Taylor Filorimo now face of childhood cancer

Taylor Filorimo now face of childhood cancer

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Taylor Filorimo now face of childhood cancer

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MURFREESBORO

Taylor Filorimo refused to live in fear of cancer. And in the process, she became the face of childhood cancer.

Filorimo, a 16-year-old Riverdale softball player, died Wednesday from complications of renal-cell carcinoma after battling the disease for three years. She is believed to have been the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with the disease.

Filorimo became a face for childhood cancer through the past three years as she fought it head on. She never shied away from being a lightning rod for childhood cancer awareness.

“She said she got it for a reason,” said her mother, Maria Filorimo. “She said she would change the face of cancer. I thought she would do great things, but I never imagined it would be through cancer.”

The viewing will be held from 4-8 p.m. Friday at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Community, located at 601 Bell Road. A second viewing is scheduled from 9-11 a.m. Saturday with a mass following immediately afterward.

Filorimo was diagnosed in 2009. She was on the Riverdale softball roster the past three seasons, but never had an at bat or played an inning in the field.

Maria Filorimo said she can remember the day her daughter tried out as an incoming freshman. Her daughter had a bad headache that day, but insisted on going through tryouts in front of Riverdale coach Jeff Breeden, who is now the MTSU softball coach.

“I’ll never forget Breeden telling us that she didn’t have to do this,” she said. “But Taylor said, ‘I will not have someone say I’m on this team because I have cancer.’ She was a trooper.”

Despite not being able to play, Filorimo still left an impact on the team and coaching staff.

“She never got to play a game at Riverdale,” Breeden said. “We always put her on the roster and on the lineup card. She was as much of the program as she could be. We thought of her as a player and as an athlete. But it turned into so much more.

“Her passing is so horrible because she is so young. A lot of people loved her. But somewhere in the grand scheme of things, the Lord must have had a master plan for her. The last three years she has witnessed and really been a role model for so many people. All you had to do is look at her life the last three years and look how upbeat and positive she was even though she was thrown a curve ball that wasn’t very good for her.”

Breeden said Filorimo was a talented softball player. He said had she been healthy he thinks she would have contended for a starting spot as a freshman and had college potential.

No fear

Filorimo lived by her favorite saying: “I will not let the fear of cancer strike me out.”

“She was fearless,” said former Riverdale softball assistant Dennis Weaver. “She had zero fear and she was selfless. She was always thinking of someone else.

“She was never bitter. She got dealt the most cruel hand that any person could be dealt, especially for a 13-year-old. But I never saw her be bitter or depressed. I saw her hurt, and I saw her cry. But I never saw her bitter and seeking pity. It was always about someone else. She was more worried about people becoming more attuned about childhood-cancer awareness than she was about her.

“She’s known for better than two years that this day was coming, and she was the one that feared it the least I think.”

Riverdale sophomore Caroline Faulkner became best friends with Filorimo through softball. The two began playing travel softball together when they were in the sixth grade. They played on a team that won the world series and finished 25th at the nationals.

It was during a tournament in 2009 that Filorimo was diagnosed with cancer.

“She was always a happy person,” Faulkner said. “She always liked making people smile. She wanted people to know she was OK.

“Every time I’d see her in the hospital, or when she was sick, she’d act like everything was OK.”

Faulkner described her close friend as a normal teenage girl. Filorimo loved to shop. Her favorite color was lime green. Lime green bracelets and T-shirts with the words “Pray 4 Tay” became frequent the past couple years as people expressed their support.

Filorimo was airlifted to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Tuesday evening as she took a turn for the worse medically. Family and friends immediately began asking for prayers on different social media outlets. At one point Tuesday evening, the hashtag #Pray4Tay was trending above #FirstLady during Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention.

Impact felt

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. A gold ribbon is used, much like pink ribbons are with breast cancer, to remind people of childhood cancer.

Friends say that Taylor Filorimo hoped one day the gold ribbon would become as recognizable as pink.

“Taylor defines selfless,” tweeted Karen Clark, a friend of the family. “She has always thought of others along her journey and wants gold to be the new pink.”

Added Theresa Green, Filorimo’s aunt, “Taylor was very passionate about childhood cancer. Her passion was to see the gold ribbon on everything and anything. She wanted people to know about going gold and supporting childhood cancer research. She ended up trending on Twitter. She definitely made a difference.”

The softball community mourned the loss as it began to be announced on Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.

Many knew Filorimo was in bad shape, but it didn’t make her loss any easier.

“I’ve never met a stronger person or family,” wrote Leslie Kendall, a family friend, in an email. “Tay inspired me every day with her spirit, strength, courage and hope. She and her family have been a model of how to face and cope with adversity and hardship. No matter how she hurt, she cared for others before herself.

“I am a better person for knowing Tay. All I can do now is to ‘Live 4 Tay’ and try to love and embrace life as she did.”

Lisa Albritten’s daughter Amy, who plays softball at Blackman High, played with Filorimo in travel ball. She said the softball community was touched by her.

“There are so many wonderful things about Tay and her whole family,” Lisa Albritten said. “Tay and my daughter played travel ball together years ago, and she was the absolute sweetest girl anyone would ever meet and obviously a fighter. She will be remembered in the softball family forever.”

Riverdale’s softball team took the death hard, said Weaver. But he added her life changed more than just those at Riverdale. Many current and former athletes from other schools in the county also played with her or knew her.

Blackman softball coach Tory Woodyard plans on having the No. 25 on her Lady Blaze’s helmets in memory of Filorimo and has emailed the rest of District 7-AAA in hopes they will follow suit. Filorimo wore No. 25 at Riverdale.

“Taylor has made more of an impact in her 16 years than I will make if I live to be 116,” Weaver said. “She was just an amazing, amazing person. I don’t know if anyone could have carried the cross that she’s had to carry.”

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