If Erin Buenger was one thing, she was inspirational. Inspirational to her classmates, teachers, the influential and the ordinary.
"People like that story. They like the inspiration of someone who grabs life and just drives it," said Erin's mother Vickie Buenger.
Erin holds the jump rope record at Mary Branch Elementary. A high-energy video of Erin demonstrating her jump rope prowess was shot just minutes after she returned from a cancer treatment, in 2005.
"She lived large everyday," said Vickie.
At age five, Erin was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
"She was not defined by cancer, she was not made by cancer. What she did and what she became was despite having cancer," said her father, Walter Buenger.
One of the many things Erin became, was a lobbyist. A few years ago she traveled to congress in support of the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act.
"I felt like we were needing more research. Hundreds of kids die every year because they don't have the right kinds of medicine to keep them alive," said Erin when News 3 interviewed her in 2007.
While in Washington D.C., she met Congressman Chet Edwards. The two became life-long friends, with Edwards visiting her in the hospital, at home and even coming to class as a real-life visual aid.
"Erin is an inspiration to me. She's a great student but you know what, she's a hard working lobbyist," said Edwards in 2007.
The congressman isn't the only person Erin touched. During one of the three times she lost her hair, her head was autographed by the Tennessee Titans team members, including LenDale White.
"He took her picture and put it in his locker as inspiration as they were making their way to the play-offs last year"said Vickie.
For seven years, Erin battled cancer, but didn't let it stop her from sports, friends or life. Despite the low times, she was always optimistic.
"That she would start feeling better soon," said Vickie.
Erin was already working on Christmas presents of fused glass, and was continuing to hand-bead lanyards to raise money for cancer research.
"We made about 2-thousand dollars," said Vickie.
11-year-old Erin quietly lost her fight a few days ago.
"There will be an empty spot in our hearts and at our tables, in our home, that will not be able to be filled," said Walter.
Erin will be remembered at a memorial service tomorrow, at 2p.m. Monday, at First Presbyterian Church, in Bryan. Family members are expecting hundreds to attend.
For more information on Erin, copy the link below to Vickie Buenger's blog.
Upon hearing of Erin's death, Representative Chet Edwards made the following statement:
"I first met Erin when she came to Washington with her mother to lobby for medical research for children with rare diseases. From the moment I met her, Erin stole my heart with her courage and positive outlook on life. In listening to her talk about the joys of everyday life, one would never know she had ever had a bad day.
Erin had more courage than anyone I have ever known, and to have been her friend was one of the greatest joys in my life. Her spirit of joyous living will forever inspire all of us inspired to have known her.
Erin showed me the purity of her heart when, despite her own fight against cancer, she sent me an email every day for three weeks and three gallons of Blue Bell Ice Cream when I had minor larynx surgery.
Some children are just so special that I have to believe God wants them back to make heaven a better place."
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