ELKHART — For the past five months, people in Elkhart County and across the country have rallied around an Elkhart girl with cancer, and her favorite color, purple, became a symbol of hope, love and strength, but on Saturday, Dec. 7, her battle came to an end.
Sarah Crane, a 15-year-old Elkhart Memorial student, died this weekend after being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
The Crane family and close friends have kept supporters up to date on Sarah's health and fundraisers on the #SARAHSTRONG Facebook page. As of Saturday, the page had more than 10,240 followers.
Sarah's health declined in September. Her father, Dean Crane, posted on Facebook that the cancer had spread to other organs. Despite the dire update, the message carried hope.
“I believe in Jesus and I am not afraid to die,” Sarah was quoted by her father on Facebook. “However, I am not ready to give up and I AM BEATING THIS.”
Thousands of people in her hometown and nationwide showed their support with purple Sarahstrong T-shirts that were sold to benefit the Crane family. Celebrities, including CeeLo Green, Tom Cruise and hosts on NBC's “Today Show,” even showed their support by posing with Sarahstrong shirts.
A student athlete who ran track, Sarah was a loyal Indianapolis Colts fan. Former Colts player Nathan Palmer, who signed with the Miami Dolphins this fall, surprised Sarah with a visit this past summer at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart.
“It was very inspiring to me to meet someone that young that was battling something so serious, and yet when I met her, I didn't get a vibe of someone who was battling cancer so to speak,” Palmer recalled Saturday. “She was so positive and with everything that she was going through.”
Palmer said Sarah's upbeat attitude kept him inspired throughout the summer.
“I got injured during a preseason game, and I had those memories of meeting her that stuck with me and inspired me to push harder and fight,” he said. “It reminded me that no matter what I was going through that I needed to smile because there was a little girl fighting for her life.”
Palmer said he keeps a Sarahstrong T-shirt hanging in his football locker.
Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Rob Haworth issued a statement on Saturday evening, describing Sarah as “a beautiful girl with a tremendous soul.”
“Her legacy will be lasting and her life not forgotten by the people of Elkhart and Elkhart Community Schools,” Haworth said. “Today, our hearts grieve for the loss of Sarah, but we will remember the gift of her life, her Sarah Strong tenacity and her unwavering determination.”