Maya Rigler is 10-years-old. Her favorite color is blue, she loves reading the Percy Jackson series, going to Camp Harlam (a URJ summer camp in the Poconos), and getting fro-yo with her friends. Sadly, Maya started 2015 by finding out she had a malignant tumor.
Maya took the news as a call to action. When word spread about her illness and she started getting presents, Maya said, “I don’t need all this stuff.” Instead, she set up a virtual lemonade stand for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a unique childhood cancer charity that has donated millions of dollars to research and support for families going through this ordeal. Maya’s goal was to raise $10,000. As she wrote on her fundraising page, “Maybe one day we can make sure that no other kid needs to go through this stuff.”
That was just a month ago. Maya has currently raised almost $78,000.
Maya’s resilient and generous spirit is no news to her friends and family. When she was 2, she was treated for a Wilms’ tumor, which is a rare kidney cancer affecting primarily children. For Maya, it meant eight months of surgery and chemotherapy. But by the time she blew out the candles on her third birthday cake, Maya was cancer-free.
The following June, Maya and her family set up their first charity lemonade stand in honor of Alexandra “Alex” Scott and her inspiring story. Though Alex passed away in 2004, her legacy has motivated so many children and families. In fact, when Maya’s mother–Rabbi Stacy Rigler of Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA–took Maya in to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia last month, she knew immediately they were in good hands. The attending physician just happened to be Alex’s doctor from years before.
Maya saw the significance too. She is determined to carry Alex’s torch and find a cure for childhood cancer. Alex’s family has been amazed by Maya, and the Scotts have been actively following her recovery. Maya also makes sure to tell every nurse who comes into her hospital room about her virtual lemonade stand. Her stamina and determination are magnetic. This girl exudes not pity, but passion.
Maya is so thankful for the community of support and faith that surrounding her, especially her dedicated oncologist, Dr. Julie Stern. Maya’s father is also a rabbi–at Temple Sholom in Broomall, PA. Growing up at both of these synagogues and going to Camp Harlam has been integral to Maya and her younger brothers. In fact, when Maya was allowed back to school just a few days ago, the first thing she asked was whether she could go to Hebrew school too.
“We have a faith that teaches us to do good no matter what the circumstances,” Maya’s mother says. This is the most important thing she wants to convey as a religious educator, as a lay leader, and a mom. The person she sees living, breathing, sharing this kind of faith no matter what life throws at her?
Her incredible daughter, Maya.