Nfld. & Labrador

Nevaeh Denine's family remember fearless girl who could 'move a mountain'

'She could move a mountain ... there was no limit to her.'

9-year-old battled cancer much of her life, but didn't let it stop her helping others

Nevaeh Denine, 9, died on Aug. 6. She spent much of her life fundraising for other young patients and volunteering at places like Ronald McDonald House. (Ronald McDonald House N.L./Twitter)

The death of Nevaeh Denine, whose famous lemonade stand raised over $100,000 for children just like her battling cancer, has left a void that's keenly felt by her friends, family, and the wider community.

The 9-year-old St. John's girl died Monday after a long battle with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma that she was diagnosed with when she was just 2 years old. 

"You weren't going to stop her. She would move a mountain, she could jump over your house, there was no limit to her, and she was fearless," said Barb Denine Evans, Nevaeh's great aunt. 

Nevaeh's great aunt Barb Denine Evans says her legacy will live on (Gary Locke/CBC)

Denine Evans said Nevaeh made it to her annual lemonade stand at the end of July, and was out swimming on Regatta Day Aug. 1, despite back-to-back therapy and radiation which depleted her energy. 

Health declined suddenly in past week

This past Friday, however, her health took a turn for the worse after she had a blood transfusion.

"As she was coming out of the Janeway, she told her mom she wasn't feeling well, and when they turned around they went back in the Janeway. and she was admitted right away," said Denine Evans.

"Her mom said you could see the look of peace on her face when they took her back in, and she didn't wanna come back home, and her breathing became shallow."

Nevaeh Denine, centre, at the annual Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand fundraiser on July 28, 2018. (Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand/Facebook)

It was a sudden turn of events for the close knit family, and they rallied to be by Nevaeh's side in her final days.

One thing that has brought some measure of comfort, Denine Evans said, is the outpouring of kind words the family has received from people all over the province and beyond. 

"Dealing with the grief of losing her, and the void that's left in the pit of your stomach, the messages coming back in ... it's almost like it's an even balance," she said. 

"People are really trying to offer their best condolences."

Remember her as a 'true icon'

Nevaeh's aunt wants her positive legacy to be remembered.

She said that at no point did Nevaeh ever give in to her illness, or let it stop her from experiencing joy.

After every chemo treatment, or hospital stay, she would be ready to get out and enjoy the world right away.

"If she can do this, so can the next person, so don't give up," said Denine Evans.

"Just because it took her, it doesn't matter, just keep going. You have a family to live for. She lived it for everybody and herself."

Denine Evans said there are lessons to be learned from Nevaeh's story about living life to the fullest.

"For somebody who's nine, if she didn't change your perspective on how you live, nobody would," she said.

"She is definitely a true icon in my opinion." 

Started lemonade stand in 2014

​After finding herself inspired while watching the Janeway Telethon,  Nevaeh began a fundraising effort in 2014 called Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand to help other kids with like herself.

The lemonade stand became a huge social event, attended by tens of thousands of people.

After news of Nevaeh's death spread, people from across the province and beyond started posting condolences on social media, including Premier Dwight Ball, St. John's Mayor Danny Breen, and foundations that help sick children and families of sick children.

The City of St. John's said it will light city hall and the convention centre in yellow on Tuesday night in honour of Nevaeh. 

A funeral will be held for Nevaeh Denine on Aug. 9 at St. Kevin's Parish at 10 a.m. 

She spoke with CBC News in 2015 after a successful lemonade stand fundraiser that year. You can watch that previous report in the media player.

Neveah Denine is only five, but she's been battling cancer for almost two years. NOW, Neveah's thanking the people who helped save her life. 1:58

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With files from Stephanie Tobin and Kate McGillivray