CALERA, AL (WBRC) - Lauren Karr has been a student at Calera Middle School for just three years but she knows no strangers.
"She's an important part of all of our lives," said 13-year-old Emma Harris.
From the elementary school to the high school to the neighboring town of Helena and the folks 40 miles away in Leeds, even the varsity football team knows the 12-year-old cheerleader.
"These guys are playing just as hard for her as they are for the guy standing beside them," said head football coach Coach Wiley McKeller. "We're all in this together."
And if you visit an Eagles game you'll see Lauren there.
"Orange is the color of leukemia," Emma Harris said. "So we are trying to spread it everywhere and having dress-up days for her."
Orange often blocks out Calera's navy and white school colors.
"We can't take the cancer away on our own," Lauren's cheerleading coach Sarah Harris said.
Because sometimes the best medicine doesn't come in a plastic bottle.
"But, we can try to help them and take their mind off that part of it," Sarah Harris said.
Lauren's mom said her life changed less than two months ago.
"She just had some enlarged lymph nodes in her neck," Shawn Karr said.
"They were pretty sure by the end of the night that it was going to be the t-cell leukemia, but we knew for sure on the evening of the sixth [of October], so we started treatment on the seventh of October," she said.
Within a week, Lauren went from cheering at her middle school football game to receiving chemotherapy at Children's of Alabama.
"It's never something that affects your family, it's always somebody else," Lauren's father, Keith Karr said.
"It kind of opens your eyes when you become a statistic. The regular daily life, washing the clothes and cooking the meals and that stuff. Everything has changed," he added.
Thankfully, the Karr family isn't in the fight alone.
Within hours of hearing about Lauren's diagnosis, her middle school cheerleading squad had partnered with a local boutique and designed t-shirts to sell and help the family with medical costs. By the end of the week, the team had raised $2,500 in donations.
When we asked Lauren if her friends' quick reaction surprised her at all she giggled.
"It was weird because I had been in the hospital for like a day or two and mom showed me her phone and there was an order form for shirts they were making. I was like, 'I've been here a day. Crazy,'" she said.
Shawn Karr said the support has been overwhelming in the best way.
"I walk into the gate and there's just orange everywhere, I kind of lost it," Lauren's mother, Shawn said.
"I just thought this is crazy. This is for my baby. You know you hear about it, but when you see it it's just unreal. Just the love that [I] felt immediately knowing they are doing this for my child to show their love and support for her. It's just amazing," she said.
Then the Karrs started a Facebook page with updates on Lauren. One of the first friend requests was Calera's mayor, Jon G. Graham.
And while the hospital bills continue to rise, so does the support.
"I'm dumbfounded by the whole thing," Keith Karr said. "I've got people pulling up in the driveway with food. Some of them I know, some of them I don't."
Even strangers have rallied around Lauren.
"I have a student in my class this year that's never met Lauren and she met with our principal today to start a coin drive in our school and she's a 10-year-old little girl," Sarah Harris said. "It's just a small town that cares about each other and when something goes on we feel it together."
It's often been said it takes a village to raise a child, but the Karrs have learned it also takes a community to cure one.
Lauren shared what has kept her going throughout the difficult process.
"Just the support that people have given me," Lauren said. "They actually try to encourage me and let me know that it's gonna get better and just reminding me of that even when I don't think it's true."
And all the treatments and love and support have paid off. Lauren recently learned that she is cancer free. Doctors estimate it will take at about a year until she is fully recovered and can start back at school for the beginning of her 8th grade year.
During that long wait she will most definitely be relying on her community to help her.
If you would like to donate towards Lauren Karr's treatment costs please visit http://www.gofundme.com/welovelauren.
We would also like to thank Lauren's older brother, Evan, a senior at Calera high school, who helped film some of the support videos for his sister, and her cheerleading coach, Sarah Harris, for also sharing the amazing pictures.