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Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

The Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation Mother Walk took place in Homewood Saturday, but Maddie McClendon's team chose to walk in Dadeville, starting at First United Methodist Church, taking a lap around downtown and ending the trek at the McClendon home. 

Chris McClendon has a new purpose — advocating for ovarian cancer awareness.

Even mourning the loss of her 18 year old daughter Maddie, McClendon is leaning on Maddie’s courage to carry on.

“She exercised and showed me grace, true grace on this journey that no 18 year old should ever have to go through — that no parent should ever have to go through,” McClendon said. “We are finding that we have to have purpose and she would not want us to cry here. I want each of you to smile at your own Maddie memory, that sassy spirit we were blessed to know, belting out those songs and dancing.”

Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation (NLOCF) Mother Walk was Saturday, May 8. The McClendons had formed the #MaddieStrong team to walk in Homewood with the other teams, but with Maddie’s homecoming Team #MaddieStrong came to Dadeville.

McClendon said Maddie was home as walkers gathered. McClendon said she and Maddie’s family see the significance of the day of her death, May 8.

“We find it as no coincidence that Maddie passed on World Ovarian Cancer Day,” McClendon said. “We had a number of people in this community that came and walked for the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation. Maddie didn’t know y’all were in my yard that day but how proud she would have been.”

The team in Dadeville and Auburn have something to be proud of and McClendon hopes the walks will continue.

“#MaddieStrong, her team won that day and she won the crown that day,” McClendon said. “I will just tell you ever year on May 8 I’m going to honor my baby and #MaddieStrong team. Y’all can all join us because my purpose is going to be to share about ovarian cancer and to make a change in this country.”

Currently there is very little in the way of screening or detecting ovarian cancer early. The NLOCF has awarded grants to help with research, especially research centered around early detection. McClendon is already plugged into the NLOCF. The foundation’s executive director Ashley Thompson said she and McClendon have grown close in the McClendon’s seven month journey.

“They are a truly special family,” Thompson said. “Theirs is just a heartbreaking story.”

McClendon said being in Cincinnati, Ohio as Maddie was getting treatment for ovarian also gives her motivation to help make sure other parents don’t face a similar battle.

“Being on the cancer floor in a Children’s Hospital was a very humbling experience,” McClendon said. “Nobody expected themselves to be there. No parent expects that. We met wonderful families there. You clung to each other, you prayed for each other.

“Good health is a blessing don’t take it for granted. You are always strong for your children. It was by the grace of God that we have been able to get through this journey.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.