ATHENS, Ga. -- A community that rallied to save an Athens middle school student is now mourning the loss of a young girl who leaves a legacy of saving others.
Last spring, students from Athens Academy started a massive effort to find a bone marrow donor for 13-year-old Kajal Patel. Their work led to a successful bone marrow transplant and hope that Kajal would survive.
It wasn't to be.
Still, classmates say while their friend has left them heartbroken, there is reason to smile. Their efforts have given new life to at least four others.
"She would want us to celebrate her life because she was always happy," said classmate Glynn Chesser. "We've learned anyone can make a difference no matter how big or small or how old you are."
A 24-hour Marrowthonconvinced more than 5,000 people to submit a cheek swab that would be tested to find a perfect bone marrow match for Kajal. Against tremendous odds, five people matched.
After a successful transplant, Kajal's health seemed to improve. Late Monday, she took a turn for the worst. Her frail body had endured enough.
"She had the best smile ever," said classmate Tom Goggin. "Shee could cheer up anyone, and I'm going to miss that."
Her classmates are left knowing that others still have a chance.
Efforts to save Kajal resulted in matches for four others in need of a transplant.
It led University of Georgia student Ellis Edwards to donate marrow for a 6-year-old child, who is now doing well.
All because of Kajal.
"To think that my recipient is getting a second chance at life because her friends wanted her to have a second chance, it's pretty powerful," said Edwards.
It's a powerful legacy for a fragile young girl, and the classmates whose love and caring reached farther than they ever dreamed.