MOUNT GREENWOOD — Emily Beazley's fight now belongs to her parents.
The 12-year-old girl who died May 18 after a four-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is never far from the hearts of Nadia and Ed Beazley of Mount Greenwood.
"She was literally a breath of fresh air," Nadia Beazley said Tuesday.
The Beazleys — along with a group of friends and supporters known as Emily's Entourage — have planned a fundraiser and memorial service to celebrate the life of the little girl who united a neighborhood as she battled blood cancer.
Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids will host a kids fair from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St. It will include food vendors, carnival games, inflatable bounce houses and more. Admission is free.
"It was her dream," Nadia Beazley said of the fundraiser. The day will begin with a brief memorial service and balloon release.
Emily's mother and father kept the sketches their daughter made when inventing the charity organization. These drawings included Emily's Chihuahua — Carly — with a hula hoop alongside a drawing of a young girl standing on top of the world with her arms raised in celebration.
This drawing has become the symbol for Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids. Emily dreamed such an organization would someday cure the disease that eventually took her life and the lives of others she met in the hospital.
"The one thing about Emily, it was never about her. It was about others," Nadia Beazley said as she wiped tears from her cheeks.
Emily's oncologists discontinued chemotherapy about a month before she died. Though her outlook was grim, the little girl kept fighting. Emily was convinced she would beat the odds, and the neighborhood responded with an outpouring of support.
Ribbons of green and purple soon decorated street poles and trees throughout the Southwest Side. Homes and businesses also strung lights of the same colors in what became known as the Light It Up for Emily campaign.
"Emily loved driving around and looking at the lights," said Ed Beazley, a 19-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.
Green and purple lights meant to support Emily and raise awareness about childhood cancer eventually became part of the Chicago skyline. Soldier Field, the Willis Tower and other landmarks all became part of the campaign.
As word of Emily's battle spread, friends and family worked diligently to make her final days a thrill. Emily was made the governor of Illinois for a day on April 9. She was also made an honorary police officer on April 28 and had the street outside her home named in her honor.
One of the best days was April 29 when Emily received a call from pop singer Taylor Swift. Friends and supporters successfully reached out to Swift via social media in the hopes she might call the struggling fan.
"Everything that came about was from friends. We didn't ask for one single thing," Ed Beazley said.
Three months after Emily died, the family is struggling to cope. Nadia Beazley no longer updates Facebook friends and well-wishers on her daughter's condition. Instead, her updates often come in the form pictures and memories of Emily.
"They say that pain lessens, but for me it just gets harder," Nadia Beazley said. "I think it is worse at night. I still go into her room and say good night to her."
Channeling these feelings of grief, loss and anger into Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids has been a welcome distraction. In doing so, the Beazley's continue to work closely with Dr. Jason Canner.
Canner is a pediatric oncologist at Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in suburban Oak Lawn. Besides working with children such as Emily, Canner founded The Cure It Foundation, a non-profit group that raises money to fund pediatric cancer research.
Both Canner and the Beazleys said research aimed at fighting such cancers is underfunded. Clinical trials that are offered to adult cancer sufferers often never make their way to children.
The Beazleys aim to change that with their fundraiser. They have already spoken with Canner about identifying and funding a promising research program aimed squarely at further reducing the mortality rate of pediatric cancer.
"I will never give up. As long as there is cancer, we are always going to do something," Nadia Beazley said.
Indeed, mortality rates have improved dramatically in the past 50 years for kids diagnosed with pediatric cancer. In fact, four out of five children diagnosed with cancer are cured, Canner said.
But Nadia Beazley believes these improvements may be part of the problem, as pharmaceutical companies and medical research firms have since curbed efforts to further fight the disease. She firmly believes the drop in demand, as well as the resulting the drop in profits, has slowed any progress when it comes to eradicating pediatric cancer.
Emily's parents scoured the world in search of a specialist who could help their daughter. But nobody could help in the end, and they were forced to watch Emily be consumed by cancer.
"A dog shouldn't die the death that she did," Nadia Beazley said.
In her final days, Emily would fade in and out of consciousness. Once she woke up and began moving her hand in what looked like an infinity symbol, her mother recalled.
Nadia Beazley asked her fading daughter what she was doing, "Jesus sewed our hearts together with an invisible ribbon," Emily said.
That ribbon — most likely in purple and green — is still there. And it seems to power Nadia Beazley through her hardest days.
"She was my soul mate," Nadia Beazley said.
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