ELKHART — Like many fathers, Dean Crane loves talking about his daughter, but not every dad has an audience with thousands of willing listeners.
Crane’s 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, died in December after a five-month battle with colon cancer. The community rallied around the Elkhart Memorial High School student, who was known for her positive attitude and outgoing personality. Three months have passed since Sarah’s death, but support for her family has endured.
The #SARAHSTRONG Facebook page that was initially set up to keep friends and family up to date on Sarah’s health has grown to include more than 11,000 followers nationwide.
“To say it’s overwhelming and humbling is probably an understatement, and I don't know what it was that struck a chord, but she definitely did,” Crane said. “It humbles me to see the amount of people that daily still send us private messages or just little snippets on the Facebook page.”
The Crane family gets messages from people from across the country who have been touched by Sarah’s story, giving them hope when coping with illness and a drive to persevere through difficult times.
“The fact that she refused to surrender, she refused to bow down, she refused to say ‘why me’ or ‘I’m done’ or ‘this is too much for me,’ maybe that was the chord that really struck a lot of people,” Crane said.
Back in July when Sarah was diagnosed with cancer, the Cranes had screen-printed about 100 purple Sarah Strong T-shirts for friends and family to show their support. Since then, thousands of the shirts have been sold from coast to coast, and often, even three months after Sarah’s passing, Crane spots someone wearing a Sarah Strong shirt at the grocery store or when he’s out to dinner with his wife and three daughters.
“It makes me feel good that a part of her has continued, that there’s a legacy out there,” Crane said. “To me, it’s an honor that somebody has done that to support us, and it’s a way of honoring Sarah, that she has left a positive legacy in the community, so I smile when I see them.”
The outpouring of support from the community as “phenomenal,” Crane added.
“How do you put into words the appreciation for something like this,” he asked. “It’s very difficult, very difficult to articulate the amount of gratitude our family has.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.