MONTESANO — Family and friends somberly filed in, wrote notes on “T” picture cards and took a piece of “bling” as they entered Bo Griffith Memorial Gymnasium at Montesano High School Monday, Aug. 19, for a celebration of the life of little 10-year-old Taleigha Vanderlyn Greene of Central Park.
Affectionately known as “T,” Greene passed Aug. 10, 2013, from a cancerous brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine giloma or DIPG.
With services originally set to be held at the Church of God in Montesano, the demand was big enough that the family asked if they could hold the services in the gymnasium.
People took a seat in the bleachers as selected music from T’s playlist filled the air. Some people wore special Team Taleigha T-shirts, some in mismatched socks, a “T” trademark fashion style and clutched or wore “bling” bracelets offered by the family. All were there to share in the emotional celebration of the young girl’s life.
Around 50 family members were seated in the front of Pastor Marc Rice, who officiated the ceremonies with an estimated 400-500 people in attendance filling the bleachers.
Several photo montages, set to some of T’s favorite country songs, brought tears to the assembled crowd as they remembered her zest for life and her fearless approach to her condition in her final 14 months.
“Friends, this family is so immeasurably blessed and thankful for the amazing outpouring of support and resources that has been given to them,” Rice told those gathered. “They have lived so much life this past 14 months and had so many unforgettable life experiences with Taleigha.”
Fundraising, donations and charitable organizations allowed the girl to travel to places like New York, Yellowstone, Crater Lake. She was able to swim with the dolphins in Hawaii, pet a kangaroo in Arlington and have several trips to the Great Wolf Lodge water park to feed her passion for the water. She met country singers Tim McGraw and Scotty McCreery during the Puyallup Fair and threw out the first pitch at the opening ceremonies of the Montesano Girls Softball Association season where she played for the Lions last season.
“T’s family could have never waged the battle against this cancer nor given her the kinds of experiences that so many people helped provide,” Rice said.
The celebration continued with Pastor Rice reading from notes and letters scribed by family, friends and teachers who were impacted by the playful little girl.
Reading an article about another family whose daughter also died of the same tumor, her mother, Tonya Bowen, along with the rest of the family, made the courageous decision to help the medical community with the rare form of cancer by donating Taleigha’s tumor and brain tissue for research.
The cancer, diagnosed in approximately 200 children a year with a survival rate of less than 3 percent over three years, rapidly and aggressively attacks children 5 – 10 years old. With little advancement in the past 30 years, and the overwhelming nature of the illness to families, it does not allow doctors or researchers enough time to find answers.
Taleigha is survived by her loving family, father, Tony Greene of Tukwila; her mother and step-father, Tonya and Travis Davis and brother, Tyvon Bowen of Central Park; half-brother, Deshaun Greene of Seattle; step-sister, Necia Davis of Grand Junction, Colorado; nannie and bompie, Barb and Kevin McManus of Hoquiam; and grandma, Vanderlyn Greene of Bronx, N.Y.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to Mary Bridge Brigade, Hematology/Oncology Dept., P.O. Box 5299, MS: 311-1-MBB, Tacoma, Washington, 98415.
Princess Taleigha T-shirts will also be available at Spill-The-Beans coffee in Aberdeen and people who wish to share memories of Taleigha can do so at www.harrisonfamilymortuary.com.