A Stand For Hope: Maya Rigler

From Pat Ciarrocchi: This is our day to honor Alex Scott and the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. One of our stories is about a 10-year-old named Maya Rigler. On CBS 3, you will see the TV story that we produced. With me the day of the interview was one our summer interns from the University of Pennsylvania, Charlotte Coran. I wanted to share her take on Maya with you.

by Charlotte Coran

In many ways, Maya Rigler is a typical 10-year-old fifth-grader: she despises math class, would rather catch up on her Instagram feed than tell her mom about her day, and speaks enthusiastically about a school project she did last year on a celebrity from Pennsylvania. It’s the subject of that project, however, that sheds light on the differences between Maya and her peers. Maya chose to research Alex Scott, the name behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), whose mission is to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes.

Maya was first diagnosed with cancer at a routine well visit at the age of two. Despite losing a kidney during surgery to remove the Wilms tumor, Maya showed remarkable resilience, and both her parents and her doctors were confident she was on the road to recovery.

But eight years after Maya’s initial diagnosis, the Rigler family received more devastating news. This past January, after a friend noticed Maya’s eyes appeared yellowed, doctors discovered an Ewing sarcoma in her pancreas. Maya immediately began a second round of treatment and is scheduled to undergo surgery this summer.

In the meantime, Maya is dedicated to collecting donations for ALSF. In fact, upon learning of her diagnosis, Maya says she “didn’t really think about bad things.” Instead, she “thought at first that I could raise money.”

Alex Scott, who was diagnosed with cancer just before turning one, founded ALSF. At the age of four, Alex told her parents she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to find a cure for childhood cancer. That first stand raised an astonishing $2,000. News of Alex’s fundraising efforts spread quickly, and people all across the nation joined the cause.

After Alex passed away at the age of eight, her parents started ALSF to continue the work that she had begun. Since that first lemonade stand was held in 2000, the Scott family and their foundation have raised more than $100 million.

Maya’s parents shared Alex’s story with their daughter so that she could better understand her illness. Maya immediately felt a connection to Alex’s desire to give back to the community.

“Maya saw in Alex lots of herself. It really was an inspiration for her,” explained Alex’s father, Peter.

To date, Maya has raised more than $125,000 for ALSF, and has set a final goal of $250,000. Maya’s parents have no doubt that she will reach that number – yet the significance of Maya’s work is not only monetary. It also teaches the valuable lesson that, in the face of tragedy, we can use our pain in a productive, positive way – one that helps other people, and not just ourselves. Maya, inspired by Alex’s crusade, has taken that idea to heart, and she herself has now become a source of inspiration.

No matter what we can contribute to any given cause, every little bit helps. As ALSF’s slogan reminds us, we can “fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time.”

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