Posted Friday October 26, 2018
Taken from the October 16 Amherst Bee
Book to Honor Legacy of Will East Grad
On Jan. 25, 29-year-old Kamil Patel spoke his last words, “keep walking,” to his friend Katy Park in Miami. That evening, the pair were walking in an alley near Española Way, en route to a karaoke bar, when Patel was killed in a random act of violence.
A gunman, who got out of a Honda passenger seat, fired two shots that hit Patel in the shoulder and abdomen. The gunman then got back in the vehicle and fled.
At the time, Patel was new to the area, having just moved from Dallas to Miami on Jan. 8 to be the operations manager for Prada Bal Harbour. Prior to this, he worked for Louis Vuitton for six years in Dallas.
In 2006, Patel graduated from Williamsville East High School and made an effort to stay in touch with Williamsville East social studies teacher Marcus Miranda after graduation, throughout college and beyond.
“He would call me on my birthday every year, he would visit me every time he was in town, he knew my children and wife very well … we were pretty close,” Miranda said.
Patel, a University at Buffalo alumnus, took several of Miranda’s classes while attending East. He also participated in a student group, led by Miranda, where he was able to travel with his teacher’s family to Costa Rica.
“You know how everyone is different, everyone’s unique. But some people stand out for the best of reasons,” Miranda said. “Just because people are unique doesn’t mean that’s necessarily a positive thing. It was all positive for Kamil.”
The news that Kamil’s life was taken too soon, a week before his 30th birthday, was devastating to family, friends, the community and the people who had the chance to meet him.
“Those specific words ‘keep walking’ really resonated thematically, if you will, with us. It didn’t surprise anybody that he did something like that,” Miranda said.
A few weeks after Patel passed away, Miranda shared that his wife, who is also a teacher, might be looking to do something with Patel’s last words. This led to the inspiration for a children’s picture book to honor his memory and the impact he had on the people who knew him.
The children’s picture book, titled “Keep Walking,” was written by author Will Mason, who graduated from Williamsville East High School. He said Patel was his best friend in high school and was a special person.
“He was such a great guy. He was goofy and had a huge ‘teethy’ smile with a gentle soul. He wanted to do good for others,” Mason said.
Mason first reached out to Patel’s family to see if it was OK for him to pursue writing a book with Patel’s last words. In early February, he was able to start the book with the Patels’ blessing. He says perfecting the script has been an ongoing process for about eight to nine months.
With the help of Patel’s brother, Dannish, Mason and the group worked together to come up with ideas and make the project a reality.
On Oct. 1, a Kickstarter campaign was launched for the book, a 32-page story told in rhyme and illustrated in watercolor.
Kickstarter is a platform that allows artists, musicians, designers and other types of innovators to create an independent project, with full responsibility, to gain support. Supporters of projects, known as backers, can then pledge a monetary amount to help fund ideas.
The project has already reached its goal of raising $6,000 and has currently raised more than $7,500.
“We’re just grateful that we raised the money to print the book,” Mason said, adding that money raised through the project will also go toward The Kamil Patel - Buffalo Rugby Scholarship.
Established by the Patel family and Buffalo Rugby Club, the scholarship was created in the spring to assist high school rugby players who plan to continue their education in college while playing rugby.
Miranda is hoping that there will also be an opportunity to create a scholarship in Patel’s name at Williamsville East.
“If there’s any way to acknowledge and reward others using his name for those types of qualities he had — that would be a beautiful thing,” he said.
Miranda noted that Patel was committed to his friend group and was considered a rock in his family, organizing family reunions and get togethers.
“He made a conscious effort to keep in touch with people and protect and be generous to those around him,” Miranda said, adding that Patel would take the time to drive around to see everybody when he was in town.
Through the book, Mason is hoping that the world can learn a little bit more about Patel because it captures the spirit that he had. The book is about never giving up and follows the lives of a young girl and boy from birth to old age as they grow up together and experience life’s joys and obstacles.
According to the book’s Kickstarter page, it begins by showing a young baby girl and a young baby boy struggling to walk — and it follows them as they grow up — ending with the struggles of old age.
Each page of the book ends with the phrase “keep walking.”
Individuals can still support the Kickstarter project for the children’s book until Oct. 31. Visit www.kickstarter.com and search “Keep Walking” to make a pledge.