The girl who had thousands of Michiana residents going "Sarah Strong" died Saturday.
15-year-old Sarah Crane, an Elkhart Memorial student, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in July, one of the youngest to be diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease.
Over the last five months Sarah had several surgeries and chemotherapy, but the cancer did not respond to treatment. She recently started a third round of chemo, but it proved to be unsuccessful in defeating the cancer.
While Sarah was fighting, thousands around the Elkhart community wore and sold purple t-shirts and held fundraisers. Elkhart Memorial High School marching band proudly donned the purple Sarah Strong shirts at a Labor Day parade, and thousands more have been worn by friends and family. The famous t-shirts even made it all the way to NBC's "Today Show".
The former track runner and member of the Memorial High School color guard left an indelible mark on her community.
Elkhart Community School Superintendent Dr. Rob Haworth released a statement on Crane's passing. "Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family and friends of Sarah Crane. She was a beautiful girl with a tremendous soul, and she touched the lives of not just her classmates, but those of the entire community and beyond. Her legacy will be lasting and her life not forgotten by the people of Elkhart and Elkhart Community Schools. 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."
Social media exploded with outpouring of support for Sarah, the hashtag #SarahStrong contained hundreds of posts offering sympathy of the entire Crane family.
One of Crane’s classmates, Nick Faunce, said he learned the news via text message and then on Facebook, “the fact that she had this many supporters--I think everyone with cancer should have this many supporters.”
“Everyone's going to be devastated,” Faunce said as he thought about the news of Sarah’s death being spread during school on Monday, “ I wouldn't be surprised if we had a moment of silence or something, because quite frankly, that's what she deserves.”
For the city and community that rallied around Sarah, it’s clear that her life and death has had a far-reaching effect.
“When you’re looking at a young lady that has had this type of battle and has fought it very gallantly, I think the community certainly showed its support for her and her family,” said Karin Frey, superintendent for Elkhart’s parks and recreation department.
At Elkhart’s Winterfest Parade, Dec. 7, children and adults in the crowd were seen wearing purple jackets, bows, and Sarah Strong shirts.
Thirteen-year-old Nick Matthews was one of the Sarah Strong supporters sporting the purple shirt and ribbon.
“Me and my family are big supporters of Sarah, and my mom has known Sarah for a long time,” Nick said he is going to wear his shirt “no matter what.”
Parks and recreation planned the parade and told NewsCenter 16 that prior to start the Emergency Management (EM) team asked if the parade could conclude with an unannounced moment of silence.
The EM vehicles trailed at the very end of the parade, driving down Main St. Elkhart with no flashing lights, no sirens, just a slow pace in silent solidarity with Sarah Crane and her family.