CrossFit gyms host cancer research fundraiser in honor of Fort Myers toddler

Community members came together to remember a Fort Myers toddler who died from a rare cancer. CrossFit gyms also took part in honoring her memory by hosting the community in a fitness challenge to raise money for child cancer research.

Crossfit Cape Coral and Crossfit Salvation in Cape Coral hosted a fitness challenge fundraiser Saturday that raised $3,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in honor of Ariya Jennings, who recently lost her nearly two-year battle with mixed lineage leukemia.

“My daughter was diagnosed with infant leukemia at 7 months old,” said Samantha Jennings, Ariya’s mother.

The National Institute of Health reports around 160 cases of infant leukemia a year and even fewer with Ariya’s mixed lineage leukemia, a rare and aggressive form.

“After four different hospitals, three different states, she lost her battle after battling for 20 months,” Samantha said.

The battle ended for Ariya last month, but its not over for her mother, who wants to continue to spread awareness and raise money for cancer research.

“September is Childhood Awareness Month,” Samantha said. “But really it goes beyond the 30 days of the month. It’s 365 days out of the year.”

That’s why she was excited when Crossfit Cape Coral and Crossfit Salvation volunteered to host a workout in memory of Ariya to raise money and awareness for infant leukemia.

“We watched the struggle they went through,” said Nick Habich , owner of Crossfit Cape Coral. “And we wanted to do our best to try to help out with it.”

The fitness challenge included lifting, squatting and running. And participants were more than ready to show up to exercise.

“As a mother, I couldn’t imagine what this family is going through,” participant Ruby Runco said. “And I just wanted to show my support.”

Ariya’s family told us they will continue to hold events to raise money for research.

“We sweat, and we cry,” said participant Curt Randall, a friend of Ariya’s family. “And we hug, and we laugh, and we try to bring everybody together.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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