After Overland Park man dies of cancer, 11-year-old offers help through a t-shirt

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A local mother of five just lost her husband to cancer, but a young girl is inspiring her family to be strong in the wake of their loss.

Ten days after Claire Akins found out her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, they found out she was pregnant.

"Charlotte was born 8 months into Dave's chemo," Akins said. "She gave us hope."

Akins told FOX4 that her family continued to travel and enjoy life after the diagnosis. Her husband was only 33 years old and still had a lot he wanted to accomplish.

"I wanted us to take the kids to Disneyland, but he said that sounded awful," she said laughing. "He wanted to take the to Ireland, so we went."

Akins shared family photos of the trip with FOX4, explaining that this was the last trip her husband took before he died.

"He fought really hard for 23 months," Akins said as she tried holding back tears. "He was the most amazing human being. He was on chemo the entire time he was diagnosed. We could never get ahead of his disease. It was extremely aggressive."

Akins said her community continues to be a huge help to her family.

Gracen Thipault

"Gracen goes to school with my two boys," Akins said.

Gracen Thipault is a sixth-grader at St. Ann Elementary School, and she's raising money for the Akins family through a t-shirt she designed.

"We saw it on Instagram, and we thought it would help the Akins family out with the cause," the 11-year-old said smiling. "The word is 'swish,' and it's the North Carolina colors because he liked the team."

Gracen's t-shirt design

So far Gracen has sold 130 shirts. Akins told FOX4 that the money raised will go towards their children's college tuition.

"Cancer sucks, right? It`s hard, long and there`s so much ugly in it," Akins said. "But for us there was a lot of joy, and there was a lot of love and a lot of kindness."

If you're interested in purchasing a t-shirt, you can find the information here.

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