Bertram Rantin

Girl has cancer, heart of gold

Anna Price left behind more than a bag of stuffed animals when she visited the Richland County Sheriff's Department with her mother recently.

The 11-year-old Dent Middle School student had been undergoing cancer treatments since being diagnosed with a brain tumor in the spring of 2008. But rather than hoarding the piles of gifts from family and friends, she decided to share them with others facing similar challenges.

"I realized that someone who received them would be even happier to have them than I was," Anna said.

She could only have imagined.

It was her story - and a plush animal pulled from that same bag - that Richland County senior Deputy Tammy White used to console a 12-year-old who had been seriously depressed.

The boy's father had brought him into the sheriff's department within hours of Anna's visit, and White spoke with him for nearly two hours, drawing heavily on Anna's story to help offer him perspective.

"When he left, he had changed his whole attitude," White said.

On Thursday, Sheriff Leon Lott honored Anna during a surprise presentation at her school for her act of kindness.

"Anna cared. And these stuffed animals changed someone's life that night," Lott said.

Anna's parents, Scott and Robin Price, said their daughter's decision to give away most of the animals mirrors a pattern of selflessness she has shown all her life.

While undergoing treatment at Palmetto Health Richland during the past year, Anna often visited the playroom to spend time with other children. Last summer while a Camp Kemo, a camp for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings, she regularly reached out to other campers.

"She just really has a heart for young children," said her mother, Robin Price.

The idea to give away the stuffed animals was sparked during a conversation with her daughter earlier in the summer. "I gave her a few options of what she could do, and she choose this."

Anna said she was pleased and surprised by the immediate impact of her gift.

"I was astonished. I didn't know it would happen so quickly."

Anna's chemotherapy has ended. Her prognosis is hopeful.

Her parents said the tumor on the optic nerve on her right eye has shrunk and that doctors will continue to monitor it.

"If it re-energizes, we'll just 'fight it like a girl,'" Scott Price said as he sat next to his daughter at school Thursday. "What we've learned over the past year and a half is to be thankful . . . because you don't know the good that can come from your situation."

But Anna knows the good will come.

"The little things you do in life, they really mean a lot," she said.