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Community remembers late West Forsyth student
Freshman loses lengthy fight with cancer
Friends and family of Sydney Makayla Ridings wrote messages on balloons before releasing them during a vigil Saturday at Sawnee Mountain Park. The 14-year-old West Forsyth High student died Friday of a rare form of bone cancer. - photo by Jim Dean

WEST FORSYTH — As West Forsyth High students returned to school Monday after the Thanksgiving break, they learned one of their peers had lost her battle with cancer.

Sydney Makayla Ridings passed away Friday at age 14. Ridings had been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcome, a rare form of bone cancer, in August 2011. Since that time, she had inspired her school community, neighborhood and even the sheriff’s office to rally by her side.

Ridings was a ninth-grader at West, where she was a JV sideline cheerleader and loved competition dancing.

Last winter, when she was an eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School, more than 60 people shaved their head or donated inches of hair during a fundraiser.

The school had been inspired by Ridings’ optimism and dignity through her diagnosis, and the event became an annual fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research at St. Baldrick’s Foundation. This year, it raised $15,000, according to previous reports by the Forsyth County News.

“She was an absolute star,” said Connie Stovall, Liberty’s principal. “She was smart, talented and beautiful.

“Her positive attitude and optimistic spirit will always be an inspiration to me and all those who knew her.”

Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswomen for the Forsyth County school system, said counselors at both West and Liberty are available for students to talk about anything related to Riding’s passing.

Ridings finished radiation treatments in February. As a signal of support, all the county’s school resource officers also shaved their heads.

She recently won a Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen preliminary, earning the title “Miss. Apply Capital’s Outstanding Teen.”

Funeral services for Riding were held Monday. In lieu of flowers, her family has asked that donations be made to the Sydney Strong Account at Citizens Bank, P.O. Box 2820, Cumming, GA 30028.