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Mountain Brook Junior High School
Over six years ago, Marissa's mother Ethel was diagnosed with breast cancer. With her parents' support and guidance, Marissa faced her mother's illness with courage, determination, and great maturity. As Ethel battled a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and recurrences of the disease, Marissa and her father stood firmly beside her and supported her with love. Within the last few years, Marissa's aunt and grandmother have also been diagnosed with cancer. Although she faced challenges and seemingly insurmountable obstacles each and every day, Marissa demonstrated amazing fortitude and inner strength. The experience of dealing with her family's cancer transformed her from a remarkable child into a young woman possessing wisdom far beyond her years.
Throughout the years, she excelled in everything she undertook. She was an outstanding student, an accomplished pianist, singer, and dancer. She helped collect toys for needy children, supplies for victims of a hurricane, and books for students at a partner school. This past fall, she made gift bags for cancer survivors and raised money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She and her family became involved in the Foundation's "Race for the Cure" after her mother was diagnosed with the disease. This year she was the organization's youngest volunteer. She made over 200 gift bags for the survivors and helped make 36 gift bows which raised $3,600 for the Foundation. As a result of the work that she did, she was awarded the 2001 Prudential Spirit of Community Award for Mountain Brook Junior High School and later she was selected as one of the top two teen volunteers for the state of Alabama.
On January 4, 2001, Marissa was diagnosed with leukemia. On February 17, 2001, Marissa lost her battle with this disease.