It seems impossible that seven years ago, the tiny 4-year-old girl who inspired Rock Hill – and even touched New York and Florida with her white hair and her guts – died.
Riley Friddle spent her too-short life fighting brain cancer from a house on Hope Street in Rock Hill. But even in death, she still inspires hope.
Now it is her parents fighting, along with two little brothers she never met.
On Saturday in the parking lot of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant on Dave Lyle Boulevard in front of the Rock Hill Galleria, Riley’s family and many volunteers will hold a “Remembering Riley” car wash. All the money raised will go to childhood cancer research. September is national Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
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“We have always worked toward one goal,” said Andrea Friddle, Riley’s mother, “that somebody else’s family does not have to go through what Riley went through.”
Volunteers from Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ and others will wash cars and spread the joy of a life lived by a child for four years.
Andrea and Todd Friddle courageously shared Riley’s illness and fight with readers of The Herald, right until her death seven years ago Friday. Since then, they have held programs at their church, raised money for Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, where Riley spent so many days of her short life, paid to start a scholarship for nursing students, along with helping so many other fundraisers and charities.
Saturday’s car wash is the latest project where the life and death of a little girl who fought so hard can help others.
Riley was unforgettable.
She began chemotherapy when she was just weeks old. in spite of that, she grew hair and learned to walk and talk and smile and love and hug. She ate Shrimp Boat fried chicken with the crispy skin and danced to Bon Jovi and had a boyfriend.
At 2, Riley was so sick – but still so tough – that country superstar Tim McGraw danced with her onstage at a concert in Greenville. More than 10,000 people cheered and cried at the same time.
At 3, Riley had a tumor cut out. She came home weeks later and ate french fries. She grew her hair yet again and she danced some more.
But the cancer stayed.
At 4, she went to the prekindergarten program at Rock Hill’s Central Child Development Center. The first day of school, she thrilled everybody by getting in trouble for throwing Play-Doh and batting her eyes at all the boys.
She died only days later.
Her mother is now the nurse at the school where Riley spent exactly two days.
Her parents since have had two sons, Parker and Briggs, now 3 and 5.
The boys never met their big sister, but she is with them – just as she is forever in the hearts of all who saw the courage of a kid far larger than the tiny heart inside her chest.