needs may be, helping with education pieces and reducing the stigma of addiction.

“We felt like getting the Bruckers involved could not just help keep Cameron’s memory alive, but giving them great purpose moving forward,” McKee said.

Registration for the 5K costs $25 for adults and $15 for ages 17-under through May 17, and $5 additional after those dates.

The event will include awards, community recognition, music, food trucks and remembrance of Cameron. To register or for more information, find the race link at

Proceeds along with an Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services grant will help CCPIP in partnership with Clark State to sponsor the first Champion City YOUth Rally on June 8, a fun and educational event.

Brucker believes the run and continuing to establish the Crusaders will be a part of her family’s healing as well as helping and possibly saving others.

“This provides a focus to keep the best part of Cameron alive,” she said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

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