The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 26, 2013

Supporting Sasha: Piney Chapel students release balloons for children with cancer

By Lora Scripps

ATHENS — Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. There are, no doubt, a number of everyday heroes in Limestone County, from downtown Athens to the winding back roads of Elkmont.

In the Piney Chapel community, there is one hero who has been a huge inspiration to students of Piney Chapel Elementary School — fourth-grader Sasha Dison.

Though young in years, Sasha has kept her “never give up” spirit as she fights childhood cancer.

Sasha learned she had two tumors in her pelvis and two tumors on her lungs May 26, 2011.

She received 54 weeks of treatments at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and was declared cancer free Sept. 13, 2012.

On March 14, 2013, she learned the cancer had returned in the form of two small tumors —one in her bladder and another in her spine. She is currently undergoing experimental treatment for recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma.

On Friday, students at Piney Chapel elementary honored Sasha’s ongoing fight. Yellow balloons were released above the school to show not only the community’s commitment to Sasha but also to so many other children who fight the disease.

Sasha’s fourth-grade teacher, Tina Murphy, describes Sasha as a “sweet and brave little girl.”

“We want Sasha to know that even though she isn’t with us each day at school, we still think about her and miss her every day,” Tina said. “We want her to know that we love and support her.”

Larissa Dison, Sasha’s mom and a first-grade teacher at Piney Chapel, wrote about the event — which is part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month — in Sasha’s online CaringBridge journal.

“Every class, from kindergarten to fifth grade, came outside holding yellow balloons,” Larissa wrote. “It was amazing … bright yellow dots on the deep blue sky. We all kept looking at the balloons and, probably, everyone tried to guess where they are going to land.”

Tina said about the experience,  “We could just see the joy in her (Sasha’s) face as the balloons were released in the sky. She was also excited to see her friends.”

Larissa wrote that although there was a “no hugging, no touching” policy because of Sasha’s immunity, the visit and ceremony was “very heart-warming.”

 “All the way home she was telling me about her classmates, every small detail during our short visit was important to her, and she admitted that she misses her classmates very much,” Larissa wrote. “Our family is very grateful to have the support of Piney Chapel during this difficult journey. We are very blessed to be here.”

To find out more about Sasha’s journey, go online to   dison.