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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:09:18 11:02:39

STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER Tunkhannock sixth grader Kara Cook smiles amidst the current health challenges she faces.

Before Kara Cook reached first grade she had two heart surgeries, fought off a cancerous brain tumor and even endured a bone marrow transplant.

That’s more than most of us might have to deal with in a lifetime.

“She’s an amazing girl,” her mom Alisha Cook said Monday.

In the spring of 2016, Tunkhannock Area Middle School Principal Sue Bugno cast her in the student spotlight noting she deserved to be there because of what she had overcome healthwise in her young life, and then because despite it all she was able to perform at age level with her classmates.

Despite the traumas her body went through, she was able to get stronger and stronger each day enough to perform with baton in hand in the T-Town twirlers and do a little dancing.

“She was doing so well,” mom said.

Cook was looking forward to being in school this fall to start sixth grade, but around two months ago she started to not feel herself.

Constipation appeared, and the doctors believe that colon cancer had set in, and off to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia - CHOP for short - Kara went with her mom and dad Wally Cook by her side.

They just came back a week ago, after seven grueling weeks, and Kara said it couldn’t have come soon enough because she didn’t really care all that much for hospital food.

With a twinkle in her eye, Kara also let it be known she missed her cats Chelsea and Mystic, and dog Sadie,and her friends.

“She’s not out of the woods yet,” mom said, “but she’s a real fighter.”

Unfortunately, the Cooks’ health care costs have been mounting, and so members of the East Lemon United Methodist Church decided they would turn their annual fall festival - slated for this weekend - into a benefit for Kara.

Starting around 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, and running to 3 p.m., there will be a bake sale and flea market, and chicken barbecue which starts serving at 11:30 a.m. until sold out. Wimpies, hamburgers and hot dogs will also be available.

Bluegrass musicians will be on hand to entertain folks and, oh yes, the Twirlers will also be there.

Alisha said she and Wally had so many to thank, starting with Kara’s pediatrician Dr. Rebecca Grimaud-Chilson and her oncology team at CHOP - led by Dr. Jean Belasco.

“Everyone has just been so wonderful,” Alisha said, “and what can you say about Kara? Even if she’s having a bad day, her smile just lights up the room.”

The East Lemon Church is just off Rt. 92, about three miles north of Deer Park Lumber.