The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


The Student News Site of East Lansing High School


10 years. Still too soon.

Photo by Courtesy photo
Lola Fore Ogunfolabi (10) and Charlie Waller

If you or your family live in the Chesterfield neighborhood, you may have seen me and my friend knock on your door the evening of Dec. 4 to ask you to put a candle in your window at sundown.

Here’s why.

Tuesday, Dec. 5 was the 10 year anniversary of kindergartener Charlie Waller’s passing. Charlie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem cancer in 2011 and two years later, at five years old, he passed away. The candles in their front windows on that day showed his family that he had not been forgotten and that people still care about them.

Omolola Fore Ogunfolabi and Charlie Waller. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

I talked to one of Charlie’s friends Allison Drzal (10) to show a different perspective on some stories and shared memories.

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Drzal was one of Charlie’s many friends at Marble Elementary School. As kids, they would play on the playground together and watch “Jack And The Neverland Pirates.” One of her fondest memories with him was on Halloween of 2013. He brought gift bags filled with plastic bugs and dinosaurs, some squishy eyeballs and a silver gemstone ring that she has kept to this day. She found that becoming his friend changed her outlook on life and prompted her to always live in the moment.

“He was so carefree and one of the most kind hearted people I’ve ever met,” Drzal said.“ So when he passed It was absolutely heartbreaking. All I could think about was how I was never going to see my friend again.”

After Charlie passed, his mother, Abby Waller, came into his old Marble Elementary kindergarten classroom with big brown bags filled with his stuffed animals to pass out to his former classmates. Abby remembers that Charlie was very proud of himself for making his own friends at school, not via his sister.

“Charlie loved giving presents to his friends and family as much as he loved receiving presents,” Abby said. “So when we realized we had lots of cuddly toys that Charlie would no longer need, it made perfect sense to give them to the three kindergarten classes at Marble.”

Omolola Fore Ogunfolabi and Charlie Waller

I received a bright orange, Halloween themed teddy bear named “Treats.” I remembered his favorite holiday was Halloween so when I received it, I felt extra special to have something that could help me feel close to him. After 10 years the now pilled and faded teddy bear still lies on my bed since the day it was given to me

The Charlie Waller I knew and loved had a smile that lit up the world, and the most contagious laughter. Charlie was always such a fun kid to be around whether we were dressing up as pirates and attacking his dad,or making potions with sparkling water, grass and random herbs out on his back porch. And no matter who was around, he always made me feel included. He was so kindhearted and constantly radiated joyful, playful energy.

Charlie and his family always treated me like one of their own, even to this day. He treated me like a sister and allowed himself to be vulnerable around me. I remember when he felt comfortable enough to take his hat off in front of me during the rough parts of his chemotherapy, showing that he trusted me enough to love him no matter the changes in his appearance. Even though seeing my best friend struggling like this broke my heart, I knew I had to stay strong for him.

Dec. 5, the day of his passing also happens to be the day after my birthday. Because of the type of person Charlie was, I like to believe that he held on for as long as he could so that he wouldn’t pass on my birthday. 

He was always worried about being considerate to other people rather than being focused on his own battle with  cancer.

I like to believe that he held on for as long as he could so that he wouldn’t pass on my birthday.

I wish that I could say the 10 years Charlie has been gone have passed by  quickly, but they haven’t. Every year I turn older, I feel another piece of my heart breaking for the loss of my best friend. Left wondering what our life together could have been like now. Wishing that I was spending my birthdays with him, eating cake and playing games. 

One may ask if walking around passing out candles was really worth it. No matter if it was snowing or raining, 15 degrees or 99 degrees, I would have walked around my neighborhood 100 times over, just so people would recognize the loss of Charlie, a son, a brother, a grandson and my best friend.

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About the Contributor
Omolola Fore Ogunfolabi
Omolola Fore Ogunfolabi, Staff Writer
Omolola Fore Ogunfolabi is in the class of 2026 and is a staff writer for Portrait.  This is her first year on staff as a sophomore.  Omolola's favorite thing about journalism is hearing everyones stories and experiences, she believes that they deserve to be heard and journalism gives her a chance to do that.   When she's not in the newsroom, Omolola plays basketball, runs track, goes to the gym, and enjoys shopping.

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