Danny and Jennifer Eckard lost their daughter, Miranda, to childhood cancer in 2014. Since then, they’ve worked to honor her memory through their nonprofit, Fight With ME.
Initially, the Eckards were unsure of what to do with the memorials and donations that poured in after their daughter died. According to Jennifer Eckard, they thought of putting the funds toward a scholarship at East Lincoln High School, where Miranda attended high school, and for children at the clinics where she received treatment. In the first year, they gave out $11,500 in scholarships to Miranda’s graduating class at East Lincoln. Since then, they’ve awarded $5,000 in scholarships each year.
Dawn Rasmussen, owner of Patch’s Playhouse, a paint-your-own pottery studio in Denver, is sponsoring a benefit for Fight With ME Jan. 2-15. Rasmussen contacted everyone she knew for donations for a raffle and silent auction. The community came through on some big ticket items for the silent auction including courtside seats at a Hornets game and HOT passes to a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. All told, Rasmussen has received nearly $10,000 in donations for the silent auction and raffle. They’ll also donate 20 percent of sales during the week and 30 percent sales on weekends up until Jan. 15 to Fight With ME.
Rasmussen was inspired by her employee and Miranda’s long-time best friend, Lindsey Sadler.
“Lindsey is a big reason why Dawn is doing this,” Eckard said. “To us, that’s amazing because she and Miranda were so close. She was over here so often just to sit with Miranda, even if she was asleep. They were like sisters.”
Sadler became friends with Miranda in the first grade, when the Eckard family moved to the area. She accompanied Miranda on her Make-A-Wish Foundation trip to New York fashion week in 2013. According to Rasmussen, Sadler’s goal is to eventually work with Fight With ME.
According to Eckard, Fight With ME has grown in the last 18 months. In addition to the scholarships, they were able to donate art supplies to the clinics where Miranda received treatment and provided gift cards to six families totaling $1,500. They also assisted one of Miranda’s East Lincoln classmates who adopted a family through Levine Children's Hospital.
The Eckards celebrated what would have been their daughter’s 21st birthday with their first big event last March, the Carolina Beer Mixer at Free Range Brewing in Charlotte. The name was a play on the Catalina Wine Mixer scene from Miranda’s favorite movie “Stepbrothers.” Planning is already underway to repeat the event in March 2019.
Their friends organized a golf tournament at the Westport Golf Club in September. Students from both East Lincoln and North Lincoln high schools celebrated the lives of Miranda and BJ Correll, both of whom were lost to pediatric cancer, at East’s homecoming game with a unity walk. All students wore yellow or gold signifying childhood cancer awareness.
The outpouring of support from the community continues to surprise the Eckards.They hope with continued support, they can make it bigger in order to award more scholarship money and reach more families who have a child with cancer in the area.
“This area has been so supportive when Miranda was sick and after she passed away,” Echard said. “They help us keep it going. We couldn't thank them all enough.”
Miranda was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer affecting the body’s soft tissue, during her freshman year at East Lincoln. Eckard called Miranda’s classmates “amazing.” They left her seat empty at their graduation ceremony.
“With every year, not as many students and fewer staff know Miranda at the high school,” Eckard said. “So it’s nice to have people in the community help keep her spirit alive even if they didn’t know her.”
For more information on Fight With ME visit: https://www.facebook.com/fighwithmeinc501c3/
The Patch’s Playhouse benefit starts Jan. 2. Winners will be announced Jan. 15. At 5 p.m.
For details visit: https://www.facebook.com/patchsplayhouse.