Most people have never met Laney Brown, but many know her name, and many know her heartbreaking story.
Laney, who will turn just 8-years-old on Friday, is fighting a rare form of cancer. And just days before Christmas, the West Reading girl and her family learned from doctors the news no one wanted to hear.
"Laney has 70 percent cancer cells in her blood," her mom shared on the Team Laney Facebook page on Dec. 17. "If they would treat the cancer, the virus that she has would kill her. And if they treat the virus, the cancer will kill her... I have never felt this type of pain in my life... Please pray for a miracle."
Doctors have given Laney only days, maybe a couple weeks, to live.
"We will watch her blow out her eighth birthday candles, knowing that she won't have a ninth," her mom wrote. "We will also ask Santa to come early this year because Laney has been such a good girl."
In the months since her initial diagnosis, Laney and her family have received through Facebook the support, prayers and encouragement of thousands of people, many of whom they never met.
"We would like to thank everyone who has expressed love and support for Laney and our family. We are grateful beyond words for the messages of compassion you have shared through social media and other channels," the family said in a statement released Thursday through Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
LANEY AND TAYLOR SWIFT
Now, many of those supporters are coming together in hopes of making one of Laney's wishes come true. She wants to meet award-winning singer/songwriter Taylor Swift, a native of neighboring Wyomissing.
Laney's supporters have turned to Twitter and Facebook in an effort to encourage Swift to come back to Berks County for a visit with Laney. It remains to be seen whether that will happen.
"She just has so much passion, love, kindness. She's warm and she's a wonderful little girl," said Megan Delp, Laney's dance coach. "I'm praying for a miracle. We're all kind of family in a way and we all need to work together and make sure our family members and neighbors are just OK."
CHRISTMAS CAROLING FOR LANEY
In the meantime, Facebook has been instrumental in helping to make another of Laney's dreams come true.
"One of her wishes, as she's made known, is that she wanted to have carolers sing. She wanted to see Christmas carolers," Scott Hertzog, Relay for Life of Western Berks, told 69 News. "So, a few of the folks on our committee and through the Relay found out about it and instantly started mobilizing."
And what began Wednesday as an idea among a few people has transformed into something organizers could never have imagined.
"It has just gone literally viral. This is the true definition of a viral event," Hertzog said. "Before you knew it, it's a huge Berks County event instead of just a smaller, regional West Reading or western Berks event. I must say that I am, I'm just overwhelmed and humbled by what's happening."
Christmas Caroling for Laney is now scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday outside the family's home in West Reading.
"I have ordered the closure of the 400 block of Chestnut Street to vehicle traffic for the duration of the caroling," West Reading Mayor Shane Keller wrote on Facebook. "Please feel free to fill the street and sidewalk around Laney's home."
The 400 block of Chestnut Street will be closed to traffic and off-limit to parked vehicles between 4 p.m. and midnight.
The Reading Hospital has set aside parking for carolers in its 7th Avenue garage. Additional parking arrangements are being made, West Reading police said.
"Please be patient while trying to park and get to the house," event organizers wrote on the event's Facebook page. "We are expecting a few thousand people and it will be a lot for them to handle."
Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht said his deputies will be assisting West Reading officers, fire police and other agencies with traffic in the borough.
Anyone with questions may contact the West Reading Police Department by calling 610-373-0111.
Balloons will mark the path from the parking areas to Laney's home. Participants are also encouraged to bring birthday cards for both Laney and her sister, Kylee, and make another wish.
"We want to finish the fight," Hertzog said. "We want to put an end to cancer."