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Remembering CamOp Maddie

Some of you never met Madelaine “Maddie” Martin, but those of you who did could never forget her.

She was 16 when she started cam op’ing for us. This was after a false start (of sorts). She was due to start on February 9, 2015. I got a call that morning from her father saying that Maddie had been rushed to the hospital ICU and it was very serious. This was the first of many days I waited, thousands of miles away, while she fought for her life. Her parents, her brother, and his service dog waited by her side. One day turned into three months.


The first thing she did when she was released and got home was write me an apology for missing her training session. And she asked if I would give her a second chance! Would I ever!

She was an exceptionally quick study, with a natural eye for light and beauty. And she took the most fantastic photos. I could hear her mother in the background changing out her central line while we looked for great views on a puppy camera.

She was homeschooled and dependent on feeding and breathing tubes to live each day. Mitochondrial disease gave her time to be on the internet, finding unique views and learning… constantly learning. Her parents always thanked us for giving her the opportunity to expand her horizons. Through explore.org, she met people who became her friends and saw the world through the eye of a camera lens (sometimes with her pet Chinchilla, Lucy, sitting on her shoulder).


Since Maddie was also autistic, friendships didn’t happen easily. But, the explore.org spirit prevailed and she was free and without earthly limits when she was on the cams. Even at her sickest, she would send me cryptic, one-word Skype alerts saying: “ORCAS!!!” “Hoover!!” “Magic!” I would drop everything and rush to each site to find a great view to share on Facebook. I nicknamed her Secret Agent “M” because of her stealth-like appearances and her ability to interpret and predict animal behaviors.

She wanted to be a veterinarian, so it made sense that she would become attached to the Big Cat Rescue Windsong camera. She would have stayed on that camera all day, all week, all month, if she could have. She knew every cat, every procedure, and remembered details that amazed us all. She still watched every surgery even after she was too ill to run the cameras. She hated to give it up.

The last time I spoke to her, she “rode” along with me on the Brown Bear cameras. I did the driving and was lucky enough to find Grazer and her cubs at Brooks Falls. Maddie was amazed at how much they had grown since the start of the season. She could only stay online for 10 minutes because it tired her out. But we promised that we would do it again soon.

On November 28th, Maddie texted to tell me that the Cayman tour needed to be adjusted. She signed off because she was too tired to run the controls, but not before saying “talk to you later love you.”

A month later, on the morning of December 27th, Maddie lost her battle with Mito. Her father called to tell me and said she left this world peacefully, with her parents, younger brother, his service dog, and Lucy by her side. Most children with mitochondrial disease don’t make it out of their teens. Maddie made it to 20, on her own terms… all the way.

Explore.org changes lives every day. It changed hers as I’m sure it has many of yours. It changed mine forever by giving me the opportunity to meet many extraordinary viewers, partners and camera volunteers, and a very special family with a young girl who had every gift except the gift of health.

Rest well, Maddie. I love you too. So does everyone in the explore.org family. Her spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives.


Response from Doug Martin, Maddie’s father:

What a gift this whole experience was for her. As she lost health, abilities, and opportunities, her world seem to shrink around her, but explore.org enlarged her world a thousand times over immediately. We are so grateful. She was unconditionally loved by you all. We could not have asked for more.


  • Debbie G FL USA, CP (2012)

    Oh my eyes are leaking, what a wonderful young lady, thank you Explore for allowing her to have a reason and a purpose in her final years ! When Explore was started I’m sure they never in their wildest dreams could believe how they have impacted so many lives !

  • http://www.maddenenterprises.net/ Maddog

    Sad News but THANKS for sharing, its a SAD but great story!

  • William Klinesmith

    so very sorry for her Family and the loss to the world , may the world know She was an amazing person !!

  • BluePenguin

    ='( RIP Maddie ….

  • https://www.pinterest.com/donnab10/ NotDTB

    Such sad, heartbreaking news. Thank you, Maddie, for all you showed us. Thank you explore, for the opportunities you give us all. Rest well, Maddie.

  • Peg McCabe – CP, MA

    So very sorry for your loss.

  • Lynda Howard

    Precious soul.

  • ♥Juergen♥

    now iam crying, had a few times the chance to “talk” to her at chat while she drive the cams…TY Maddie you are unforgetten in the explore community!
    guess this pic she would like , ♥♥♥

  • Meri Walander

    I am so sorry for this loss to the friends and family of this lovely girl.

  • Joan Chandler

    So very sorry for your loss. Did not know Maddie, but feel like I do now. Rest in peace and know that you are loved. Thoughts and prayers to family and friends.

