HAZLETON -- The Hazleton area is remembering a little girl who lost a courageous battle with cancer. For years, the girl received overwhelming support from the community but she died from her disease last Friday.
Sweet, little Audrianna Bartol touched tens of thousands of lives in her six short years of life. She had a huge following of online supporters joining in her battle against cancer and now they join her family mourning her death.
Her mother talked with us Monday afternoon, grateful for all the support, and grateful for all she learned from her little Audri.
All it took was a glimpse at her smile or a look at those bright eyes for six-year-old Audrianna Bartol to capture the hearts of thousands of people in the Hazleton area and beyond. Now all the support for the girl fighting cancer has turned to her family mourning her loss, after a four-year battle.
"Everybody says ‘how do you stay strong through this, how do you not become a puddle on the floor?’ You look at her and say ‘if she can do it, I can do it.’ She's got the hard part, I'm just the one standing here holding her hand,” said Angela Bartol, Audrianna's mother.
On Facebook, 80,000 followers were along for every step of the girl's fight. Audrianna's mom Angie says all the support is overwhelming.
"I just know they loved her so much and I loved them so much and it's too much to take it all in."
Angie made it her mission for her girl to experience life, even though she had terminal cancer, including a trip to Disney World a week before her death.
"She lived every day like it was her last since the moment she was diagnosed with cancer. Because I always said we will never look back and say ‘she didn't get to do that, we should have done this.’"
That included a trip to Penn State's THON last year. Audrianna laughed and danced at the dance marathon then but this year, only 15 minutes before all these students began their dancing to fight childhood cancer, Audrianna passed away on Friday.
Megan McGee and Leeann Tufaro were THON dancers from Penn State Hazleton. They were close with Audrianna; Megan wore the girl's photo all weekend.
"I stayed strong for her and I knew I had to do this and I couldn't sit down and even in my roughest time I looked at my pin and I thought ‘I can do this because of her,’" said McGee.
"She was a little spitfire in the hospital and she knew the ins and outs of everything and seeing how strong-hearted she was, she was an amazing person,” Tufaro added.
They believe Audrianna's sprit was there as THON raised a record-breaking $12 million.
"For Audri to pass just as THON was getting started was her way of saying, ‘dance for me and all those other babies and raise that money and do something good with it.’"
Audrianna's mom says she wants to take all the support for the little girl and turn it into a foundation to help other children fighting cancer.
She wants Audrianna's memory to live on.