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Summer Dale's mission lives on through others

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No one understood the power of a gift better than 16-year-old Summer Dale.

To kids in chemotherapy, she gave iPads, Leap Pads, and laptops. To girls losing their hair, she gave makeovers and photo shoots.

The whole time Summer was giving, she was battling the cancer that would eventually take her life, but not her dream.

Summer always felt that being diagnosed with cancer at 15 cracked open something in her. It made her stronger and made her heart bigger.

"It just changed her and gave her a reason to keep going and keep fighting," said Lynn Dale.

Summer started seeking out other kids with cancer. Those kids are now carrying on summer's dream.
   
At 15, using donations from friends, Summer created "Team Summer" to give kids with cancer the one gift they really wanted.

"Summer was adamant that it had to be something fun," Lynne Dale said. "She wanted no practical gifts."

In between her chemotherapy and surgeries and hospital stays, Summer gave away nearly 20 gifts. To Lacey battling bone cancer - a modeling session. To 2-year-old Josiah - a Leap Frog computer game. To Antonio -- the laptop he never imagined would be his.

But November of 2012, Summer, the ultimate gift-giver passed away. She was only 16.

"It was like, ‘What are we going to do now? We have to come up with a different way that we do this,'" Lynne Dale said.

Within weeks, Lacey, Antonio and the others were handing out surprises.

"I realized Summer was holding back on everybody. She was like, "Oh yeah, giving is fun!"  No, giving is amazing! Amazing," said Lacey.

To remind Kayla of her life outside the clinic, Haylee gave Kayla a fancy tack set for her horse. Totally impractical -- and exactly what she needed.

"I was really surprised and excited," Kayla said.

Kayla's mother, Maureen Doss, said, "The smile on her face that we hadn't seen in a long time, it was amazing."

That's when Maureen Doss says something clicked in Kayla.
 
"She told me, ‘Mommy, I just want to find a little girl to give a gift to,'" said Maureen Doss.

Kayla surprised 2-year-old Eli with a Team Summer iPad.

"I thought we were done after the first one, and that would've been great," said Maureen Doss.

But Kayla found another kid with cancer.

"Her name is Sydney and she's my age," said Kayla Doss."She wanted a modeling shoot really bad."

Team Summer gave Sydney a session with professional photographer Brenda Richter-Kessing.

"It just looked really neat," said Kayla Doss.

Then Kayla found Kaylee, who has brain cancer just like her.

"I noticed she played on her mom's phone a lot, so I thought she might like an iPod touch," said Kayla.

"Every time she goes to the clinic she asks me, 'Mommy, do you think they want a present?  Do you think we can give them a present,'" said Maureen Doss.

Along the way, everyone touched by Team Summer has discovered what Summer Dale knew: that getting a gift is nice, but giving a gift is real magic.

Josiah, the little boy who got the Leap Pad from Team Summer, is now 4 years old. He gave away the most recent Team Summer gift,  giving an iPad to his new 3-year-old buddy.

If you want to read more about Team Summer, or nominate a child for a gift, visit: teamsummer.org.

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