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Battles with cancer are ties that binds many families together who otherwise would not have met.
Reminders of that came to the forefront not only in the Illinois Valley but throughout northern and central Illinois this week with the news of the Dec. 30 death of 18-year-old Walnut resident Cora Peters.
When Peters’ memorial visitation takes place Saturday at the Bureau Valley High School auditorium in Manlius, grieving friends and family will be asked to make memorial donations either to a fund for the Peters family or to the Henry-based Dax Locke Foundation.
Julie Locke of Washington, Ill., created the foundation after the Dec. 30, 2009, death of her 2½-year-old son, who battled leukemia and endured two stem cell transplants from his parents.
The Peters family became acquainted with the Lockes while Cora was at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
The family is trying to help Julie Locke meet a goal of raising $1.8 million for St. Jude — roughly the cost of running the children’s hospital in Memphis for one day, said Mike Rosploch, father of 4-year-old cancer survivor and friend of Cora, Lily Rosploch.
The month of December has been an emotional one for the Rosplochs, of La Salle.
“I guess the best way to describe it is there’s a lot of tears at one time and a lot of laughter at another,” Rosploch said of grieving for Cora, communicating with the Peters family and also trying to help Lily understand the death.
On New Year’s morning, Rosploch said they had talked to priests at St. Bede and were advised not to tell Lily that Cora now is with God. They didn’t want Lily to possibly associate God with taking away her friend.
“She wanted to go see her. We just told Lily, finally, that Cora is with the stars,” Rosploch said.
So on New Year’s Eve, instead of watching New York City’s festivities on TV or going out for the night, “we were watching stars,” Rosploch said.
He said Lily idolized Cora. And the Walnut teen, even when incredibly sick and sleepy before Christmas, would wake up and visit with Lily.
“She would magically muster up the strength to put a smile on her face and hug Lily and play with her a little bit,” Rosploch said.
The Rosplochs on New Year’s made a Facebook post in honor of Cora.
Here’s an excerpt:
“One day there will be a blueprint on how to fight cancer. You Cora Peters will be on top of that list. There are some things we can’t explain. The snowy glitter that you left us last night! I know that was you! Against all odds you made it to Christmas. You gained your wings on the very day Julie Locke’s son Dax did. (Julie and Cora were best friends). God has his way of showing his love.”
Ironically, Cora’s December resembled the final December for Dax Locke, somewhat. Locke’s story became world famous. After doctors told them there was nothing more they could do, his parents celebrated Halloween early and the entire neighborhood put up Christmas lights before Halloween for the toddler to see and enjoy.
The story wound up on CNN. That led to a song, “One Last Christmas,” by Matthew West, and a movie of the same name that aired in 2011 on the GMC network.
Rosploch said it’s amazing what St. Jude can do, and so is the bond that develops among patients and families both at the hospital in Memphis and the children’s hospital in Peoria.
For instance, his family has become close with young patients and two families from Morton and Streator.
“When you’re there at St. Jude with all the people, it’s kind of like a family,” Rosploch said.
A complete obituary for Cora Peters appears in today’s edition.