After a ten-and-a-half month battle, Myers Elementary second grader Madison Shura passed away on Friday, April 14 in the arms of her parents, Jason and Kelly.
Maddie, just eight years old, fought an inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma since her diagnosis in May 2016. The Bellwood community quickly took to her cause, hosting numerous fund raisers, special events, and school wide movements to not only help offset the cost of her medical expenses, but also make every moment special, just like Maddie.
“Maddie will long be remembered for her love of people and life, and her courage throughout her illness,” said Myers principal Dr. Terri Harpster. “She was an energetic student who continued to attend school until about three weeks ago. We have all been blessed by her presence in our lives.”
The Bellwood-Antis School District held an optional faculty meeting over Easter break at Myers Elementary to discuss how to help students and other faculty members in a time of mourning. When the students returned to school on Tuesday, each homeroom teacher had a small message to deliver to their students about what had happened, and gave resources to what they can do to channel their grief.
Each student was informed that there is no wrong way to grieve, and that there are people available in the building throughout the week that they can talk to.
“The district and UPMC have counselors available at school to assist teachers with classroom activities, and counseling for small groups of students and individual students. We also have information prepared for parents who are not sure how to help their child with grieving. Over the next few days and weeks, we will be celebrating Maddie’s life,” said Dr. Harpster
Maddie’s second grade teacher, Tara Naylor, explained how much Maddie impacted her classroom throughout the year.
“I would explain the experience of being Maddie’s teacher as a blessing. Every day with Maddie was a beautiful day,” said Mrs. Naylor. “She made our class feel complete. She came to school with a bright, brilliant smile on her face, eager to see her classmates and friends, and even more eager to take on some serious learning.”
A viewing was held Wednesday at Russin’s Funeral home in Bellwood, and the funeral Mass service was held Thursday morning at Saint Mark’s Catholic Church in Altoona. Maddie was buried in a pink sparkly dress and her homecoming crown.
Mrs. Naylor said her class is dealing with the loss by remembering how fortunate they were to have had Maddie in their lives, if even for a short time.
“Maddie’s class is coping with her death by celebrating her life. While we discuss the many losses from her death, we find joy and comfort in the memories we have of her and the special impact she made in our lives and in the classroom,” said Mrs. Naylor. “We have identified how lucky and blessed we are that she was able to come to school as often and as long as she did. Teachers, administrators, faculty and staff have come together to provide love and support. We love Maddie…we all love Maddie! Not a day will go by when she isn’t remembered, admired, treasured, deeply missed, and loved.”
Dr. Harpster said Maddie’s battle with cancer taught many lessons to members of the school district both young and old.
“I think she inspires all of us to live each day to its fullest, to those near and dear to us, and to face challenging circumstances with courage and positivity,” she said. “Her fight with cancer also provided authentic opportunities for all of us, adults and students, to give of ourselves to help others, and to become more aware of the number of children and families in the midst of battles with life-threatening illnesses.”