Concert held in honor of Cape girl treated for cancer

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sahara Aldridge received a healthy dose of medicine Sunday afternoon when hugs, smiles and music greeted her at Capaha Park.

Teachers from Cape Central Middle School organized a benefit concert for Sahara at the park called "Hope for Hoops," and raised more than $2,700 which will help the Aldridge family pay for travel and medical expenses.

Since Aug. 1, Sahara has been at a Texas hospital receiving treatment for a cancerous tumor on her brain stem. She just finished her final round of treatments last Thursday, and was back at her home in Cape Girardeau on Friday morning.

The weekend's been full of excitement and encouragement for Sahara and her parents, Shannon and Amy Aldridge.

When the family arrived home, Sahara's friends had filled the front yard with Halloween decorations. On Saturday night, another fund-raiser was held at the Elks Lodge in Cape Girardeau to help raise money for the family.

"Everyone has been so amazing -- it just blows my mind," Amy Aldridge said as she watched Sahara hug her friends.

"This is the best medicine you could give her. She needed to be with her friends," Amy Aldridge said.

More than 300 people showed up at the park Sunday. T-shirts and "Hope for Hoops" bracelets were sold. The Mike Rennick Band and the Intention played a free concert in honor of the 12-year-old.

This was the homecoming Sahara Aldridge had been waiting for since the day she left Cape Girardeau in August.

Despite having a hoarse voice from talking more than usual, Sahara said she felt good and was happy to be home.

"It feels great to be back. I really missed my friends and my pets," she said.

Her parents are also happy to be home. Shannon and Amy Aldridge had been staying with their daughter in Houston while she was receiving treatments at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The family will make another trip to the hospital in two weeks, and then Sahara will begin more rounds of chemotherapy treatments on Nov. 6. at Saint Francis Medical Center, an M.D. Anderson-affiliated hospital.

"She'll be on treatments for the next year," Amy Aldridge said. "It's going to be a long road but she's tough. She's a fighter."

That's also what Sahara Aldridge's former teachers said about her.

Jennifer Hecht was Sahara's sixth-grade teacher last year at the middle school. She remembered how Sahara walked into class every day with a smile on her face.

"She's such a brave girl. She's handling the whole situation amazingly," Hecht said.

Tracy Haggerty said Sahara was a model student in her sixth-grade math class last year.

After a tornado that swept through Caruthersville on April 3, Haggerty said Sahara organized a drive to help replace school supplies the Caruthersville School District lost.

"She's made us really appreciate life a lot more," Haggerty said. "She's a wonderful child."

Central Middle School principal Frank Ellis has known Sahara since she was in kindergarten at Alma Schrader, where Ellis once served as principal. He said Sahara is like a daughter to him.

"She's a very dynamic fighter. When I was in tears after finding out about her cancer, she made my tears go away. She cheers me up," Ellis said.

Amy Aldridge said staying positive is the only way the family handles her daughter's fight. The family doesn't look at the future, they take it one day at a time.

"We don't know what we're in for. She's got the worst kind of cancer you can get, stage four on her brain stem. She was fine in June, and then in July she was in a wheelchair," Amy Aldridge said. "To have your life turned upside down, I can't explain it."

The encouragement, prayers and support is certainly appreciated by the family, Amy Aldridge said. "We wouldn't be able to get through this without the support everyone's given us," she said.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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