Courtesy Lilly Pulitzer(NEW YORK) — An 8-year-old girl battling leukemia turned her love of art and design into a way to help other kids also fighting cancer.
Mary Andersen, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) nearly two years ago.
She underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and is now in remission but continues to get maintenance chemotherapy through daily medication and a monthly IV, according to her mom, Liz Andersen.
During her treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Mary was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She decided that instead of choosing a once-in-a-lifetime trip, her wish was to design a print for Lilly Pulitzer, the fashion brand known for its whimsical, popular designs.
Mary, whose bedroom is decorated in Lilly Pulitzer bedding and wallpaper, told Make-A-Wish officials that she wanted to create items like headbands and water bottles featuring her print and have the proceeds go to CHOP to support children’s cancer research.
“I wanted to help support the kids at CHOP and to help cancer research so if kids get sick with cancer like me they won’t have to go through it like I have,” Mary told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Last December, Mary’s wish came true.
“She was looking forward to it for months ahead of time,” Andersen said of Mary’s Wish Day. “During some really challenging times of her treatment it distracted her and was exactly what she needed.”
Mary was picked up from her home and escorted to Lilly Pulitzer headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in the brand’s famous Lilly Pulitzer jeep (a moment she described as one of her favorite parts of the day). She was greeted with pink doughnuts at the headquarters and got a behind-the-scenes tour before starting to design her print with the brand’s designers.
“She came to us with a very clear vision and our reaction was ‘Of course, we’d love to be part of this,'” said Michelle Kelly, CEO of Lilly Pulitzer. “She seems to have a great sense of what makes people happy, which is what the Lilly Pulitzer brand is striving to do every day.”
The “Magical Mary” print designed by Mary features unicorns because, Mary said, “I just kind of love unicorns.”
It also has her three favorite colors — pink, purple and blue — and features daisies, a nod to CHOP’s Daisy Days annual fundraiser, and daffodils, a symbol of the American Cancer Society.
The print also has her name, Mary, hidden in the design, along with the words “Mary’s Wish by Lilly Pulitzer.”
“I loved it a whole lot and it made me feel good,” Mary said of designing her print.
The team at Lilly Pulitzer fast tracked Mary’s design and it will be available online on April 27 and in Lilly Pulitzer stores around the U.S. on April 29. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to CHOP.
“We work so hard on every print. Normally we’d go through multiple rounds of editing and deciding and making sure it’s exactly what our customers want,” said Kelly. “This time it was about what Mary wanted, and I think our customers will be just beyond thrilled.”
Mary’s “Magical Mary” print is featured on a popover jacket and dress available in kids’ sizes and a hat. She got to see the print for the first time this month and model it in a Lilly Pulitzer photo shoot with her three brothers.
Mary’s print will be introduced at a launch party this Saturday in King of Prussia, attended by the Lilly Pulitzer team and Mary’s friends and family.
“We just want to thank everyone for their support,” said Andersen. “So many people have told me they’re going to come [Saturday] and just the kind words, and thoughts and prayers for Mary over the past year, we’re just overwhelmed by the support.”
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