Snellville declares Amanda Riley Day
City Honors Local Agency, Childhood Cancer Awareness
A resolution, read at Monday's council meeting, honors the Amanda Riley Foundation.&nbps;0 Comments
If you don't know Amanda's story, you've missed a story of courage and grace, in the midst of unimaginable turmoil
Amanda Riley died April 9, 2010, after battling for her life for 405 days. She'd been diagnosed with cancer --rhabdomyosarcoma, a fast-growing, highly malignant tumor of the muscles -- at the age of 16.
Across the nation, there are thousands of children newly diagnosed every year who stand in the face of cancer as Amanda did. To honor them and their families, the city of Snellville proclaimed September to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month -- a time also recognized across the country.
In addition, at its Monday council meeting, city leaders honored the work of the Amanda Riley Foundation, a Snellville charity began to to bring cheer to children battling cancer. A resolution proclaimed September 12 to be "Amanda Riley Day" in the city.
"Amanda was a fighter giving 100 percent to everything she did, and fighting cancer was no exception," the city said in its resolution.
Amanda's mother, Barbara Riley, accepted the proclamation on behalf of her daughter and the charity.
"Our foundation was established for my Amanda," she says, in a post on her website. "She suffered immensely but fought until the end. All the while, we knew the odds of her surviving were against her.
"That is why we did everything we could to make her days as pleasant as we could, not knowing how many days she would have with us. Now it is time for us to do the same for other children battling. Amanda was and will forever be my sunshine."
Not only did Amanda leave in indelible impression on her parents, but the entire Brookwood community, which has also honored the young woman's life and helped bring awareness to childhood cancer.
Second Article from the Gwinnett Daily Post - Only the portion that relates to the foundation:
Wednesday's Woman: Barbara Riley
Barbara Riley and her husband, Steve, started the Amanda Riley Foundation to "bring smiles to kids battling cancer" five months after their daughter died.
Despite the perilous economy and with no non-profit experience, Barbara Riley, 47, and her husband, Steve, started a foundation in their daughter’s honor a year ago in September that has raised more than $60,000 and brought smiles to 26 children undergoing cancer treatment.
“The focus of the Amanda Riley Foundation is on today and helping kids while they’re in the midst of their battle – not after they’re healed,” Barbara Riley said.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Riley is passionate about painting Snellville gold – the color representing childhood cancer – by selling gold mailbox and door bows through the foundation. The Chick-fil-A restaurant on Scenic Highway is the site of the foundation’s awareness event which will be held tonight (Aug. 31, 2011) from 5 – 8 p.m. Funds will go to the children who are being treated for cancer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“Initially we send all families that we help a welcome package filled with things they can use when they’re heading back and forth to the clinic. It includes a bag, a notebook, pens, and hand sanitizers,” Riley said. The children receive blankets and Volkswagen bug squeeze stress relievers.
When the families enter the hospital from the clinic, the foundation gives them toiletries as well as backpacks filled with activities for the children like crayons and coloring books, markers, coloring pads, and journals – “all sorts of items the kids can use to occupy their time while they’re bedridden and receiving treatments,” Riley said.
In addition, the foundation provides lunch about twice a month for the families and children. “When you’re in the hospital for weeks at a time, you get so tired of cafeteria food,” she said.
Riley knows the needs of the families all too well. She is the mother of two daughters, Brittany, who is 24, and Amanda, who would be a freshman in college this year. Amanda lost her battle with cancer on April 9, 2010. Her parents started the foundation five months later.
“It just came to me one day,” Barbara Riley said. “We wanted to do something to give back. The community, our family and friends, and our church were so giving and caring and so remarkable to us and Amanda through our journey."
"I could see that some of the children we met during Amanda’s treatment didn’t have all the support that Amanda received. God spoke to me and said this is what you need to do. It gives me satisfaction knowing that I’m helping children that are fighting the same battle Amanda did.”
The foundation’s mission is to “bring smiles to kids battling cancer,” Riley said. “We learned through Amanda’s journey to make the most out of every day and to try and make a difference. That’s what we’re trying to do for these children.”
The foundation works with the families through the social workers and child life specialists at the children’s hospitals to determine what the children would like to receive.
A 13-year-old boy was facing 30 days of isolation due to a bone marrow transplant, Riley said. “He asked for a music mixer box and gave me specifics. We ordered that for him and he will receive it tomorrow,” she said.
