The soul of a young writer

By on April 19, 2017
Scholastic Writing Award winner Gabriel Crouch has been offered a poetry scholarship by the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Ten years ago he was a 7-year-old cancer patient receiving chemotherapy treatments in Hershey.

Scholastic Writing Award winner Gabriel Crouch has been offered a poetry scholarship by the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Ten years ago he was a 7-year-old cancer patient receiving
chemotherapy treatments in Hershey.

Cancer survivor will join classmates at Friday’s Mini-THON

Gabriel Crouch is a writer who can climb into the souls of those he writes about, whether it is an aging widower who mourns the loss of his beloved wife or a dreamer imaging himself among the earth’s flora and fauna.

What makes Crouch’s talent so incredible is that he is just 17 and a senior at Warwick High School.

He was recently awarded several Scholastic Writing Awards and has been offered a scholarship in poetry to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

You wouldn’t think he has enough experience in life to write so eloquently about the human condition, but he does. You wouldn’t think that someone so young could inspire his own teachers, but he does.

“His writing and his life has been an inspiration to me,” says Carolyn Hoy, one of his high school English teachers. “He has an amazing gift.”

Part of Crouch’s understanding of the tenuous nature of life and death came when he was just a little boy facing cancer.

This Friday, April 21, Crouch will be joining his classmates in Warwick High School’s 24-hour Mini-THON, which raises money for childhood cancer patients through Penn State Health’s Four Diamonds Fund. The all-night event increases awareness of the more than 16,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year, and seeks donations from the community to join the fight.

“It is important for me to be there. I want to spread the word about Four Diamonds and what they do for children with research and treatment for kids with cancer. I was one of those kids,” he says.

Although it seems like a lifetime ago for Crouch, it’s been just 10 years since the 7-year-old was undergoing treatment at Penn State children’s hospital in Hershey. The son of Middy Rodriguez, now of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Wayne Crouch of Lititz, the young boy was diagnosed with a rare muscle tumor known as rhabdomyosarcoma.

Back then, he was a second grader at John Beck Elementary School. His friends, teachers, PTO and the community pulled together to organize a fundraiser to help the family with expenses. He wasn’t able to attend school for many months as he underwent chemotherapy treatments at Hershey. Since he could not be exposed to potential infections, he had to be home-schooled.

“I remember thinking that this was just how life was. Doesn’t every kid spend their days and nights in the hospital? I had no concept of how serious it was,” recalls Crouch.

As he faced a series of chemotherapy treatments to shrink the tumor so he could have surgery, his parents took time off from work and spent as much time as they could with their only son. Medical expenses were mounting. Even as a young child, Crouch could see the worry and concern in his parents’ faces.

“My Mom still cries when she remembers everything we went through. I realize now how hard it was to be a parent and not know if you could protect your child,” says Crouch. “It was much harder for my parents than it was for me. I was too young to really understand.”

It may be that his youthful fight to survive brought about a greater maturity and influenced his writing. He’s not quite sure.

“Sometimes I forget what it was like, but I think it made a difference in how I look at life. It feels weird to realize that it happened,” he says.

Now recovered from cancer and looking forward to a future at college and as a writer, Crouch finds some of his greatest joys in crafting a well-worded line of poetry or delving into the souls of his characters.

“I love words, putting them together, discovering new words, playing with the sounds and meaning of words,” he says.

His favorite word right now is “oneiric,” a word that relates to dreams or dreaming. In one of his award-winning poems, he writes about dreams in “Dream Sunset.”

“As my mind fades into the darkest hours,

Running free with lucidity and grace,

My anima and animus flower.

Abstractions begin to take shape, or face.”

Then, he writes:

“But when I awake, these thoughts I can’t keep,

I hope they’ll be there next time I shall sleep.”

In another poem, “Sun and Stars,” Crouch explores the heavens with beautifully wrought words:

“Shifting from dusk to dawn, Eternally,

When we look to the sky,

There will always be something

To brighten our spirits.

In the dark and the light,

Always above us,

Always in sight.”

At a recent presentation at a Warwick School Board meeting, Crouch was joined by three other young writers who shared their talents as Scholastic Writing Award winners. Crouch read his story, a heartfelt remembrance of an elderly man who missed his cherished wife. As he read, many of those at the meeting, including several school board members and school officials, fought back tears.

“I was thinking of my grandfather when I wrote that,” says Crouch. “When I write I find myself within another person, able to feel what they feel.”

As a boy, Crouch faced the challenge of childhood cancer. As a teen, he looks toward the future as a writer, able to express himself and craft words like sculptures.

In his poem “The Eventide,” Crouch asks a simple question:

“And what can be more beautiful

Than that which

authors beauty?”

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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