  • rockcity NC

    What an incredible gift she was to all of us who were blessed to chat with her on explore… and what a talent she had for helping us all capture those special moments on camera…taken too soon…. love you Maddie!

  • Darlene Martin

    RIP Maddie, thanks for the memories!!

  • http://home.lyse.net/twan/Index.html Twan – Norway

    You did good, Explore ♥

  • Paula Jean Hinkle

    Maddie, I never knew you, but I so enjoyed the brown bear cams. I am so very sad.

  • GailM

    So sad. RIP Maddie. I’m sure all those that got to meet her and know her, know what a special person she was. Deepest condolences to her family.

  • Savonna9

    Martin Family I am so sorry for the loss of your Beautiful Daughter Maddie, I’m also sorry I never got to meet her. I’m rather new to the Explore Cams. This article tugs at my heart as it shows us all what a wonderful person Maddie was. The Explore cams are great for everyone. Many shut -ins & handicapped people rely on them to help them make contact with the world that has left them behind. Thanks Maddie for helping so many people & animals. <3

  • Jeanne_FL

    So sad to hear of Maddi’s passing. My deepest condolenses to her family and all of her Explore friends who will surely miss her.

  • Deborah-TX (2014)

    I remember when Maddie first discovered the cams and how much she wanted to learn. She so enjoyed joining everyone as we learned together, at the osprey nests, the underwater cams, and then with Big Cat Rescue. I remember how much she wanted to learn and explore the world. Now Maddie is doing so again, free from the ills that she carried with such grace and fortitude. I know she is walking with the big cats now.

  • GABear

    I’m so sorry to learn this…. I remember Maddie and how much she wanted to – and loved – operating the cams! I hope she knew how much joy she brought to the viewers with her passion for cam op’ing. Condolences to her family and to Kat and the cam ops who knew her well. I’m so glad she was part of the explore family.

  • Deej59

    This is a beautiful tribute. She was lucky to have people like you in her life, and obviously that went both ways. RIP, Maddie.

  • grandmaj

    Such a loss. An incredible gift to her family, Explore and all of us that use to the cams to find joy in what she loved. She will surely be missed by many. RIP dear Maddie.

  • pearlpureheart

    So very sad. It seems like the good people are always taken from us way too soon. RIP Maddie. You are missed. xoxoxox

  • Puffinette

    I am so sorry to hear of this. We lost someone who, even tho I didn’t know her, I believe was a very special person.

  • Spiritkeeper

    Such a special person. She was taken to soon. My sympathy to her family and friends.

  • amazed

    What an angel!

  • amazed

    Explore please keep exploring and taking us with you.

  • cassiopeia andromeda

    Every day of her life was an incredible gift.

  • Debbi Clark

    What heartbreaking news. It sounds like Maddie LIVED her life with JOY and BEAUTY. She must have been such a blessing to her family and an inspiration to those who knew her. Explore has opened a world that most of us could only hope to experience. We have the chance to become friends with people from around the world and every walk of life. We don’t always know the battles that they are fighting in the REAL world. Let’s keep Mattie’s example and attitude in our hearts. I hope she is hugging all of our beloved Big Cats that have gone before us. I hope she is full of joy watching the tiniest hummers, fastest falcons and the great hunters, such as the owls, osprey’s and eagle’s that we have lost. Her little Lucy will join her one day. I’m so sorry for her family’s loss, but pray that they find comfort in warmth of the light that was her life.

  • DonnaMarie Wenrich

    What a very special young women.may she rest in Peace.

  • calliopejane

    Prayers for Maddie’s family.

  • Robin Kelley

    The world lost a beautiful soul heaven gained another angel RIP maddie

  • Maryjo Stapleton

    What a enchanting young lady. My thoughts and prayers go out to Maddie’s family and loved ones.

  • Keli

    I met CamOP Maddie on the Big Cat rescue cams and bear cams.. She was always so sweet and kind and I enjoyed talking to her. Thanks to explore for changing her world. Sweet Maddie thanks for touching our lives you are now healed and home and with so many animals who have gone before you. Condolences to her friends and family….

  • BearBell

    Incredibly sorry to hear about Maddie’s passing. My deepest sympathy to her family, friends, and all who loved her. I am thankful she was a part of the Explore family, and shared with us viewers so many amazing views ! She brought me to places I never expected, and will truly be missed.

  • Mark-Angelo Szoges

    All my thoughts and sympathy’s go out to Maddie’s family. She was someone special and will gone on as such. Now she can look out for all of her animal friends from above and be there close to the ones she loved through her blessed spiritual energy. Peace and love from my heart to her family and friends……live on my little Maddie!

