A plaque on the wall of the new Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte pays homage to a 12-year-old Fort Mill girl who died a year ago today after battling brain tumors for two years.
Jenna Witherspoon's best friends rallied to raise $50,000 in a matter of only months to name the room for her. Jenna watched the hospital go up while she was treated for cancer and always wanted to go inside as a visitor, not a patient.
"We wanted the kids that will go in her room to have something to remember Jenna by because she impacted so many people's lives," said 13-year-old Jordan Vereen, Jenna's friend since preschool.
Jordan and Jenna's other close friends, Jenna McFadden and Olivia Bouldin, went to the hospital with the Witherspoons in November to check out Jenna's room.
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The room is on the 11th floor of the new hospital in the oncology wing. The walls were painted periwinkle -- Jenna's favorite color.
Sunlight pours through the windows into the especially spacious corner room, said Jennifer Tammaro, development officer with Carolinas HealthCare Foundation.
"It's kind of fitting considering Jenna's personality," she said. "I think the one thing that I hear over and over again, and my biggest memory of Jenna, is her smile. No matter what she was going through, no matter what came her way, she always had a great big smile on her face."
This was the first time Jenna's parents, Tricia and Michael Witherspoon, and her little sister, Morgan, 10, spent Christmas without seeing that smile. Today, the anniversary of her death, they will have a low-key day at home, possibly going out to eat some of the Southern comfort foods Jenna liked so much.
"It was hard," Tricia Witherspoon said. "We've gone through a year of firsts, and this was just another one of those firsts where there's just a big, huge missing piece."
Witherspoon said it meant a lot to her to know her daughter would not be forgotten.
"To us, it just showed the friendship, the bonds of friendship that they had," she said. "It just touched us that they wanted to do something that would live on. It really helped us through our grieving. It made it easier seeing how people reached out and responded to them. That was just very heartwarming and humbling for us."
WANT TO GO?
What: Candlelight vigil for Amanda Rea Abernathy Beaty
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Walter Y. Elisha Park, North White Street, Fort Mill
Speaker: Peggy Payne of Safe Passage York County, family members and friends
RSVP: Heather Finley at (704) 493-6830