Claire’s Army started long before Claire was diagnosed with cancer, Claire’s Army started on August 30, 2009, the day she was born. Claire was born to Emily and Kevin Ratliff into a loving Christian family. Emily and Kevin both grew up in and around Charlotte, NC. They were very active in their schools, sports, church and neighborhood. Through these activities, each had developed their own close network of friends and family that doubled once they were married. Claire was immediately adopted into this network, or Army, the day she was born.
Emily and Kevin co-led a Lifegroup at their local church after they were married. The Lifegroup model is a biblically based small group that “does life” together. They encourage each other along their spiritual walk, serve the least and the lost, and care for each other in times of need. Emily and Kevin each had a heart for serving others and had surrounded themselves with people who believed the same.
The Army was initially there for the Ratliffs with baby showers, advice, meals and clothes. It was a support system that any new parent needs with such a big addition to their family. However, it became even more valued when Claire was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer over Memorial Day weekend 2011. While holding Claire in the hospital room on that very first day, Kevin said “that God is going to use this little girl to touch a whole bunch of people.” Nothing could have been truer.
The Army heard the Ratliffs’ rallying cry and responded. The Army grew from friends and family to total strangers that felt the call to help. The Army bombarded the Ratliffs with prayer, hospital visits, cards, donations, constant meals and household services. The Army teamed up with other organizations and Team Claire walked, hiked, ran and played cornhole to raise money for a cure. Kevin and Emily kept the Army updated and encouraged through daily blogs and scripture. The Army heard stories of tea parties, fingerpainting and pancakes from a little girl so full of life while battling cancer. Claire did just as much for the Army as the Army did for Claire.
On January 17, 2012, Claire went to be with our father in heaven. She leaves behind an Army whom she encouraged daily with her unselfish care for others. Claire’s parents, in missing her daily, find peace in giving back to others in need after so many graciously gave to them. While honoring her life and legacy, Claire’s Army continues to care for the needs of children and families battling childhood cancer.