A 12-year-old boy, one of six children, was facing a leg amputation. Because his family’s funds and time were limited, the foundation bought him seven new outfits for school.
“When he goes back to school, he’ll feel good about the fact that he’s wearing new clothes,” she said, “and won’t be only concentrating on the fact that he lost his leg.”
Barbara and Steve Riley’s goal for the foundation is to grow it to the size of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation so that they can help children in hospitals across the United States. Her husband is “my rock” noting that he works a full-time job and helps in every way he can with the foundation.
“Amanda is 100 percent of my inspiration for everything I do for this foundation...I honestly don’t know what I would do without it,” she said.
“I feel like it’s God’s way of taking care of me, and it’s Amanda’s way of giving me the strength to carry on because it’s something Amanda would want to do,” she said.
The Atlanta Dream have never been hesitant to “Take the Show on the Road” to Brookwood High School.Posted: 7:40 PM Jul 11, 2011
Reporter: David Friedlander
Email Address: mailto:[email protected]?subject=WNBA team’s practice at Brookwood benefits Riley Foundation
Photo: David McGregor
The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream run wind sprints during the teams open practice at Brookwood High School on Monday evening in Snellville.
Miles-4-Smiles Inaugural Race Raises Money for Children with Cancer
The first 5K run/walk sponsored by the Amanda Riley Foundation attracted 260 runners and scores of volunteers to Tribble Mill Park this past weekend.
About 260 runners and sponsors raised $12,000 for children battling cancer at the the inaugural Miles-4-Smiles 5K Run/Walk, which was sponsored by the Amanda Riley Foundation over the weekend at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville.
Barbara Riley, of Snellville, whose daughter Amanda died of cancer a little more than a year ago, said the race was a success. Funds were raised through sponsorship, concessions, jewelry sales and the race participants, Riley said.
“It was awesome,” said Riley after the race. “It was a beautiful day for it. Once again, the community came out and supported Amanda’s memory and the foundation. It was everything I’d imagined and more.”
Riley appreciated all the volunteer support and especially thanked Brookwood High School’s lead cross country and track coaches, Chris Carter and Kelly Sowers, who were instrumental in race preparations.
Carter and Sowers coached Amanda, who was an avid runner and basketball player at Brookwood High before being diagnosed March 2009 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of muscle tissue. Amanda died after 405 days of battling the disease.
“Amanda loved to run. We wanted to do something that represented her,” Riley said.
Michael Sexton, a former Brookwood High School runner who attends Berry College in Rome, was the overall men’s winner with a time of 16.43; Holly Ortlund was the overall women’s winner with a time of 18.17.
When asked why he participated in the race, Ron Byrnes of Lawrenceville whose daughter ran track and cross country with Amanda said he ran “to support Amanda and the foundation, to be with friends and to enjoy the day.”
One of the most touching moments of the day’s events was the balloon release. Participants released red, blue and yellow balloons. Riley explained that the red balloons represent “our love for the children who are still fighting cancer.” The blue balloons, the color of the sky, stand for “the children who are in heaven.” The yellow balloons are for Amanda.
Yellow was the 17-year-old's favorite color “and she was always our sunshine,” her mother said.
The foundation is gearing up for their next community event: the Atlanta Dreams’ “Take the Show on the Road” visit to Brookwood High School on Monday, July 11. For more information, visit the Amanda Riley Foundation website.
Amanda Riley Continues to Inspire
The Brookwood High athlete died about a year ago, but her school and parents make sure she is not forgotten.
After battling cancer for a little more than a year, Amanda died on April 9. Her tenacious spirit inspired her teammates and high school peers, and it continues to.
“Amanda’s fighting spirit is a great inspiration to us,” said Scott Terry, head coach of the Brookwood girls’ basketball team. “Amanda is still with us and will always be in our hearts.”
At the beginning of the season, the team met to set goals. Doing well at the Deep South Classic and the regional championship were among priorities, but they also wanted to do something to remember Amanda. The team wore a patch with Amanda’s initials on their uniforms. In addition, Amanda’s locker remains intact in the team locker room.
“Honoring Amanda was at the top of the list,” Terry said.
Amanda’s teammate, Katie Mallow, who is heading to Appalachian State University on a basketball scholarship this fall, said that honoring Amanda meant remembering the reason they play the game.
