"Team Alivia" strives to preserve memory of St Jude patient

By Chad Weber

July 21, 2013 Updated Jul 22, 2013 at 11:08 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Complete strangers becoming best friends is something you often hear from those involved with St. Jude.

Sunday, a group of those now tightly knit friends gathered to preserve the memory of the little girl that brought them all together.

"Basically told us at that point that she was going to die," said Amanda Gibson, mother of Alivia.

Alivia Gibson was almost three years old and given only weeks to live.

She was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called DIPG.

After visiting the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Peoria, she was referred to Memphis for radiation treatment.

"The tumor shrunk by 40%," said Gibson. "We got 10 wonderful months with her and very very thankful so now its our turn to give back."

Alivia passed away 8 months ago, but her memory lives on today, thanks to "Team Alivia" a St. Jude run team started by a complete stranger at the time.

"I was following Alivia's story on Facebook," said Ashely Andryzak, founder of 'Team Alivia', "and I contacted her mother Amanda and we became pretty much instantly best friends and we followed her story to the end."

Ashley Andryzak lost her Mother to cancer in 2011 and vowed with her sisters to do some type of cancer research fundraising every year.

"We're all in it together," said Andryzak."We're all in it for one thing."

Ashely and her team must raise $12,000 dollars.

That's why everyone gathered at Zoup! in Bloomington Sunday to help reach that goal.

"I've never felt so loved by complete strangers," said Gibson.

One of those strangers is a family friend to Andryzak, Zoup! owner Todd Ashley.

He's donating 100% of the days profits toward "Team Alivia."

"It's a loss for the day as far as dollars go," said Ashley, "but it is not a loss to us to be able to give back by any means. To us, that's a gain."

This is the second year Team Alivia will run for St. Jude, but this year the little girl that brought them all together won't be waiting at the finish line.

"This year will be quite difficult without her at the end," said Andryzak.

For all those involved in St. Jude the goal remains the same.

"Someday hear those words," said Gibson. "There is a cure. That's what this does for me."