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Riverton Elementary students walk to cure diabetes in honor of slain classmate Clayton Chambers

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – After diabetes education sessions provided by the Alabama chapter of JDRF, kindergarten through third graders at Riverton Elementary participated in a ‘Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes’ Friday.

Most walks to cure diabetes are just that — fundraising and awareness events — but this walk was special. Every step students took around the Riverton Elementary gym was in memoriam.

Clayton Chambers (JDRF)

Clayton Chambers (JDRF)

Students honored 8-year-old classmate Clayton Chambers, who was stabbed to death August 4 at his grandmother’s home before the house was set on fire. His stepfather, Christopher Matthew Henderson, is charged with seven counts of capital murder in the mass murders, which also killed Clayton’s mother, Kristen Chambers Henderson; grandmother, Carol Jean Smallwood; unborn sister, Loryn Brooke; and 1-year-old cousin, Eli Sokolowski.

I learned today Clayton and I shared something in common; dependence on insulin. Clayton was diagnosed with Type 1, or juvenile diabetes in 2008 when he was just a toddler.

“Kristen and Clayton were very involved with JDRF and dedicated hundreds of hours helping the North Alabama T1D community in multiple capacities, including serving as a mentor to families with newly diagnosed children,” explains JDRF North Alabama Development Coordinator Jennifer Jeffers.

Jeffers says one of Kristen’s main goals was to bring a diabetes education program to Riverton. “It was not just about the fundraising, it was also about raising the awareness and teaching these kids so that they understood that Clayton was just a normal kid that just had to live life a little bit differently.”

So Friday represented more than the culmination on students’ fundraising efforts to benefit JDRF — it represented the carrying on of a legacy.

“It’s the school and JDRF carrying on her wishes to educate these kids.”

Clayton had been at Riverton since kindergarten. You can imagine the deep loss felt by not only his classmates but the entire Riverton community.

“It’s been a big tragedy that our family has gone through so we just thought we could do this in support and in memory of Clayton because he was so close and so dear to all of us,” says Riverton Principal Jeff Malone.

As a school leader, you have to approach the unspeakable gently with such young students. Principal Malone says the support network over the past difficult weeks has been overwhelming but not at all surprising.

“This Riverton community is like no other, it really is. We’ve been supported from every level. We’ve had the central office show us a lot of support; all of the other schools within our cluster have shown us a lot of support — the PTOs, the administrators — we’ve just been supported not just through the school system but through the entire community.”

By the end of the week, students had raised well over $1,000 for JDRF in Clayton’s name. Friday afternoon following the diabetes walks, students and teachers dedicated a tree and a bench to be placed in their reading garden in memory of Clayton.

“Riverton Elementary’s PTO provided the tree and the intermediate school and Mt. Carmel came together and bought a butterfly bench; just a reflection bench to go in front of the tree with Clayton’s name on a plaque. Again, just a good example of everybody pulling together, the community and the schools, to show support when needed,” says Malone.

To make a donation to JDRF in Clayton Chambers’ name, click here. Donations can also be mailed to the school directly at 2615 Winchester Road in Huntsville; the school’s zip code is 35811.