Maya Rigler's recent cancer relapse, after eight years in remission, led her to launch a new fundraiser for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which puts its funds toward cancer research.
A little over a week ago, 10-year-old Maya Rigler learned that her cancer had relapsed after eight years in remission.
Her response? She launched a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to research cures for childhood cancers, for which she has volunteered ever since her initial bout with the disease.
“With everyone being so supportive and buying me stuff, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t need all this stuff,’ and I thought we could help other kids,” said Maya, the daughter of Rabbis Peter Rigler of Temple Sholom in Broomall and Stacy Eskovitz Rigler of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, where she is the director of religious education.
She would rather help others than “spend all the money on me because I’ll be fine and some kids are not” Maya explained.
Since launching the campaign, which can be found online at alexslemonade.org/mypage/1121536, on Jan. 28, the Riglers have already raised over $47,000, with some of those funds collected by the Riglers’ respective synagogues, the National Association of Temple Educators and Camp Harlam, the Reform movement camp with which the family is involved, according to Stacy Rigler.
The original goal, she said, was to raise $10,000 — a target that was quickly elevated to $25,000 in light of its success and which has more recently been extended to $50,000.
Maya said she had requested a phone call from Jay Scott, the co-executive director of Alex’s Lemonade, which he helped his daughter, Alexandra “Alex” Scott, launch in 2000, when and if Rigler reached her initial goal of $10,000.
“I said to myself, ‘She doesn’t need to hit a goal for me to call her; I’ll just call her anyway,’ but before I even had a chance to call her she hit her goal,” said Scott, whose Bala Cynwyd-based organization has raised $100 million — a number that was recently reached — and attained national fame. “It was unbelievable.”
In an effort to explain how a young girl, in the midst of grappling with her own ordeal, could worry about raising funds to help others, Scott said, “When kids have cancer, they grow up very quickly and they become very caring people because they go through so much and it makes them very compassionate.”
Scott knows this from his own experience with his daughter, who passed away in 2004. As a 4-year-old coping with cancer, Alex had announced to her family that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer.
Even Maya's own mother said she has been pleasantly surprised by her daughter’s efforts and by how quickly the Jewish community has rallied around the family.
“It’s certainly not out of her character — she’s kind and compassionate and giving — but we were all in quite a lot of shock this weekend, and for her to say that right away and for her to talk about how much it means to her just really makes us proud of the girl she is,” Rigler said. “It’s really an amazing example of so many different Jewish communities coming together to support something and support a little girl who’s going to have a little bit of a fight ahead of her. But with this kind of energy and love, we know that it’s going to go well."
Going forward, Maya will continue meeting with her team of doctors under the direction of oncologist Julie Stern at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to formulate a plan for treating the small cell neuroendocrine pancreatic carcinoma, which is exceedingly rare in children.
Rigler added, "Dr. Stern said to us yesterday that it is clear Maya will write her own story."