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5K honors memory of late Vickery Creek Middle student, grants wishes

SOUTHWEST FORSYTH — When a middle school football team went on a run recently, the players were doing more than training and conditioning. They were continuing the memory of a young girl who lost her battle with cancer.

The Vickery Creek Middle School Vipers and coaching staff ran the seventh annual Lily’s Run on Oct. 11 to honor both the former student and namesake of the 5K and two school-aged kids who are fighting their own battles.

Money raised from the 800-plus runners, vendors and raffles helped Kingdom Kids grant a wish for Will Colthrop and Maddie Harris.

Colthrop, 7, was recently diagnosed with undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma. He is the nephew of Beth Buursema, the communications director for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, according to Lysa Gazza of Kingdom Kids.

His wish was simply to have his family’s swimming pool fixed so he can play in it again.

Harris, who attends Harrison High School in Kennesaw, was granted her wish to see the premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 in November with her family. In Los Angeles.

Gazza said they are working on getting back stage passes for Harris to meet the cast. Needless the say, the teenager is looking forward to the trip.

This year’s Lily’s Run was the biggest turnout yet, Gazza said.

“We all have cancer stories to tell, but with fundraising events and community support we will have happier endings,” said Julie Willharm Clark of Creative-ly Clark.

Almost every current player on the team — more than 40 — and eight alumni from last year participated in the event, which also included activities like inflatable slides, balloon art, bounce houses, face painting, food and games.

“The boys signed a helmet for Will — there was not a dry eye in the house during this presentation — and Coach Taylor gave a team jersey to Will, as well,” Clark said.

Lily Anderson was diagnosed with a Stage IV neuroblastoma that was found behind her liver in 2009. She was 8 and in third grade at Vickery Creek Elementary.

In the hopes of supporting the family’s financial obstacles of putting their daughter through chemotherapy, stem cell and antibody treatments and surgery to fight the tumor, friends initiated the first Lily’s Run.

Even then, the 5K run and 1K fun run was set in Vickery Village.

After that first event, Anderson performed the national anthem at an Atlanta Braves baseball game in 2011. She had finished a round of chemo just 30 minutes before.

She succumbed to her battle with cancer later that same year at age 11.

Since then, Lily’s Run has benefited families of children with cancer with the help of the Anderson family and Kingdom Kids, an organization that aims to improve the quality of life for children facing these challenging circumstances.