Frat guys tend to have a bad reputation. Known more for their wild parties than their kind nature, a fraternity is not what comes to mind when you think of good neighbors. However, in 2015 one group of young men shattered stereotypes when they worked tirelessly to put a smile on one sick little girl’s face.
In 2014 ten-year-old Lexi Brown was living at home in Santa Maria, California, with her mom, dad and older brother. She loved sports and her many hobbies included horse riding, volleyball and soccer, which she played for her school team. And it was after a game that her mom Lisa discovered a lump on her daughter’s left thigh.
Lexi was diagnosed with cancer in June of that year. And according to her friends and family, the courageous kid “handled her cancer diagnosis with grace and spunk.” Indeed, she bravely underwent surgery to remove the tumor in her leg before undergoing numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to beat the cancer.
Thankfully, the grueling treatment worked, and in May 2015 scans showed that Lexi’s cancer had disappeared. However, just three months later the disease returned; a routine check-up discovered the cancer had now spread to her lungs.
Once again, Lexi was determined to beat her illness. But, after beginning her treatment, doctors discovered that the first round of chemotherapy had damaged her heart. Consequently, it was decided that Lexi shouldn’t continue with chemo in case it caused further harm.
Then, after it was discovered that her heart was operating at just 15 percent of its normal capacity, Lexi was admitted to Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in autumn 2015. Already battling cancer, little Lexi was now faced with the monotony of her hospital room, where she struggled to keep her spirits up. And so, as a joke, she and her mom drew a sign asking for pizza and hung it in the hospital window.
But before long the sign was spotted by some neighbors. Indeed, five members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s UCLA chapter lived just across the road, and they decided to cheer Lexi up by bringing her a bunch of roses, a guitar and the pizza she requested.
In fact, they spent some time with Lexi and even serenaded her with their guitar, with caused mom Lisa to burst into tears. Explaining the touching moment to NBC News, she said, “I can’t believe these people are here for my child. We don’t know them. They’re 18-to-24-year-old guys. And it’s just ridiculous.”
And the fraternity’s kindness didn’t stop there. Indeed, the boys encouraged other UCLA students to join in, and soon Lexi had a constant stream of visitors. Their visits had such a positive effect on the tween that hospital staff even let them visit beyond the permitted times.
Though it wasn’t just Lexi who was enjoying her new company. As chapter president Kevin Autran explained to NBC, “When the brothers got back from visiting Lexi, you could see that they were all glowing, knowing that they had done something good for the community.”
The fraternity also contributed towards Lexi’s medical bills, and when the holidays came around, they lined up a special surprise for her. When the boys were hanging their Christmas decorations, they honored Lexi by writing her name in lights on the roof. And Lexi could see the illumination from her hospital bed.
“We’re going through hell right now,” Lexi’s mom said at that time. “But we don’t treat Lexi any different than we do our 14-year-old son… It has just been a joy in a time when we could have just sat there and cried, but we didn’t.”
Not long after the frat guys hung their lights, Lexi was discharged from hospital. And while she was still very sick and needed to take medication for her heart, she threw herself into fundraising. Indeed, she arranged bake sales and barbeques to raise cash for other kids with cancer.
Lexi also organized a fundraiser called “Bald for Lexi,” which encouraged participants to get sponsored for shaving their heads. The first event, which took place in 2015 and raised $73,000, saw more than 90 people take part. “Everyone has done so much for me and my family that I thought it was important to do something to give back,” Lexi told PEOPLE. “I feel better knowing that I’m doing something that can help other kids and their families.”
Alongside her family, Lexi also began ticking things off her bucket list. She traveled to New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, watched the Los Angeles Dodgers and visited Disneyland. The soccer lover was also taken to the Women’s 2015 World Cup in Canada, where she was able to meet some of the U.S. national team.
Speaking of his brave daughter, Lexi’s father Jon told PEOPLE that, “There is just not much more that anyone can offer. We don’t know how much time we have left together, so we don’t want to waste time being sad. From the very beginning, Lexi has wanted to give back.”
However, in March 2016 a scan showed Lexi’s tumors were continuing to grow. Her treatments were halted, and two months later, she sadly died from fibroblastic sarcoma. Lexi had fallen ill on a trip to France, where she had been on pilgrimage to Lourdes and bathed in the town’s famous healing waters.
Yet upon landing in Canada, Lexi was taken to hospital where she later passed away with her mom at her side. “France was a trip that provided her miracle through spiritual healing, and she was at peace.” Lexi’s dad told PEOPLE. “We would like people to know that Lexi passed away comfortably, on her own terms. She did not suffer at the end. She passed away knowing how very loved she was.”
And as the sad news of Lexi’s passing spread, friends and neighbors wore purple as a mark of respect. Her dad added, “Lexi never gave up the fight and never lost the fight. She fought until her tired body could not fight any more, and now we will continue to fight for her.”
In the wake of her tragic death, Lexi’s family continued to raise money in her name. Her fundraisers, who have more events planned, have so far raised over $90,000. So, while Lexi may have tragically lost her fight, her memory is sure to live on in all the children and their families she helped through the very hardest of times.