A Golder Ranch firefighter is giving back to the organization that once gave to him, in the form of intricate metal crosses.
Camden Garcia, who joined Golder Ranch Fire District in 2017, underwent surgery for a brain tumor when he was 5 years old. Doctors discovered the tumor, a pilocytic astrocytoma, on a Friday, and started surgery that Sunday. During his month of recovery in the hospital, the Make-A-Wish Foundation visited and allowed him to achieve one of his earliest goals: to meet NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon the following year.
“It really gave us hope, which was a big thing,” Garcia said. “And we all ended up going to Texas Motor Speedway to meet Jeff Gordon. So after the trip there, we all started thinking of ways to give back.”
Garcia’s father, Gil Garcia, owns the steel fabrication company Kustom Steel, which manufactures custom screen doors, gates, fences and other decor. Garcia said he’s helped out in his father’s shop for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always been around welding; I’ve been welding since before I could walk,” Garcia said. “One day we were messing around in the shop, and I realized ‘hey, I could make crosses.’ And it just took off from there.”
Garcia began making crosses in 2007, and in the twelve years since, the designs have developed from simple metal crosses to crosses made of horseshoes, crucifixes, gothic crosses, and even crosses made of items around the shop like spark plugs and files. Some of the pieces extend beyond crosses, to include horses and figures holding the crosses. There are even cross designs for branches of the military. He even occasionally makes the crosses to support local causes, such as when he recently donated one for the local Climb 4 the Fallen 9/11 memorial event.
When Garcia was younger, his father made most of the crosses, but as he’s grown up, the pair takes turns in the manufacturing process. Roughly 90 percent are made from recycled materials donated by local metal shops. Since starting, Garcia estimates they’ve made around 10,000 crosses.
“It was easy to keep track of them a long time ago, but it’s just taken off,” Garcia said.
Each cross also includes a “testimony” tag from Garcia, reading: “When I was 5, I had a brain tumor and underwent surgery. During that time I turned to God for comfort. Psalms 9, He took me under his wings and covered me with his feathers. God Healed Me! Now my dad and I made these crosses for God’s glory. God has blessed us and we want to pass the blessings to you.”
The proceeds of Camden’s Crosses go back to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. According to Garcia, they’ve raised and donated approximately $8,000.
Garcia said there’s no specific audience he makes the designs for, and buyers come from all over the Tucson area.
“It’s all over the board,” Garcia said. “I have buddies from high school that want them, all the way to people from church who hear about it. I actually just had a buddy from work whose mom wanted one. It’s a whole demographic from one side to the other.”
Aside from donating the proceeds from his cross sales, Garcia also recently helped another Make-A-Wish child by partnering with a local blacksmith to teach the trade. While Make-A-Wish helped Garcia meet one of his childhood heroes, he says it also taught him to persevere and work hard, ultimately helping him become a firefighter.
“Make-A-Wish taught me hope,” Garcia said.
For more information, or to purchase one of the pieces, visit the “Camden’s Crosses” page on Facebook.