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11-year-old battling cancer will participate in Sunday's annual Run for Riley

Friday, October 11, 2013 - 7:25 am

Eleven-year-old Aleigha Sweet is a living, breathing, definition of courage.

First diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer at age 4, only the 51st case on record, she beat the odds with only one relapse. Until Aug. 9 she had been cancer free. The discovery of a new tumor in a different part of her body has led to another diagnosis of a rare cancer, this time embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. Aleigha's cancer is only the second reported case of this type in a child; it occurs more often in older women.

“Yup, she seems to only have the rare cancers,” her father, Tom Sweet, said.

The disease attacks soft tissue in the body, the National Cancer Institute says on its website, www.cancer.gov.

Thursday afternoon Aleigha, a Bloomingdale Elementary student, had just returned from a round of chemotherapy at Lutheran Children's Hospital. She had taken one of her two dogs for a walk, still in her Hello Kitty pajamas, and looked about ready for a nap. But she was still happy to show off some T-shirts that were being sold at her school, bright pink, with Team Aleigha on the back.

For the fourth year Aleigha will be participating in the Annual Run for Riley, this Sunday at Maple Creek Middle School, 425 Union Chapel Road. This is the 7th annual Aboite Podiatry Run for Riley.

“It will be different this year. This is the first year she will be participating with cancer,” Tom Sweet said.

Over the past six years the run has raised almost $77,000 for Riley's Hospital for Children. The organizers are hoping to break $100,000 this year. The event averages about 800 people, so organizers see this as a very doable goal. Race registration is $25 per person and that entire fee goes directly to the children at Riley.

Every registered participant gets a free dinner from Casa's restaurant; a long- sleeve technical shirt and a free workout pass to any Max Fitness in Fort Wayne. The race will start at 2 p.m. and starts and stops at Maple Creek Middle School. Downloadable brochures are available at runforriley.org. The last chance to register for the event is from noon-4 p.m. Saturday at Max Fitness at Dupont and Lima Road.

Rain or shine the Sweets will be there.

“If it wasn't for Riley Children's Hospital, we wouldn't have her,” Tom Sweet said.