She was a little girl, full of life.
But Paulina Cooper’s life was cut way too short, when five years ago at the age of 6, she lost her battle with a brain tumor.
“It’s always with you,” Paulina’s mom, Ann Cooper, said. “There are some days I might not think about it, but then there’s always something that will remind me of her. It doesn’t go away.”
The Coopers, of Lawrence, will honor their daughter’s memory Saturday with the third annual Paulina Cooper Dot-to-Dot 5K race/walk.
The event will be at Corporate Woods, 9401 Indian Creek Parkway, in Overland Park, with the race getting under way at 8 a.m. You can register on the day of the race beginning at 6:30 a.m.
But the event aims to do much more than just remember Paulina, who received a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor called an intrinsic pontine glioma when she was 5 years old. The Coopers also hope to raise money for pediatric brain tumor research and hopefully spare other families the pain of losing a child to the disease.
“They say everybody has a purpose or a gift, and we really felt like Paulina’s gift was that ability to connect to people,” Ann Cooper said. “She was drawn to people, and people were drawn to her.”
And that’s how the Coopers came up with the idea of the Dot-to-Dot race, which now, in its third year, is on track to raise $60,000.
“It’s awe-inspiring,” Paulina’s dad, James Cooper, said. “We had no idea what we were doing trying to get this thing going. … All that support and raising that type of money, it just blew us away.”
Paulina fought her battle for 13 months, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, followed by a clinical trial in Chicago. The treatment worked for a short time, before the tumor came back with a vengeance.
Ann Cooper said now more than ever, it’s important to raise money for research and development of drugs that can slow the growth of brain tumors in children, or better yet, eliminate them completely.
“There has not been a new treatment for brain tumors in the last 25 years,” she said. “And the economy is cutting back on clinical trials because there’s no funding for it.”
“It’s very important,” James Cooper said. “It affects kids right before they can even start truly living. There’s a lot of focus on cancers that adults get, but the children need something that can help them.”