NEW ORLEANS - You normally wouldn't find a packed church on a Thursday after work and school hours, but a teen girl who recently lost her battle to brain cancer has inspired an entire community. It's not because of her illness. It's because of way she changed people's lives during her short time here.
At St. Ann's Church and National Shrine the community came out to honor the teen who made a difference.
Ashley Code was someone her friends describe as brave, inspiring and amazing. They say she never complained and they never did they see her cry over her illness. Now family, friends and strangers want to try to spread faith and happiness as she did.
Ashley was accomplished beyond her years in her ability to play the piano and in her faith.
"Every time before we'd eat food, she'd be like, 'No, we have to stop and say our prayers. We have to bless our meal before we eat,'" remembered Mt. Carmel classmate Jen Griffin.
"She always asked, 'Why are people praying for me?' She never, she always thought of others. She said, 'We should be praying for them,'" said Ashley's classmate and best friend Emma Lion.
The entire community of St. Ann's and Mount Carmel have been praying for Ashley for a year. Last August she was diagnosed at the beginning of her junior year with brain cancer. Shortly after her parents were told she had hours. Then they got what they call a miracle, one more year to say 'I love you.'
"We were blessed with 18 years today, 18 glorious years with her. And we're thankful for that. We wanted 80 more, but were thankful for those 18," said her father Michael Code.
Thursday on what would have been her 18th birthday, her senior Mount Carmel classmates and Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni dubbed the day 'Pay It Forward for Ashley Day.' They encouraged others to perform random acts of kindness. It has taken off on social media too. Her friends say she emulated her chosen confirmation saint, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
"You can do small acts of kindness with great love," noted classmate Angela Wetzel.
Her friends have nothing but smiles, fun memories of wheelchair races in the hospital, movie nights at her home, as the end drew near.
"She had a really good life, so it's really easy to celebrate all the moments with her because there was like never a dull moment around her," said another Mt. Carmel classmate, Aubrie St. Germain.
"She wanted to be a positive force in people's life. She wanted to make a difference," remembers her mother Cassie Code.
Her parents, sister and two brothers are left with a book of goals she set for her life, long before she got brain cancer. Most importantly, they say, was her having a strong faith. No doubt she accomplished that, and number one was to cure cancer.
There were lots of purple cupcakes in honor of her class symbol the purple butterfly.
Since Ashley wanted to cure cancer, the family asks that you donate to the Kelsey Bradley Favrot Fund at LSU Health Sciences Center for brain cancer research or the LSUHSC Brain Tumor Initiative.
A 5k run/walk will be held as a fundraiser for the LSU Dept. of Neurosurgery's Brain Tumor Center on Oct. 2. For details or to register, visit www.kelseysgoal.com
Kelsey Bradley Favrot Neuro-Oncology Chair:
LSUHSC Brain Tumor Initiative: