Madeline McTier — an amazing spirit

Teen succumbed to brain cancer on Tuesday

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Madeline McTier


The cancer and ensuing radiation and chemotherapy that had denied Madeline McTier of her long auburn hair shortly following surgery in March 2012 to remove a golf ball-sized tumor at the base of her brain also robbed most of her speech in her final days.

But in her passing on Tuesday, those who surrounded the East Coweta High School junior cheerleader with love and support shared what made her “an amazing spirit” for her 17 years.

“She was always funny. She was the star of the show wherever we went, always making people laugh,” said ECHS cheerleader and friend Macy McKnight. “She was a trend-setter.”

McTier’s final 18 months were dominated by a dream to beat the disease and return alongside her teammates both at East Coweta and with ACE Cheer of Atlanta.

“Even when she wasn’t cheering she came to every practice,” McKnight said. “She always felt like she would come back to the team. It was her dream to go to Alabama, and to go there and cheer. We were going to room there together.”

On June 11, McTier had been making progress and announced via Twitter, in all capitals, “I KICKED CANCER’S BUTT,” shortly following her last dose of chemo.

Though she got to come home for a part of a week, the disease had taken its toll physically.

Before returning to the hospital for a final time, McTier continued to showcase her wit, at one point commenting about a trip to the beach with younger brother Max: “This car ride with my 12 year old brother << Pray for me y’all.”

“She couldn’t talk much but she’d always ask me about cheer,” said McKnight. “She always wanted an update.”

“She just had an amazing spirit about her,” said East Coweta Principal Evan Horton said "She was just one of the most positive people that you would ever come in contact with.”

Before arriving at school Wednesday, some students engaged in outdoor prayer circles, the majority wearing McTier’s favorite color — pink. By way of social media, students at the county’s other high schools followed that trend as well.

Students at East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate have voiced their support for McTier by planning to wear grey — representing brain cancer awareness — to Friday’s respective home football games. Players from both teams at ECHS’s Garland Shoemake Stadium will wear helmet stickers, and there will be a pregame balloon release.

"It's going to be a good time to come together and remember a very special child,” Horton said.

Visitation will be Saturday at McKoon Funeral Home, 38 Jackson Street, Newnan, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. A memorial service will follow on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Crossroads Church, 3620 Hwy. 16 East. The family requests those attending to wear pink to the service.

McTier’s story has touched people far from Coweta.

Supporters from all over the world have placed messages on the PrayForMadeline Facebook page, which has more than 9,400 likes.

"In 17 years, she was able to do what a lot of people don't do in a lifetime,” Horton said. “Not only has she brought this community together, and this school closer together — we're talking about across the state, the nation, the world. She has been able to bring people together, through the way that she fought and through the person she was."

"What a lasting legacy," said Horton.

Horton said he never saw McTier without a smile on her face, even when he went to see her in the hospital.

"No matter what the circumstance, she was always positive. Just caring and compassionate," he said. "She was a special one. You don't run across them like her every day," Horton said. "I know sometimes that cliché might get overused. It's not getting overused here. She had the unique ability to make everybody else feel better," he said. "I think you are going to be hard pressed to find anybody else that doesn't feel that way."

Horton said he is a “better person and a better principal because I have known this child.”

“She was that kind,” Horton said. “Yep, she was that kind.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Madeline Fund at any Bank of Georgia branch or by mail at 10 Baynard Park, Newnan, GA 30265.

The Madeline Fund will make contributions to organizations and charities to honor the passions in McTier's life.

The students and faculty at Sandy Creek have been great, according to Horton. "They were calling yesterday afternoon. Again, you don't have to look very far to see the type of impact things like this have had."

A fundraiser will proceed as scheduled on Sept. 22. "We have been planning this benefit for about three-and-a-half weeks now… we had hoped this was not going to happen," said Gail Higgins, one of the organizers of the fundraiser and the moderator of the Pray For Madeline page.

The event will be held in Senoia at The Hunter Complex on Hwy. 16 East. It will begin with a walk/run at 8 a.m. Shortly after noon there will be the presentation of the colors and the National Anthem, and then the memorial bike ride will begin. "There will be tons of vendors and live music," Higgins said.

Performers will include country artist Zach Lunsford, who has been featured on CMT, locals Corbitt Jackson and the Hudson Road band, and several others. There will be a 50/50 raffle and T-shirt sales and "every single dime will go to the McTier family for medical expenses," Higgins said. If there is anything left over it may go into a fund for other local cancer patients. She said they are expecting close to 400 bikes.

