7-year-old who died of neuroblastoma to be remembered during community memorial service

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COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Inside a classroom at Saddlewood Elementary School, there’s desk with stuffed animals and cards. All of them in honor of a brave student who always loved school.

“She’d be so happy to go to school. She always wanted to go to school. Like, sometimes I would have to say, ‘If you don’t walk, you can’t go to school,'” said Danielle Fernandez, Charlie Fernandez’s mom.

Charlie’s parents, Jason and Danielle, say school was a way for their 7-year-old daughter to escape the pain she endured during countless treatments for neuroblastoma, a rare cancer with low odds of survival.

“Even with the kind of injustice that was her life, she taught us about living. Every day she showed up. She wanted to do everything everyone else could do,” said Sarah Norton, Charlie’s teacher.

And Charlie could always look forward to Mrs. Sarah Norton’s classroom.

Their bond really grew outside of school during Mrs. Norton’s frequent visits with Charlie at the hospital. After tumors robbed Charlie of her eyesight, Mrs. Norton even trained her therapy dog George to go for walks with Charlie.

And on tough days, George always had room on his doggie bed for his special human while they were in Mrs. Norton’s room.

NEWS10 ABC first met Sarah and Charlie last winter when the South Colonie teacher won the Staples “Thank A Teacher” award after being nominated by Charlie’s parents. It was around that time that Charlie’s cancer had returned.

Sarah shared a photo of what would be Charlie’s final week of school: her on the doggie bed with George watching over her.

It was on April 19 that her parents say their daughter entered Heaven’s Playground.

Anya: “That’s how you would like to imagine it? To see her?”
Danielle: “Yeah.”
Anya: “No pain.”
Danielle: “No pain. No problems.”
Jason: “Lots of angels up there with her.”
Sarah: “I see her running with the puppies. I see her with friends. Being able to see. It’s just being Charlie, you know.”

Charlie’s parents hope her story will encourage others who are fighting their own tough battles. And for all of us to cherish those walks with a good friend who is there when you really need them.

Charlie also leaves behind her younger sister McKenzie, her classmates, and countless loved ones who will be celebrating her life during a Sunday memorial service on the football field of South Colonie High School at 1 p.m. Those who can’t attend are asked to wear pink or purple, her favorite colors.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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