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“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played softly Thursday in the background in the lobby of Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.
The space filled with media, hospital staff and family and supporters of the 3-year-old girl who smiled brightly from a large picture displayed there.
The song was a nod to the girl, Addison Jo Blair, because “The Wizard of Oz” was her favorite movie before she died in May of stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma is a deadly pediatric cancer that produces tumors in the body and tumor cells in bone marrow.
Addison underwent chemotherapy treatments, blood and platelet transfusions, scans and surgeries at Kosair, which she called her hospital.
The girl’s parents, Kelly and Wes Blair of Elizabethtown, joined with the hospital to honor Addison and her fight with cancer with a $3 million donation the family has made to the hospital.
The gift, made through the Children’s Hospital Foundation, is from the Addison Jo Blair Foundation combined with an irrevocable estate intention from the family.
The Blairs thought they could make the most of money donated by community members to help support the family when Addison was alive by buying a life insurance policy with it.
Wes Blair, who teaches history at Central Hardin High School, said his family wanted to do what was right with the money donated to his family and give back to the hospital that meant so much to Addison.
“It’s not our money,” he said. “It was given to Addison, and Addison’s no longer here.”
The hospital now owns the life insurance policy and will use the guarantee of the coming donation to begin a renovation of between $400,000 and $500,000 to the hospital’s pediatric cancer unit.
The unit is planned to be renamed the Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care and Renal Center.
The gift is planned to support advancements in pediatric cancer care, programming and facilities over time.
Lynnie Meyer, chief development officer for Norton Healthcare, thanked the Blairs, saying their gift is profound and could grow to between $4 million and $6 million over time.
Meyer has said the first phase of the renovation will begin early next year.
Thomas Kmetz, president of the hospital, said Addison connected with staff members deeply and was a special girl.
The child’s doctors agreed.
Dr. Ashok Raj said the day Addison died had to be the most difficult in the lives of Addison’s family members, but Wes Blair told him that day the family would make sure Addison’s name lived on at Kosair.
Raj said he always called Addison “cutie” when he saw her. He forgot one day in his business, only to later get a message that he had forgotten to call the girl by her pet name.
“I went back and did that, and I could see that extraordinary smile on her face,” he said.
Dr. David Foley said Addison kept a sunny disposition through the worst of the tests, scans and treatments, circumstances under which he has seen patients become less like their normal selves.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child go through what she went through and keep that, keep herself,” he said. “She was unbreakable.”
Foley said Addison must have inherited that quality from her parents, who have shown a “mind-blowing” amount of resilience, caring and generosity.
He said he thinks about Addison every day.
“I am a better person for knowing her and knowing you,” he told the Blairs.
Wes Blair said his daughter beat cancer because she touched so many people and is continuing to help and impact people’s lives after her death.
He said Addison was a good judge of character, and she embraced the staff at Kosair.
“This is what Addison would want, and we know she’s very proud of it,” he said.
He said the gift isn’t from him and his wife but from community members who supported the family during their daughter’s fight.
Kelly Blair, who teaches third grade at Lakewood Elementary School, said members of her family lived, played and laughed together during Addison’s last months as they always had.
“She is our hero,” she said. “We admire her. As her parents, we admire her and she taught us a lot about life.”
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.