“We play basketball because we love the game,” she said. “We don’t take our ability to play for granted. We play our best, but our number one goal should be to have fun – the word play is not just about playing the game.”
The team retired Amanda’s jersey at the beginning of the season, and the number 22 – Amanda’s number -- is etched into the team shirts. In addition, Mallow said, their senior shirt had five girls on the front while noting that there were five seniors on the court and one in their hearts.
“During all the big games, we wrote 22 on our wrists with a Sharpie as a reminder to play every game as if it’s your last,” Mallow added. “You never know. You could get hurt and tear up your knee and not be able to play. Anything could happen. We played every second as if we were about to be taken off the court.”
It also was very important to the team to make sure that Barbara and Steve Riley, Amanda’s parents, knew that their daughter was loved and remembered. Even after Amanda’s death, the Rileys still came to several of the games to support the team. Their daughter played with many of the girls for years.
“Basketball was such a huge part of our lives for so many years,” said Barbara Riley. “We still love the game. We still love the girls. They have been so supportive of us and Amanda.”
Coach Terry, she added, has been exceptional.
“The things he’s done to preserve Amanda’s memory continue to be amazing,” she said.
Amanda was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that strikes about 50 children a year who are treated through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and has a survival rate of less than 30 percent, Barabra Riley said.
“If it relapses, the survival rate is zero,” she said.
To help children like their daughter, the Rileys began The Amanda Riley Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to help bring smiles to children battling cancer.
During Amanda’s cancer fight, the family learned of other children like her, but who were not receiving support. Items such as clothing and wigs were needed for many, Barbara Riley said.
“We want to put smiles on their faces while they are in the fight of their lives,” she said.
Brookwood art teacher Deb Sumpter designed a logo for the foundation that incorporates Amanda’s red Volkswagen along with the sun – "we always called Amanda our sunshine," Barbara said. The slogan, Bringing Smiles to Kids Battling Cancer, fits because Amanda was known for her smile.
To raise funds, the foundation has sold jewelry and T-shirts and held dinners at local restaurants. Upcoming events include a dinner on March 29 at O’Charley’s restaurant in Snellville, and a June 5K walk/run and one-mile fun run, Miles for Smiles. Brookwood High School cross country and track coaches Chris Carter and Kelly Sowers are helping plan the event.
The foundation is working with a social worker at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to identify children that need help. Barbara Riley said they then work to put together care packages for families.
“Sometimes when you go to the clinic, you’re sent to the hospital and you’re not prepared,” she said.
Other items the foundation would like to provide are books, crayons, journals, hand-held games and other items that would take a child’s mind off uncomfortable treatments like chemotherapy and blood transfusions. To help with these efforts, the nonprofit accepts in-kind items as well as monetary donations.
An accountant by trade, Riley put together a foundation “by the seat of my pants,” she said. She looked at other websites and talked to people who ran foundations, but the hard work has been worth it to her.
Amanda remains her mother’s inspiration.
“One thing that she learned and tried to make people understand is that when you have a healthy body, you have unlimited possibilities,” she said. “She always strived to be the best and gave 100 percent.”
Forever hers: Broncos retire No. 22 in Riley’s honor
Posted: 7:25 PM Aug 19, 2010
Reporter: By Brandon Brigman
Email Address: [email protected]
SNELLVILLE — When Amanda Riley was growing up, she insisted on wearing No. 22 on her basketball jersey.
And if someone already had the number, she would play them for it and win it back.
Brookwood’s girls basketball program made sure no one would ever wear that number again. The Broncos retired Riley’s jersey posthumously on Thursday in the school’s gym in front of family, teammates and friends.
“There aren’t words to express how honored we are. There aren’t words,” Riley’s mother Barbara said. “She’s certainly smiling down on us tonight because she loved that number and she loved this school. Just to know no one else will ever put that uniform on means a lot to her. I know it does. It means a lot to us.”
Riley died this spring at the age of 17 after a 13-month battle with cancer. Her No. 22, which is the day she was born, is the first jersey to be retired in Brookwood’s basketball program for boys or girls.
“I mean, it’s amazing, she deserves it,” longtime friend and teammate Katie Mallow said. “It makes people remember what she was like here and people won’t forget that.”
Thursday’s jersey retirement was part of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream Take the Show on the Road campaign. All the proceeds from the event went toward the Riley Foundation and the Dream upgraded the Broncos’ locker room with a flat screen TV and furniture in Riley’s honor.
