Washington Elementary Reaches Out to Family of Drowned Boy

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM
Jamon Lewis
Jamon Lewis

Nearly a month after Washington Elementary first-grader Jamon Lewis drowned in the Don Castro Regional Recreation Park on May 18, the school is still struggling to recover from his death. 

Students, staff and faculty are reaching out to help Jamon’s grief-stricken family. 

Jamon’s funeral expenses have left his mother, Jamie Ware, in a financial crisis so that she was unable to pay the family’s PG&E bills this month, district officials told the Planet Tuesday. 

“A Bank of America account was set up by someone in the community to help Jamon’s family, but the last time we checked, nothing was deposited,” said Washington’s Family Resource and After-School Coordinator Ann Callegari. 

Callegari said the family had barely been able to afford the funeral. 

“I just prayed someone would bless them,” she said. “There was this tiny little white casket with a tiny little boy in it. They didn’t even have money to buy flowers. The first graders made a card with a big picture of Jamon and all the kids wrote a note.” 

Six-year-old Jamon was found at the bottom of the five-foot lagoon after a swimmer noticed him, and officers who performed CPR were unable to revive him, East Bay Regional Parks District spokesperson Shelly Lewis said. 

He was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he later died, Lewis said. Lewis described the death as accidental, but said it remains under investigation. 

Since the incident took place over the Malcolm X birthday weekend, it went unnoticed by most people in the Berkeley Unified School District, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Jamon was described by the Washington community as “an active, lovable child with a huge smile.” 

“Jamon was always hungry, not because he did not eat at home but because of his high energy,” Callegari said. “We had a special place in the main office with nutritious snacks for Jamon ... On the last day I saw Jamon, he ran up to me in the cafeteria and gave me a big hug. The principal was nearby, and I said to her as Jamon ran in the other direction: ‘I love that kid.’ ” 

Lewis said that no one seemed to have witnessed Jamon drowning and that nobody had drowned in the lagoon in a decade. 

Callegari said she drove to Jamon’s house in Berkeley after receiving a phone call from Washington Principal Rita Kimball about the incident. 

“I asked his 15-year-old sister, Alexis Turner, how he was, and she told me he had passed away,” Callegari said. “It’s so frightening. It’s a huge, huge loss. Jamon was the youngest in the family.” 

Jamon’s brother Anthony is a fourth-grader at Washington who needs medicine to be able to attend school, said Callegari, who is spearheading support services for the family. 

“The family didn’t ask us for anything, but we put a sign up at school asking people for help,” she said. “Parents from our school have been taking food to the family every day since they lost Jamon, but more people need to know about this. Jamie is a single mom struggling financially, and she just adopted Alexis. I know that if their lights and gas were turned off, there is more they need.” 

According to school officials, Ware move her family to Berkeley in October in order to help her sister, a cancer patient, who died two months ago. 


Donations to the Jamon Ware Lewis Memorial Fund can be made at any Bank of America branch to the following account: 0837767510.