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Boy honors sister’s life through fundraising, head-shaving event

Emma German, of Belle Plaine, Minn., passed away in September, four years after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Her brother, Brady, continues to raise money for cancer research and shave his head in her honor through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s annual “Shave the Day” event at Children’s – Minneapolis.

by Brady Gervais

In the small town of Belle Plaine, Minn., everyone knows about Emma. A “girlie girl,” Emma was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2010 when she was 3. She loved fashion, sparkles, makeup and accessories. The more glitter, the better. She loved to dance and sing, play piano and do arts and crafts. She and her older brother, Brady, entertained their family with weekly skits and dances.

Emma was so adored that in 2013, she was invited to be a “celebrity shaver” at a St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving event at Children’s that raises money for cancer research. While watching Emma shave heads, Brady was spurred to help, too. Emma’s doctor offered to donate to St. Baldrick’s if Brady became a shavee. He agreed and then challenged his mom to donate, too. Earlier that day, his mom had received an anonymous cash gift. She donated the money for the cause.

Later that night, Brady told his mom that he wouldn’t cut his hair until the following year, when people would shave the day again for St. Baldrick’s at Children’s. As his hair grew throughout 2013 and early 2014, people commented on his long locks. Whenever they did, Brady told them that he was raising money for pediatric cancer research, his sister was undergoing cancer treatment and he wanted to help kids like Emma get much-needed medicine. He raised more than $4,000.

After spending four years in and out of the hospital, Emma passed away Sept. 24, 2014. She was 7. But her story doesn’t end there; it lives on in her big brother. This year, after Emma’s death, Brady has aspired to do much more.

“Brady loves and misses his little sister terribly, and it hurts him SO much to do this without her,” their mom, Keriann, said. “But raising money to help fund clinical trials that can hopefully help find treatments that can save other children battling cancer is a great way to honor someone we have lost to the disease.”

Brady recruited eight of his classmates from his fourth-grade class at Oak Crest Elementary and his favorite teacher, Mr. Don Fraser, to commit to shaving their heads and raising money, too. Brady named his team “Emma’s Acorns” — a tribute to his sister and school. He tells his friends that he wants to “help the doctors and scientists find better medicines for kids with cancer so that other kids don’t have to lose a brother or sister to cancer like he did.”

At the St. Baldrick’s event at Children’s on Thursday, Brady’s friends will wear pink, a color they unanimously picked to honor Emma. Their moms will wear purple, another favorite of Emma’s. So far, Brady and his friends have raised more than $10,000. And each one has told Keriann that they plan to shave their heads and raise money annually to honor Emma.

“I know that Emma is the reason Brady is doing this,” Keriann said, “and his friends are proud to support him in his efforts to raise money and awareness of the importance of funding clinical trials for pediatric cancer.”

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

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