“She was such an Atlanta Dream fan,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. “You’ve got to do something, even if it’s a little bit. This was just a little bit. It’s just in honor of a young lady that was going somewhere.”
What people will remember about Riley is a friendly, popular student that maintained an A average while taking honors classes. She was a peer leader and had aspirations of being an elementary school teacher one day.
She was also a pretty good athlete. Riley’s school year was built around sports. She ran cross country in the fall, played basketball in the winter and was on the track team in the spring.
“There was two, maybe three days a year that she came home after school because the sports overlapped,” her father Steve said. “She loved this school.”
Riley led Brookwood’s ninth-grade basketball team to an undefeated season and the tournament championship where she earned MVP honors. She made the varsity as a sophomore and was diagnosed with cancer during her junior season.
“We didn’t care if she scored two points or 20 points, we didn’t care, we just loved watching her play. She enjoyed it,” Barbara said.
Riley was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2009 when doctors found a rare rhabdomyosarcoma tumor on her bladder. After 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation, she appeared to have the cancer beaten earlier this year.
Her cancer fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at the school.
However, in late March she returned to the hospital because of recurring headaches and neck pain. An MRI showed a mass on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord. Riley died on April 9.
The basketball and cross country teams will wear commemorative patches on their uniforms this season in honor of Riley.
“After Amanda’s passing, I thought this was something that would be a great honor to her and an honor for our basketball program to recognize Amanda that way,” Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry said. “It serves as a great reminder to the Brookwood community that it’s not all about athletics. It’s not all about what you can do on the basketball court or football field, what’s more important is the type of person you are and that’s why Amanda was deserving of this honor.
Thursday August 19,2010
Brookwood to retire Riley’s jersey tonight
Late student to be honored at Dream event
Reporter: By Will Hammock
Email Address: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Brookwood%20to%20retire%20Riley’s%20jersey%20tonight
As she battled cancer, Amanda Riley was set to be the recipient of a room makeover, courtesy of the Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team she followed.
Unfortunately, Riley passed away in April at the tender age of 17, leaving behind a slew of grieving friends who had supported her fight with cancer. Through the Dream, she still left a lasting gift to her Brookwood High School girls basketball teammates, who saw their locker room renovated by the pro franchise.
What: Amanda Riley jersey retirement and Atlanta Dream “Take the Show on the Road” event
When: Today, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: Brookwood High School
Tickets: Available at the gate, with proceeds to benefit a scholarship fund in Riley’s honor
“Our relationship with the Dream is really because of Amanda,” Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry said.
The WNBA team brings its “Take the Show on the Road” event to the Snellville high school today, giving Terry and the Brookwood administrators the perfect chance to do something special for Riley, a beloved student who was on the basketball, cross country and track and field teams.
Riley’s No. 22 basketball jersey will be retired during the Dream showcase, making her the first Bronco male or female to have a basketball number retired.
“We’re really thrilled and honored to be able to do it,” Terry said. “It’s a wonderful thing for Amanda. Even though she was able to play varsity (basketball) just the one year, it sends a wonderful message our students, our athletes and our community. It’s not always about athletic accomplishments. How you treat others and what kind of person you are can make a big difference.”
In addition to athletics, Riley was a peer leader and her cancer fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at Brookwood. All proceeds from tonight’s event will benefit a scholarship fund established in Riley’s name.
The Dream’s open practice at 5 p.m. kicks off today’s festivities, followed by Riley’s ceremony at about 7 p.m. The team’s players and coaches then will spend time with mingle with fans and sign autographs.
