Straight Up: Little Girl, Big Heart

A four year old girl has raised more than $20,000 for children with cancer, like her.

Nevaeh Denine stands in the hot sun, with a huge grin, in front of hundreds of people – TV camera and all – at the biggest lemonade stand going.

Surrounded by her mom and most ardent supporters, the Bruno Mars song “Just the way you are” is blasting in dedication to her. “Girl you’re amazing, just the way you are,” sings host Stephanie O’Brien as the song comes on.

Dancing with her lemonade stand helpers, Nevaeh looks a combination of proud and bewildered.

All these people are crowding the field in by St. Kevin’s Church and Junior High in the Goulds because of her.

And she’s just been presented with a special gift – star treatment for Nevaeh and her mom Holly, and tickets to a Bruno Mars concert in Toronto with limo ride and dinner.

Nevaeh and her mom will be in Toronto soon for roughly six weeks, as the four-year-old undergoes aggressive chemotherapy treatment and stem cell therapy at SickKids hospital. Last December, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma.

“Nevaeh was the only child in the province being treated for neuroblastoma,” says her mom Holly. “There’ve been two more cases since then.”

After Nevaeh’s diagnosis, Holly says their family and friends rushed to shower them with financial and emotional support.

“It was just so overwhelming, we knew we wanted to pay it forward. ‘Thank you’ just isn’t enough, we wanted to do more.”

Watching the Janeway Telethon on NTV, Nevaeh got an idea. She wanted to have a big lemonade stand to raise money for other sick kids and their families – just like people helped her.

When Holly told her friend Stephanie O’Brien, a host on OZFM, what Nevaeh wanted to do, O’Brien started working on creating Nevaeh’s dream – and it snowballed into a huge event, with donations and volunteers from all over.

Nevaeh decided to dedicate this first fundraiser to Baby Maggie, a 22-month-old from Paradise who is also dealing with neuroblastoma. Nevaeh’s goal was $5,000.

She has raised almost five times that much – more than $22,000.

Holly says Maggie’s story really resonated with their family because Nevaeh first faced cancer at the same age, just 22 months, but was doing well until new symptoms appeared last year. And cancer has dominated much of her young life – Nevaeh’s dad, Joey Poole, lost his battle with the disease four months before the little girl was born.

“Kids are so resilient,” Holly says, absolutely amazed at her little girl.

Now that they’ve raised so much more money than they ever thought they could, Nevaeh plans to help three other families along with Baby Maggie’s. They also plan to make Nevaeh’s Lemonade Stand an official charity, so Nevaeh can keep raising money to help other kids in need – and continue to teach the magnitude of a simple mantra.

Pay it forward.

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