Nine-year-old Abigail Kelley died in June from complications from a brain tumor. She was first diagnosed at age 4 with juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma.
Collins Dixon, 12, battled brain cancer for 10 months and died in January.
The tree is dedicated each year to Cherokee County residents who have died from cancer. Gayle Johnson, chairperson of the committee in charge of Love Lights a Tree, said Dixon and Kelley were chosen as 2012 honorees because of the way they inspired the community.
“They had a big impact on the community. They had a lot of impact on the younger people,” she said.
Abigail Kelley of Ball Ground was the daughter of Shannon and Amy Kelley. She attended Ball Ground Elementary before being homeschooled. Abigail’s positive attitude shown throughout her life, Amy Kelley said.
“She never complained. She never said, ‘Why me?’ She put a positive spin on every situation,” she said. “She gave us as much strength as we ever tried to give her.”
Amy said having the tree dedicated to Abigail is a great honor for her family.
“It’s also a good time for us to say thank you to the community. The community as a whole has embraced us, with how thoughtful they’ve been, and how supportive of our family,” she said.
Collins Dixon, a Teasley Middle School student and son of Bob and Robin Dixon, was a sports lover with a strong faith.
“He was full of life. He went at things, especially sports, at full speed. He gave everything his all. … He never gave up on his faith. That’s his legacy,” Bob Dixon said.
The Collins family has started the Bend Your Knees Foundation to raise money and awareness regarding brain tumors in children. The foundation’s first 5K, held in July, brought out more than 1,000 runners.
“We need to be able to help other families going through this. We were going to travel basketball one week, and in the hospital the next. It rocked our world,” Bob said.
The Dixon family has been “humbled” by the community’s support during Collins’s illness and after his death, Bob said, including the dedication of Love Lights a Tree.
The Bend Your Knees Foundation is participating in Cherokee County Relay for Life this year to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“We’re raising money for that, since (ACS) is able to do things on the research level,” Bob said.
A foundation founded in honor of Abigail Kelley, Cure it for Kids, raises money for the Aflac Cancer Center at Scottish Rite. Amy Kelley said her family is glad to be part of the American Cancer Society’ efforts through Love Lights a Tree.
“It would be a wonderful thing for no family to have to go through cancer,” she said.
Love Lights a Tree is a fundraiser for Cherokee County Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Ornaments in honor or in memory of those who have had cancer are available for donations of $15 or more. Ornaments will be available to purchase at Friday night’s event and through the end of the year.
Artist Brenda Tustian donated a print to be raffled off at the event. Tickets will be available Friday night.
So far, Love Lights a Tree has raised $4,000 this year, Johnson said.
The ceremony will be at the downtown Canton gazebo in Cannon Park. Entertainment includes Daily Bread and dancers from the Academy of Dance Art. Santa Claus will be on hand for photos, so bring a camera. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served.