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Family turns grief into giving

Jaden Austin (Source Austin family) Jaden Austin (Source Austin family)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -A Lawton family is working to continue their daughter's legacy of helping others while she bravely fought a rare, lethal form of cancer. 

Jaden Austin died ten months ago after a three-year battle with undifferentiated sarcoma. She was only 14. Shortly after she was diagnosed, Jaden asked her family to create the 'Team Jaden Foundation,' which conducted toy drives and blood drives so Jaden could help other children who were also facing terminal illnesses. Now, they're holding their first toy drive without her, but they hope the community will help them continue her legacy.

Jaden's mom, Mary Austin, was with her daughter in the hospital while she was undergoing radiation. When it was time for the toy cart to come around one day, it was empty. Jaden told her mom she wasn't disappointed she didn't get a toy, she was disappointed because the other wouldn't get a toy and it would dampen their spirits.

Mary Austin says when a child is fighting something as big as cancer, it's hard to just be a kid.

"A lot times the kids go from room to room, they'll play head bands, or do a word game or they'll do arts and crafts. It gives them that time away from what they're actually going through," Austin said.

Austin says that single moment of peace may be a child's saving grace after looking in the mirror at the effects of the radiation.

"Often times she didn't want to face a lot of people because of the way that she looked, her appearance. She didn't have any hair, she either gained weight or loss weight depending on what she was going through," Austin said.

It's just as hard on the parents. Austin says thinking about the last moments she shared with her daughter when she was active brings tears to her eyes.

"It was like a moment that she wasn't sick and that feeling of her not being sick, not being in bed. She was up doing something, she was interacting and that's what I wanted to see," Austin said.

Those are the moments the Team Jaden Foundation is hoping to bring to other families living through the same heartache.

"We are asking our community to help us help others," Austin said.

Austin says she knows of at least four children fighting for their lives in Lawton between the ages of 1 and 14.

During Jaden's life, they were able to hold two toy drives and various blood drives. She told her mom, before she passed, she just wanted to leave a mark on her community.

If you'd like to help a child and keep Jaden's legacy alive, you have until Friday, March 11, to make a donation.

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