There are also vehicle decals for sale. "The community has been awesome," Higgins said. They were at Walmart selling decals and received lots of support. "One percent, maybe, said no or passed us by," she said.

Those who can't attend the event can purchase T-shirts from Higgins by e-mailing gailhiggins1964@att.net.

Higgins said McTier's story has reached more than 200,000 people through Facebook. "Comments are coming in constantly," she said. The farthest one was from Athens, Greece, and there are several from South America and, of course, all over the United States.

"She has touched people," Higgins said.

(Staff writer Chris Goltermann contributed to this story)

***

THOUGHTS OF MADELINE

Following are various posts collected on social media sites after the passing of Madeline McTier. They are printed as posted:

Many pink outfits at ECHS today.... Everyone remembering Madeline. My thoughts and prayers are with her family

RIP Madeline ! We are all thinking of you and your family down here in Florida ! Keep living the #cheerlife with your shiny new wings !

Listening to "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me as I scroll through the pictures of this beautiful angel. I didn't have the honor of ever meeting Madeline, but I'm sure thankful that I have God's promise of being able to meet her one day in heaven! My prayers go out to the family and friends of this brave and beautiful young lady! Psalm 73:26

God bless each of Madeline's family members and friends. I feel in my heart that your community has lost a very bright and special young lady today. Prayers for each of you as you mourn the loss of such a special angel! A caring mama, Savannah, Ga

I lost my 8 year old daughter to ovarian cancer on July 31,2013. My prayers are with you and your family not just for today, but everyday! May God bring you the peace that only he can bring! Sending big hugs your way!

Heaven needed an angel and god sent for you, You are gone from us forever, Now what are we to do, we miss you now like never before, But we have to let you go, we will never forget you and this you should know, hearts breaks of sadness for the one that we adore,Your father in heaven has sent for you and he needs you more, until we meet again, in our hearts you'll always be, For always you will remain a treasured memory.

Rest in paradise baby girl.

From all of us at Velocity Cheer Gym in Antioch, CA. We want to send our prayers to Madeline may she be spreading her wings and flying with the Lord tonight. I lost my dad 5 months ago to cancer and I know how it can devastate the family. My prayers also go to Madeline's family tonight. May God shine a light on you all. We, at Velocity, may not have known Madeline personally but we know she was one of Gods precious angels, and all his angels are special. God rest your soul Madeline.

Whitewater HS softball playing East Coweta tomorrow 9-11-13 @ EC. Our Lady Wildcats team will be having a PINK OUT in honor of Madeline and all the girls whose lives she touched by her courageous fight! God Bless the McTier family. Newnan Southern Stars is mindful of what truly matters today!!!...Praying for Madeline's Family!!!

Today, God welcomed home a beautiful child that has touched so many. From her beautiful smile, contagious laugh and her love of life. These pics are just a few moments in time that I will cherish forever. May God wrap his arms around the Mctier family tonight and know the love and prayers from so many.

Our East Coweta Middle School Indians dedicated their game today in honor of Madeline. We won for her! Share that Indian Pride

I have an 8th grade daughter that has been keeping me up-to-date on Madeline...I am SOOO very sorry for your loss that is now Heaven's gain...can't even begin to imagine. I will continue to pray for you as you go down this awful road that is traveled by TOO many parents. 

It is SO SOOOOO cool (amazing) how many "cheerleaders" she had...both near and far. How your sweet Madeline brought even rival cheerleaders together...pulling for her. She must have touched many lives. Amazing young lady.

I have never seen a community come together quite like they did for Madeline. I never met her, but her story is inspiring and Heaven has a beautiful angel today.

Prayers to you from Charlotte. Praying that God wraps his arms around you now. So sorry for the loss of your baby

As sure as the Sun is shining we know Heaven just got the brightest smile.......God Bless

I never met your Maddie. But I feel as though my family has known her for years as my family has watched your updates...the good and the bad. Our hearts are with you guys in your time of mourning. Sometimes the angels need one more. Today they have been given a fighter. God's army has been fortified. May he ease the pain and bless your family.

God took an angel today. A sweet beautiful angel. You will be missed Madeline. God bless the McTier Family. I pray for your strength through this very difficult time.



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