Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A True Hero

alex2.jpg Today I saw a June 11 story on CBSNews.com that brought me to tears: The report concerned an eight-year-old girl, Alexandra Scott of Pennsylvania, who showed the world how to turn lemons into lemonade. Literally and figuratively.

Just shy of her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer that originates in certain nerve cells. The girl's cancer was of the high-risk variety, which has a survival rate of only 40 percent.

Young Alex did not let the tragic news dampen her spirit. As she grew, she set a lofty goal: She dedicated her life to raising $1 million for cancer research, even if she could do so only one dollar at a time.

Four years ago, the enterprising young girl -- while still battling her own cancer -- opened a lemonade stand whose proceeds went to fight the disease. On one day alone, she raised $2,000. And as time went on, others joined Alex's effort, opening up their own lemonade stands and giving the money made to cancer research. As of June, more than $200 thousand had been raised; $15 thousand of that total came from the Scott family stand.

The movement went nationwide via Alex's Lemonade Stand For Pediatric Cancer Research. Lemonade stands popped up throughout the US, Canada, and France to support the cause this June, and according to the campaign's web site, $700 thousand has been collected so far through sales and donations from around the world. The hospital treating Alex has received about $150 thousand, and hospitals in Connecticut, Michigan, Texas and California have benefitted from the crusade. And leading the effort was Alex, who generously shared her story and her cause via television programs such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Today Show."

Alex, in June 2004 Remember that through it all, she was a very sick little girl. As CBS News reports,

"Alex would have died many years ago if it wasn't for newer experimental therapies, and I think that's something she and her parents recognize," said Dr. John Maris, who has directed Alex's care at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Neuroblastoma is diagnosed in about 700 U.S. children every year.

Though excited about [the national effort], Alex has been drained by the chemotherapy and radiation being used to treat a new attack of tumors, her mother said. After seven years of treatment, her cancer is considered incurable.

"She's tired. She's exhausted," Liz Scott said. "Her future has always been uncertain, but I don't think any of us — me, my husband, her doctor — has felt this pessimistic before."

Because of her frail condition, her parents and doctor ... encouraged Alex to cut back on her fund-raising activities. But she insisted on appearing on a television morning show [in June] to publicize the fifth annual "Alex's Lemonade Stand" day. ...

Some days Alex feels good, like ... when she saw the new Harry Potter movie. Other days she doesn't. Every day she lives knowing many of her friends have died of neuroblastoma.
Her mom calls Alex "the bravest person I know," and she holds out hope her daughter can overcome her disease.

Sadly, that hope was not to be.

Alexandra Scott, of Wynnewood, Pa., whose battle with pediatric cancer captured hearts nationwide, "passed on peacefully with us holding her hands," her parents, Jay and Liz Scott, said in an e-mail, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.

"She just slipped away," Liz Scott told the paper Sunday. "You could see when she was ready. She let off a big sigh, and went off to sleep. She was very calm. For that, we're grateful. You're always fearful it's going to be scary."

The girl who turned lemons into lemonade is gone from Earth, but her work will continue. Before her death, Volvo of North America promised to hold a fall fund-raising event to assure that the $1 million goal is reached. And you can still help the cause: Visit Alex's Lemonade Stand and do all you can to help. No doubt, Alex, now sitting among the angels, will be pleased.
"I'm obviously very proud of her, but it's more than that," Liz Scott told CBS News. "I feel privileged to be her mom. I admire her."

Same here. Thank you, Alex, for showing the world that anyone can make a difference. In only eight short years, you did a lifetime of good.

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