“I’ve cultivated a really incredible community of people who just make me feel so inspired and motivated. All of my friends are making things, are starting to get jobs, are just being creative and wonderful,” Maya says. “And it’s just so nice to see the people who I’m close to be successful in the things that they want to do, and hopefully have an impact on the fields that they’re going in. Even though most of my friends are going into creative fields, the ones who aren’t are also kicking butt, taking names, and it’s just really, really — it’s motivating for me.”
Another motivator for Maya is in her charity work: Wielding Peace is a photography-based project that encourages kids to express their most intense emotions by channeling them into creativity, with the hopes that art can help them process their feelings in a constructive way.
The Wielding Peace project was Cameron’s idea, at “the height of the mass shootings, when that was the thing that really dominated the news cycle,” says Maya, who was buoyed by the project’s results. “Wielding Peace became a photo series of kids holding artistic tools and such — you know, paintbrushes, cameras, trombones, whatever it is that a kid is passionate about — and wielding it like a weapon,” she explains. “[It’s] saying, ‘This is my tool. I don’t need to use violence or hurtful words. I can be creative and channel that energy into something positive.’”
“With all the kids sending in their photos, wielding peace, it’s just very inspiring to see these kids commit to something by publicly saying, ‘This is not okay,’” Maya adds. “Hearing kids say that, it makes me feel very hopeful for the future.”
But it can be difficult to stay motivated in the cause when gun violence is a nationwide epidemic. According to Everytown, 38,826 people die by gun violence in the United States each year, which is more than 100 people fatally shot each day.
But there’s a certain power young people have to urge change. “What keeps me positive, and what keeps my whole family motivated, is this new generation of kids who are trying to change the direction of [gun violence],” Maya says, while discussing young activists such as X González and other outspoken survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
Now that the foundation has accomplished a number of Cameron’s initiatives, such as Wielding Peace and his work with the Thirst Project, it has been positioned to focus primarily on epilepsy research and awareness. “When he died, we didn’t even know he had epilepsy — we had known he had seizures. But epilepsy was never something that anyone diagnosed him with; it was not a conversation, and we’d never heard of SUDEP,” Maya says.
“No one gave us any insight into the extent of what seizures could mean,” she continues. “It’s not a well-known affliction. People don’t really know how epilepsy works — at least, the common person doesn’t really understand epilepsy, and doctors don’t fully understand it.” She adds that she has a number of friends who have had seizures before and worries they could also be affected and may be unaware.