ELKHART — The Sarah Strong Foundation is looking for a place in downtown Elkhart to call home.
A local family created the foundation in memory of 15-year-old Sarah Crane, who died in December after a battle with stage four colon cancer. Her parents hope to open the foundation’s headquarters in Elkhart by June 17, when Sarah would have turned 16.
“We wanted to do something to pay it forward in a lot of ways,” said Dean Crane, Sarah’s father. “In other words, to take this and do something positive with it, and with the amount of support that we received and all the people that we met through this journey that were also going through a battle with cancer or other types of illnesses, we wanted to do something for them.”
The Sarah Strong Foundation was born. Proceeds from purple Sarah Strong T-shirt sales initially helped pay for the teen’s medical expenses, and after she died, the donations that were still rolling in helped kickstart the foundation.
“I’m glad they’re able to do this so we can keep Sarah’s name around,” family friend Sherry Auker said. “I think that her strength has done a lot for people. I know other people who have been fighting cancer who think about Sarah and how she lived her life, how she did not complain and how hard she fought.”
Elkhart is a perfect fit for the foundation’s new home, Crane said.
“We want it to be downtown because obviously the city has been such a tremendous support for us,” he said. “We’re from here. My children go to school here. The community rallied in such a way that it has to be here.”
The Crane family’s experience with Sarah’s illness has helped guide them in shaping the foundation’s mission. They want the foundation to be a resource for people who have found themselves in similar situations.
“We found out immediately there are so many things that aren’t covered under insurance or aren’t provided on a daily basis when you’re doing care, especially when it turns into 24-hour care, that gets pretty costly,” Crane said. “And there’s also the availability of things, and that goes from the daily hygiene items to certain medicines and certain equipment that aren’t covered, and you don’t know about this.”
The Cranes want to use the foundation to spread awareness about cancer and other health issues, but most of all, they want to have a place for people to go for personal support.
“Who else could you talk to other than someone who has been through all this,” Crane asked. “We went through this incredible journey, and unfortunately for us, we didn’t have a happy ending, but we could actually truly sympathize with those that are going through that. We can actually understand all those highs and lows, peaks and valleys, that you’re going through that really unfortunately takes somebody who has gone through that on a daily basis to understand.”
Crane said his daughter had “a servant’s heart” and would have been humbled by the community’s support.
“She would be very embarrassed about all the attention first of all, as much of a ham she was and she liked to be goofy,” he said. “She would never want anyone to be upset or feel sorry for her. That was her biggest thing. She didn’t like that at all. That being said, she would be really proud, and she would be the first one to volunteer to do something like this.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.