Avon girl, 10, heads Race for the Cure fundraiser in mom's honor

Samantha Heitert, 10, raised money in honor of her mother, Jennifer.
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A 10-year-old Avon girl has gone the extra mile to race for the cure.

Samantha Heitert and her classmates at Sycamore Elementary have raised $600.58 to help fight breast cancer. Sam spearheaded that effort. The motivation was deeply personal.

In January 2012, her mother Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As Sam said, "It was scary and confusing, because I didn't understand anything going on. All I knew was my mom had a disease and it was hard for her to do some things."

Though Jennifer was still undergoing chemotherapy at the time of last year's Race for the Cure, she and signed up to walk. Jennifer did a mile. Sam did the whole 5k.

This year, she wanted to do more.

"It was something that came up all of a sudden," Sam said. "It was like 'Hey, why not do fundraising to help lick cancer?"

So with the school counselor Sarah Altman's help, Sam organized the "Change Challenge," with each class collecting pennies, dimes, quarters, whatever they could. Sam's class collected the most, $178, so they earned sno-cones during recess Friday afternoon.

But the real winner was Race for Cure, again, with the school raising $600.58 over just six days.

Altman noted that Sam also shared her own story with classmates.

"And I think the other kids took this and thought, 'Wow, she's helping us understand what it could be like. What if someone in our family goes through this, too? Now we know what to do'," Altman said. "I think she really inspired, especially her classmates, but everyone in the school, that no matter how young you are, you really can do anything."

Sam raised another $800 through her gymnastics club, karate, friends and family.

Her mom, Jennifer said she couldn't be more proud of her daughter.

"It helped me, especially when I'm trying so hard to fight this disease to know that she's strong and out there and wants to make a difference, that I don't have to worry about her so much. She's kind of taking care of me a bit," she said.

As Sam returned to class following a sno-cone, her mother hugged her and said, "So what's today? I love you, be awesome and make a difference."

At 10 years old Samantha Heitert already has.

Sam, her mom, dad, and younger brother, along with several gymnast friends, will all take part in the race Saturday.

Jennifer, by the way, said she's doing great. Her cancer is in remission.