Prepare to be inspired by 10-year-old Lauren Cunningham.
Sporting her favorite outfit (jean shorts, sporty kicks, a funky T-shirt and a stack of bracelets embossed with the words "Team Lauren" and "Stay Strong #11") and toting her best pal-"Puppy" the stuffed dog-Lauren Cunningham enters the room with a bright smile and a firm handshake. She's polite-quick with a "thank you" and a compliment-and funny, wasting no time before cracking a joke. The 10-year-old Lima resident's got spunk and is, by first impression alone, an incredible kid.
But Lauren's also a tremendously brave kid, one who-despite a daily battle since being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last spring-is doing what she can to speak out for all kids with cancer. In April, Lauren served as the face of tween favorite Justice's national Give Hope campaign, which raised more than $500,000 for The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. The mini fashionista stopped by the Capital Style office this summer to share her story, advocate for leukemia research and talk trends.
Tell me about your Justice experience. How awesome was that?
Very awesome! They gave me a gift card, and I got to go shopping. And then, when we got to the headquarters, everyone was standing around clapping for me.
What did you get to see at the Tween Brands HQ?
I met different people who do different jobs, and one lady showed me two outfits I got to choose from, and then she let me take both. This shirt was one of them. I designed a shirt, too, and they're going to send it to me.
What's on the shirt?
It has a character I made up; it's a mouse who has cancer.
Do you think you'll work in fashion?
I want to be a babysitter. I like kids. Sometimes they can be annoying, but I like them.
Can you tell me a bit about your treatment?
It's not how I planned to spend my year. At all. I didn't plan to go down (to Columbus) every month. I don't think any of us did.
You made a video diary for the hospital, which is featured online. What do you hope to achieve by sharing your story?
Spread more awareness so more people will try to help kids. And adults, but mostly kids!
Your physician, Dr. Vear, said you're getting back into dance soon.
I do tap, ballet and jazz, and I'm going to do hip-hop this year, too.
What's your favorite?
Tap, because you get to make a lot of noise.
What's your favorite way to spend a Saturday?
Going out to the park and playing with Buddy, my puppy. He's a yorkiepoo, and my little sister has a shih-poo. I tried to get Dad to take Buddy here! I've had him four weeks. Now that I'm in maintenance, I'm allowed to have a dog.
What's your favorite sport?
I like to play where the coach puts me, but I like to score goals, because everyone goes, "Yay, Lauren!" and the other team goes "Ugh." I'm an honorary member of the University of Findlay soccer team, and I get to do stuff with them over the summer. And I was a Blue Jackets hero. I met Boone Jenner.
What's your favorite subject at school?
Recess … and reading. I'm reading a book right now about two girls who swapped bodies, called, "If I Were You" [by Leslie Margolis]. I also like the "Junie B. Jones" books.
Favorite TV shows and movies?
I like Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. And I like "Full House."
So, who are some of your role models?
That girl Talia [Castellano]; she got cancer at six and then died. But I really like her because she never wore wigs. Also, my parents. And I also like Kristina Webb; she's an artist, and I like art. Drawing, painting ... ? All of it. I was actually working on a drawing on my way down here, of me and my sister as cartoon characters.
What's it like to be considered a role model yourself?
What do you think makes a good role model?
Being kind and brave no matter what.
So, what's really cool for 10-year-olds these days?
Technology. Social media.
Do you have a favorite app?
My top-used app is Instagram.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I really just want to meet Taylor Swift.
I knew she would come up.
And Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Darius Rucker.
Alright: What's the one thing you want people to know about your experience?
What I post on Facebook-I usually post "I'm happy!" and about having fun-I hardly ever feel like that.
What would help?
Donate. Donate, because Nationwide helped me, but other families can't pay for it. Nationwide doesn't care if families can pay for it-they just care if they can help this child.