Family remember Oak Lawn girl, 8, as a princess
BY MIKE DEACON firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 5:55PM
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:39AM
Little Sarah McElheny probably didn’t realize it, but when she would run through the home and back yard of her Uncle Fred and Aunt Lynn chasing their dog, she also was dancing her way into their hearts.
“Sarah was full of energy and fascinated by the wonders of life,” Fred Howard said Tuesday.
Sarah, the 8-year-old whom the Oak Lawn community had rallied around after she was diagnosed with leukemia in March, died Sunday night.
Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Thompson & Kuenster Funeral Home, 5570 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Louis de Montfort Church, 8808 Ridgeland Ave., Oak Lawn.
Fred Howard said the images of Sarah burned into his memory are those of her pretending to be a princess, chasing butterflies and dogs, loving the outdoors.
“She had a seemingly endless supply of energy,” he said.
Sarah, who would have been a third-grader at Columbus Manor Elementary School in Oak Lawn, was a good student and a “proud cheerleader” for the Oak Lawn Outlaws youth football team, her family said on smilesforsarah.com, a website set up to tell her story and raise money for the family’s mounting medical bills.
This year, the Outlaws ordered pink jerseys for all players and cheerleaders to wear for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in part to honor Sarah. She was one of the reasons league officials thought it was not only important to participate but to explain to the football players and cheerleaders why they were taking part and that wearing pink wasn’t just a “cool” way to emulate pro football players who don the color in October.
A benefit for Sarah earlier this month at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park also drew a huge crowd from the community.
“We’re so grateful to so many people,” Lynn Howard said.
Sarah also was infected with West Nile virus, diagnosed after she went for a chemotherapy treatment on Aug. 3. But her family will remember her as active, happy and healthy, a loving little girl who loved going to school and was a good student.
“We have a lot of fond memories of her,” Lynn Howard said.
Fred Howard said he was certain Sarah is in heaven with her grandmother, “eating a chocolate sundae right now.”
Sarah is survived by her parents, Patricia McElheny and Perry Austin; and brothers Cody and Matthew McElheny.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Sarah’s name to Make-A-Wish Illinois. Donations can be mailed to Make-A-Wish Illinois, 640 N. LaSalle, Suite 280, Chicago, IL 60654, or made online by visiting www.wishes.org.
Contributing: Susan DeMar Lafferty