Nine year-old Nevaeh Denine left a legacy of hope and giving behind when she died. But to those who knew and loved her best, she left behind so much more
Nevaeh may have been a nine year-old child when she died after a battle with neuroblastoma, but this tiny child left a huge legacy of hope and giving behind.
No one knows that more than her mother, Holly Denine. “She certainly made an impact,” her mother began.
Over $235,000 Raised
While Nevaeh and her Lemonade Stand accomplished much; raising over $235,000 to help children fighting cancer since its beginnings in 2014, Holly says, above anything else, she values the importance of celebrating the child behind the charity.
“I want Nevaeh to be remembered for her strength, courage and determination. She always found the good in even the worst day. She lived every day like it was her last,” she shares bravely.
OZFM’s Stephanie O’Brien has always been close to Nevaeh and her mom. Taking time off work to deal with the loss, O’Brien says she remains in awe of the little girl who faced cancer with spirit and spunk.
“It didn’t matter how sick she was or what kind of treatments she had, she was always brave. She never complained. Towards the end she could barely walk, yet she never focused on what she couldn’t do. She was a nine year-old with a huge personality. Seeing this outgoing child – energetic and fun – to see that taken away from her was hard on everyone around her, but she was so brave. Right to the end.”
Nevaeh and her annual Lemonade Stand was an event many looked forward to. This year the fundraiser took place on July 28, one day after Nevaeh’s birthday and just days before she died.
O’Brien says they always knew cancer could cut Nevaeh’s life short. “Last year’s lemonade stand, we all had this feeling that it could possibly be her last. I mean, really, with cancer, it was always possible. But there was this feeling in 2017; it was this beautiful sunny day, 8,000 people were around, and she was up singing her Fight song. As happy as it was, there was this sense; this was the one I want to remember. I had this feeling.”
‘Cancer took so much’
O’Brien shares that as this year’s event grew close, she knew things were different. “Nevaeh hadn’t been feeling well for weeks. Cancer took so much from her. It was sad to see.”
The weather that day wasn’t great. O’Brien says when Nevaeh woke that morning she cried, fearing no one would come to her Lemonade Stand because of the rain.
“I said; no, people will come. They will come for you. They will come because of what you are doing and why you are doing it. And when she saw the people who were there you could see she had this sense of relief. But while she enjoyed it, she really wasn’t feeling well. I really do believe she hung on until her Lemonade Stand was over. She wanted to be there. Days later she passed.”
But neither Holly or O’Brien want to focus on the negative, mostly because Nevaeh herself was always so positive.
“For every negative thing that happens, there’s positivity. That was Nevaeh. Where did her wisdom come from? She had cancer at three. She had lost her dad, Joey, to cancer before she was born. She faced so much. But Nevaeh was born special. She had this maturity about her. She thought of others all the time,” says O’Brien.
“Holly and I were just talking; she was put here for a reason. She had a purpose, and her purpose was to make a difference and she made a difference bigger than we ever thought a child could,” she adds.
Both women say the love and support they are receiving has been overwhelming. So is the amount of donations they are receiving from all around the world. Everyone wants to keep Nevaeh’s Lemonade Stand legacy alive.
Looking through the images of Holly and her daughter in a garden filled with lupins is heartbreaking yet beautiful.
“These images capture everything that they were. They were a team. Holly fought as hard as Nevaeh fought to try and make the best of what they had. Even on their darkest days, if Holly would cry Nevaeh would go in and say; ‘mom, we are going to be OK. Don’t worry mom, we got this, we can do it together.’ She didn’t want anybody upset about her being sick. She had been so brave for so long and she was determined.”
Even in her final days Nevaeh showed spunk. “She wanted to get up and dance in the hospital even when she couldn’t. She wanted to get up and sing even when she was weak. She was amazing. She always amazed me. I will miss her like crazy,” O’Brien says quietly.
O’Brien is a mom herself to 18 month-old daughter Charlie. She takes a moment to peek in at her sleeping daughter.
“What I want Charlie to know is how kind and brave Nevaeh was and how gentle she was and how she genuinely cared about everybody in an unselfish way. Considering what she was going through, for her to care and give and love as much as she did, that was incredible. Knowing her changed my life.”
Nevaeh & Her Dad
O’Brien says she has no doubt Charlie will always have a bond with Nevaeh, one death could never erase. There’s a reason behind this faith.
“Nevaeh always had a super special bond with her dad, though she had never met him because he died before she was born. A couple of years ago she had asked for a picture of her and her dad for Christmas.”
Holly had an expert Photoshop the two together. “When Holly showed me the video of her seeing that, Nevaeh was; it’s me and my daddy! There’s some comfort knowing she went to heaven to be with her dad.”
O’Brien and Holly say they treasure each second they had with Nevaeh.
“There’s heartache, but there’s beauty in it too. There’s sorrow, but I still can’t help but think; how lucky we were that we had nine amazing years with somebody so special. How lucky are we that we had time to say goodbye and how lucky are we that we were able to make every moment count. We couldn’t have kissed her more. I wanted her to know how much I loved her. We got to hold her and say goodbye,” says O’Brien.
O’Brien speaks directly to Holly when she says; “Your daughter made a difference. You must be so proud. Her legacy will live on.”
On behalf of Holly and her family and friends, the women want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who reached out and to everyone who has donated to the cause over the years. A huge thank you to Dominion stores as well.
“They do so much for the Lemonade Stand and they did so much for the funeral service, giving all the flowers and the coffee and the lemonade,” says O’Brien.
Both women say the Lemonade Stand will live on. She loved that Lemonade Stand, O’Brien says passionately.
“The last conversation I had with her she said; promise me that you will always have my Lemonade Stand. I said, without question. She said, make sure at the end all the girls get on stage and pray for me. Of course I said yes. So, we have a lot of work to do. We have a Lemonade Stand to plan that will live up to her expectations.”
The last word goes to Nevaeh’s mom Holly. ‘It is an honour to be her mom. She showed so many people the importance of helping others, paying it forward and just having a good heart. We will honour her legacy for many years to come.”