Riley’s spirit, fight exceptional in cancer battle
Posted: 8:25 PM April 14, 2010 Reporter: Wil Hammock Email Address: [email protected]
In my 13 years with the Daily Post, I can’t begin to count how many high school athletes I’ve written about. Each school year alone, that number is in the thousands. That sheer volume makes it tough for our staff to spend quality time interviewing more than a select few. But each year our paper features some of Gwinnett’s best and brightest, outgoing kids who inspire hope for the future. Amanda Riley was one of those kids — a teenager who Brookwood girls basketball coach Scott Terry called “one of the best people I’ve ever met.” I was fortunate to spend more than an hour with Riley — who passed away last Friday after a long battle with cancer — one afternoon earlier this year. For that, I’m lucky. Sure, the time together was brief, but it’s easy to see why the Brookwood junior touched so many lives. A three-sport athlete, she was loved deeply by her friends in basketball, cross country and track. She also was a peer leader, sharing the warm personality and beaming smile with anyone she encountered. I could sense those traits during our conversation in early February. She openly recapped her painful, tiring battle with cancer up to that point, then shared the joy she felt with the recent news that she was cancer-free. What hurts is that I never got to tell the story I wanted to tell, the one about her beating cancer. The unrelenting disease reappeared weeks later, forcing more medical treatments for a girl that already had endured 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 30 days of radiation and more than 20 blood transfusions when we spoke. Hopes were that the cancer would be finished off, but within the past few weeks it was discovered on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord. Cancer eventually took her life way too soon, robbing her family and friends of more time with such a special kid. She had big plans, some that she shared with me a few months ago. She wanted to go to Georgia, but she was worried about that dream because her grades had slipped slightly, not surprising since she had missed close to 80 days of school and was forced to squeeze in school work between cancer treatments. She wanted to be an elementary school teacher, one who also volunteered her free time to tutor sick children like her who were home- or hospital-bound. She enjoyed basketball, but truly loved running. She couldn’t wait to rejoin her close friends on her three high school teams. She was ready to work on the treadmill and build back the strength, showing the drive and toughness that helped her finish the state cross country race with a severely swollen ankle as a freshman. Riley also learned plenty during her struggles and was eager to share her newfound perspective with others. And she couldn’t even describe how blessed she felt by the outpouring of support she received from her school and church communities. “Just the little things you don’t realize, like (when people say) ‘I hope you’re feeling good today’ or ‘How are you feeling today?’, that made my day (to hear that),” Riley told me. “So I try to be a nicer person and I think it’s made me a better person.” Not just better. One of the best.
Beloved Brookwood student passes away
High school junior Riley waged long fight with cancer
Posted: 7:56 PM Apr 12, 2010
Reporter: By Will Hammock, Sports Editor
Email Address: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Beloved%20Brookwood%20student%20passes%20away
Monday’s post-spring break return to school was an emotional one for Brookwood High School students, who mourned the loss of one of their own, popular junior Amanda Riley.
Riley passed away Friday afternoon while most of her classmates were enjoying a week off from school. The 17-year-old had battled cancer for more than a year and her fight sparked widespread fundraising and cancer education programs at Brookwood.
As of Monday afternoon, the “R.I.P. Amanda Riley” Facebook page had nearly 3,000 fans, who paid their respects to one of the high school’s most well-liked students.
“Amanda is one of the best people I’ve ever met,” said Scott Terry, who coached Riley on Brookwood’s basketball team. “One day I hope my son is fortunate enough and blessed enough to date and marry someone like her. She was a wonderful individual. She had a beautiful smile, an outgoing personality. She was one of the those people you couldn’t help but love being around.”
Riley was first diagnosed with cancer in early March 2009, when doctors found a rare rhabdomyosarcoma tumor on her bladder. After 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation, she appeared to have the cancer beaten earlier this year. She got her driver’s license and was ready to play sports again, but most importantly be a regular teenager.
But in late March — the night before she was to receive the Joe Marelle Courage Award at the Tipoff Club of Gwinnett banquet — she returned to the hospital because of recurring headaches and neck pain. An MRI showed a mass on her brain and at the top of her spinal cord.
The news of her passing this past Friday hit her classmates hard, and Brookwood had extra counselors on hand Monday to deal with their grief.
“Anytime you have the death of a young person like Amanda, even for us as adults, it’s not right,” Terry said. “It’s not right that kids pass away before their parents and grandparents. For her teammates and friends, this is as close to death as they’ve ever been. It’s tough on them in that respect. And when it’s an individual like Amanda, who touched so many lives, it’s very tough on those who knew her. She even made an impact on people who never met her.”
Terry said his e-mail was busy Monday with letters of support for Riley’s family and friends. She made an impact on the basketball community, but also as a runner with the Broncos’ cross country and track teams. She was a state qualifier in cross country before her illness.
She also served as a peer leader, considered to be one of the leaders at her large high school.
“We’re getting by,” Terry said. “It’s been a tough few days here. (Tuesday) will probably be even tougher. But we’ll get through it.”
Funeral services for Riley are at 3 p.m. today at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Snellville.