NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's a teen at North Kansas City High School who lives to give back to her community and those who truly need it the most.
Mary Rechtien's story is one of an unbreakable bond between two sisters who did everything together until the unthinkable happened.
"She loved American Girl dolls. We did gymnastics together," Mary said of her sister Annie.
It was 7 years ago, but Mary remembers it like it was yesterday. In gymnastics practice, Annie couldn't keep her balance on the beam and fell often.
During a visit to a metro hospital, she got a diagnosis no one saw coming.
"They found a brain tumor in her left side of her brain," Mary said. "It was the size of a golf ball."
Annie was diagnosed with a Stage 4 astrosicoma brain tumor. She underwent emergency surgery and was later moved to St. Jude's Hospital in Tennessee.
Things started to get better.
"Her treatment was going so well," she said. "She was completely beating cancer."
The family took a trip to Disney World, a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"A couple of weeks after we got back, she started to really go downhill," Mary said of her beloved sister. Annie's cancer started rejecting the treatment.
Annie sadly died three days before Mary's birthday. Annie was just 6 years old.
Now, Mary is on a daily mission to keep Annie's legacy alive and to help other kids and families touched by cancer.
"So many people paid it forward and gave back to me when I was in a struggling time, so I just want to help others as much as I can," the teen said.
That's exactly what she's doing. As part of Team Up for St. Jude, she organized a "Gold Out" game at North KC High to benefit the children's hospital.
She raised $2,300 that day.
"I'm so beyond thankful that I get the opportunity to raise money for such an important cause," Mary said.
She credits St. June and her church for helping her find the strength to move forward.
"She's all about fulfilling her sister's legacy and trying to better everyone's life around her," said Patrick O'Keefe, Mary's student council adviser.
O'Keefe calls Mary selfless.
"The ability of a young girl of her age to have gone through so much and just turn it around to such a positive thing to help other people is just unprecedented," he said.
In fact, she wont the Student Council of the Month award for her work for St. Jude.
"No matter what you go through in life, it always gets better," the teen said.
Every year, she and her family take part in the local St. Jude's walk. Their team name: Annie's Angels.
Mary doesn't call her work special. She calls it her duty.
The North KC sophomore has a 4.2 GPA and is also a gymnastics teacher at a KC gym. She plants to attend law school and wants to become a criminal justice attorney some day.
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