As the Mount Sinai High School varsity cheerleading team prepared for last Saturday’s homecoming festivities, the spirit of a teen girl they befriended was fresh on their minds.
The Mustangs cheerleaders handed out flyers at the homecoming football game against Greenport to promote a fundraising walk this coming Sunday the team organized in memory of Lauren Cummins, who before dying in May 2015 at the age of 17 had struck up a unique bond with the program.
Lauren, who attended Miller Place High School, was diagnosed at age 2 with neurofibromatosis type 1, a neurological disorder that affects about 1 in 3,000 people worldwide, according to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
She became an honorary member of the program in 2013 when an aunt of one of the squad members was her medical aide. The team made bracelets with Lauren at her Miller Place home and continued to stay in close contact with routine visits that fostered a special friendship.
“She was a very important part of the team,” said Mount Sinai senior cheerleader Alexa Diamond, who wears a bracelet in Lauren’s memory on her ankle with heart, butterfly and star beads to symbolize the positivity she displayed in the face of adversity. “She was always making people smile.”
With the support of Lauren’s mother, Lisa, the cheerleaders organized the inaugural Walk for a Cure at the Mount Sinai High School track Sunday Oct. 23, with proceeds from donations and T-shirt sales going toward the Making Headway Foundation, an organization that supports children with brain and spinal cord tumors.
The cheerleading program holds other charity walks in October to raise funds for breast cancer and autism research, but were determined to also honor Lauren during the busy month.
“She had so much positivity,” said senior cheerleader Samantha Feeney, who like Diamond was at the end of her sophomore year when Lauren died. “She had so much positive energy.”
Lisa Cummins said she is touched by how the cheerleading team embraced Lauren and decided to honor her memory with the charity walk. She recalls the first time Lauren met the girls at a car wash fundraiser, and how despite losing her sight due to her condition, she struck up an immediate connection that continues today.
"They really took to her and it's great to see her life continue to live on through the girls," said Cummins. "She left a lasting impression."