Orange Park, Fla. -- Aaliyah Mitchell died January 28, 2015 following a two year battle with Ewing's Sarcoma. The cancer claimed Aaliyah's life and changed the lives of her loved ones. Heather Mitchell created Aaliyah's Hope Fund to give back to other families that are going through what the mother of five once endured.
The month of September is particularly difficult for the Mitchells. September 11, 2016 would have been Aaliyah's 12th birthday. September is also a time recognized as Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
According to the American Cancer Society, in the U.S. in 2016 about 10,380 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer. An estimated 1,250 of them are expected to die from the disease.
"I know they say that childhood cancer is rare, but when it's your child it’s not rare," said Mitchell. "We want to help other families that are going through what we went through."
That help comes in many forms including an annual toy drive, collecting donations for Wolfson Children's Hospital and sponsoring reading programs.All designed to guide other families through the anger, fear and uncertainty.
"I didn’t think it could happen to us and it did," said Mitchell. "And I don't want to scare people but I want people to know it could happen to anyone."
Cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children, and according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to children.