(Originally published on March 5, 2013)
A celebration infused with music and art was held on Sunday to remember the life and legacy of Kajal Patel, the Athens Academy student who passed away last week.
Kajal battled an immune disorder nearly all of her life. In the fall of 2011, she suffered a stroke, and doctors told the family her best chance of recovery would involve a bone marrow transplant.
The odds seemed daunting -- a one in over 20,000 chance of finding a match -- but Kajal's classmates and teachers rallied around her and organized an incredible event to "Be a Hero for Kajal."
The world-record-breaking Marrow-Thon was held last spring and more than 4,000 individuals, including many University of Georgia students, registered as possible bone marrow donors with Be The Match during a seven-day period.
Amazingly, the drive yielded multiple matches for Kajal, but she had to wait for her health to improve before undergoing the procedure in January of this year. Her brother Anshul was the donor.
The transplant was successful, according to the family, but Kajal took a sudden turn for the worse and died on Feb. 25, 2013.
Though Kajal has passed, she leaves behind a legacy that will endure, evident by the many family members, friends, and classmates who remembered the thirteen year old on Sunday and vowed to continue to impact the world as she had done.
"The impact that Kajal's life has had on others knows absolutely no bounds," remarked Kajal's sixth grade teacher, Drew Brantley. "There are literally thousands of people in this community, across the county and around the world that have been positively influenced and affected by Kajal, the bone Marrow-Thon, and everything that Kajal stands for."
Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson presented a special memento in honor of the young hero.
"Kajal won the heart of all of our community," Denson said. She then gifted the family a glass statue representing the Heart of the City "so that you'll remember that Athens-Clarke County and this whole community loved, and will always love, your little girl."
Watch the school's webcast of the full service here.
Donations in Kajal's memory may be made to the Fund for Youth Service and Leadership at PO Box 647, Watkinsville, GA 30677 or Athens Academy/Kajal PO Box 6548 Athens, GA 30604.