Community goes above and beyond for local teen after cancer diagnosis

(Courtesy: Keith Family)

Update: News 2 is sad to report the young girl at the heart of this story, Mary Keith, passed away Tuesday, Feb. 21 just after 9:30 p.m. 

WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a story you’ve likely heard in your household: A teenager wants their own room. But one White House girl’s request is being fulfilled in record time after a fatal diagnosis led to the battle of her life.

There’s a major project underway on Robert Avenue with just under one week left until completion.

While the sound of construction fills the block, it’s drowned out by an oxygen machine inside the Keith home. This is the new normal for Michelle Keith, comforting her 16-year-old daughter Mary since her diagnosis.

“At this point, what baby wants, baby gets,” noted Michelle. “She was diagnosed with cancer, stage four cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma.”

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

News 2 met with Mary just after the diagnosis in 2012 as White House wrapped its arms around its little slugger.

Now five years later, cancer has returned and time is running out.

“It’s been a sleeping beast ever since, and it’s woken up with a vengeance,” explained Michelle. “There’s no treatment.”

So why then is close friend Ronnie Clinard and countless others working up a sweat?

“Her and her little sister have roomed together, they’ve been roommates,” said Michelle. “Her biggest fear was her sister finding her one morning, and we don’t want that.”

“When she told me what Mary was asking for and why she was asking for it, it was a no-brainer,” said Clinard, construction manager with Wheeler Inc.

Clinard started talking with Home Depot, who donated loads of lumber and equipment. In fact, when word of the project spread, he could barely keep up with the donations.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“I would say between 15 to 18 businesses,” explained Clinard. “I’ve had more help offered than project to work with.”

With the room squared away, Michelle’s had time to work with local photographer Peter Stratton to capture the little moments between mom and Mary.

“Were going to need to see pictures of her laughing, and cutting up and talking,” said Michelle. “I’m going to want to hear her voice and see her face.”

As the project nears completion, Mary and mom are staying strong. The family is now leaning on each other as their community builds them up.

“[The project] is coming on quick, and I’m just happy for her to have it,” said Michelle’s 10-year-old sister, Melody. “I love her so much.”

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

In addition to the new room, crews will be renovating Mary’s younger brother and sister’s rooms, as well as adding a basketball hoop in the back.

Clinard says the project will be completed by the end of school next Friday.