  • Gayle

    What incredibly sad news. My condolences to her family, friends and explore.org.

  • Cam Op e

    So sad to hear!!! let her rest in peace!, My prayers goes to the whole family and friends may God comfort you.

  • naturegirl

    Rest in Peace Maddie. A wonderful life cut way too short. Condolences to her family and friends. May your life force return to nature and the animals that you loved so well.

  • PolarbearJill

    Wonderful tribute to Maddie. We will miss her. Rest in Peace Maddie.

  • Martina

    My heartfelt condolences to Maddie’s family. I remember the time she first told us in the bearcam chat that she would like to be CamOp. I’m sure she will stay in the hearts of many viewers around the world forever. The Explore CamOp team has lost a valuable, beloved member. Rest in Peace Maddie.

  • HawkZon

    OMG, God bless you and rest your soul.

  • Malou

    I did not know Maddie, but I am so moved by her courage. I am grateful that her special gift of loving and understanding animals has been able to reach so many hearts and minds. I offer sincere condolences to her own loving family and to all of those who were touched by this very special young woman.


    Rest in Peace sweet child of the Universe.

  • Sequim Pat, WA, CP (2013)

    Reinforces how explore.org goes above and beyond any standards! Maddie’s short life was filled with hope and satisfaction thankful to the encouragement and support of explore. Simply amazing organization AND MADDIE who is now watching all of US =o)

  • mo1770

    Condolences to her family .Sad that such a young person has passed but it sounds like she tried to enjoy every moment she could.

  • connien

    What a wonderful tribute to Maddie. I did not know her but I hope she knew how much she meant to the Explore community. I hope her family feels this love now.

  • ally gator

    Rest in peace, Maddie. Condolences to her family. Another star burning out too soon. :(

  • J.

    Sorry to hear about her passing; I never talked with her on here, but it sounds like she was a sweet young lady. My condolences to her family.

  • Karol Chavez-So. Cal-CP-2013

    Love and prayers to Maddie’s family. Rest in peace Maddie and thank you for all you did for Explore.

  • LadyLexicon

    Rest in peace, Maddie. I understand that you will be surrounded by your favorite animals. Sending condolences to family and friends who will always keep you in their hearts. Thank you for your special presence.

  • mosaic_world

    I’m not super sure that I interacted with Cam Op Maddie via disqus but I’m sorry about her passing. I feel sad that she had a really challenging life but feel like she must have been very blessed to have explore.org.

  • Angela Ciantar

    You are an Angel. Rest in Peace Maddie.

  • Jae Beachcomber

    Rest in Peace Maddie. Condolences and prayers to Maddie’s family. Thanking Maddie’s family for sharing her wonderful spirit and contributions to this great organization Explore,org
    God Bless!

  • diane

    RIP sweet Maddie. Explore has opened my eyes to so much these last few years.
    Thank you for precious gift you have given us here. My thoughts and prayers to your family during this difficult time. God bless you sweet Angel

  • Sharma

    Beautiful story, beautiful life

  • Birdy

    What a beautiful story ❤︎ I didn’t have the pleasure of know her tho… May God give peace and comfort to her family.

  • Mike Sr.

    RIP Young Lady !

  • blu

    i am so glad to hear that Maddie because of explore.org could always be part of the world which she seemed to love. knowing her only by this very site, showed what a loving, caring, wonderful human being she was. THANK YOU MADDIE

  • JackieCJB

    Rest in Peace, Maddie. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • Jerri Mcclendon

    Bless your heart Maddie.

  • Skybird

    What a beautiful young girl……inside and out. Why do the good die young? I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • JmsA

    Rest in Peace.

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    Rest in peace, Maddie.

  • Mark Maida


  • Julia Zoutendyk

    Maddie was my niece, and I enjoyed watching her operate the camera of the reef. Thank you for giving her the opportunity to participate in your program. I know that she absolutely loved it, and when she was part of the Big Cats, she had so much to tell anyone who asked. She was a special girl with a special view of the world.

  • Lori Andersen

    My sincerest condolences to Miss Maddie’s family and friends. I work with Maddie’s dear aunt Julia and she shared Maddie’s amazing story with me. Her beautiful soul and memories will live forever through your organization. Thank you for sharing her with us :)

  • Mottlie5

    Oh man : ( So very sorry to hear this. Such a sweet girl. She was always one of my favorite CamOps. My condolences, thoughts and prayers.

  • Debby Arnold-Beers

    My heart hurts reading the lovingly written story of the loss this beautiful young lady Maddie.
    Rest in Peace & fly high Angel Maddie.

  • Cheri Herald

    I’m so sorry to hear of Maddie’s passing. She was one special lady. <3