DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — As the cliche goes, friends are forever — and with the rise of social media and technology, so are photos and videos.
"[Tanner Gillen] is the best friend I could've ever asked for," said Warrensburg freshman Savannah Redding solemnly.
But then a smile crept onto her face.
"Some of [the videos] might not be that appropriate," she said with a laugh. "Some of them you can't really hear what he's saying because I was laughing too loud."
Those humorous glimpses into the past mean the world to Savannah — especially in the months following Tanner's death from pediatric brain cancer. Those videos also mean the world to his family.
"While Tanner is left behind in junior high in terms of age, [Savannah] and the Warrensburg community have continued to move Tanner along with them and keep him alive," said Tanner's mom, Amy Gillen.
Tanner didn't let pediatric cancer stop him — and neither did Silas Martin — nor Adam Carter. All three died while fighting pediatric cancer.
The shared grief of their families brought parents, siblings and friends together. That grief is now fueling Savannah's awareness campaign.
"Savannah has been integral in letting other people know — letting other kids know how they can support families," said Silas' mom, Gloria Martin.
September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. It has also served as a launching pad for Savannah's educational tour. She plans to travel to local schools to educate kids on what pediatric cancer is and how they can help families affected by it. Her first stop: Dennis Lab School in Decatur.
"It makes me so happy that someone closer to the kids' age would be here and be able to speak so eloquently," said Dennis teacher and Adam Carter's mom, Shannon Carter.
The work is just beginning. But Savannah hopes the lessons and awareness she brings to each school last a lifetime — like a friendship — or a legacy.
"I'm glad I took so many pictures and videos and have those memories because now that Tanner is gone, I can still look at those and hear his voice and see his smile."