Losing a loved one is never easy. And after losing her mother to liver disease and cancer, Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore Allison Brandt, 16, learned that the hard way.
"When my mom first told me, I was shocked," Brandt said. "But she had lung cancer before, and we knew it was a possibility it would come back. But I was sad."
Despite her family's tribulation, Brandt found solace in her friends and family - and the support of the community.
"I like to draw so I got most of my feelings out by that," she said. "I noticed that my pictures became psychotic really, but one of my friends said that when her bother died, she felt like she was going a little crazy, so I felt better after that. ... My friends helped me a lot. Robyn's mom had cancer too, so she was supportive. She was kind of like a second mom."
Further more, with the help of Hospice and Home Care of Juneau volunteers, various independent donors and the University of Alaska Southeast Gaming Club, Brandt was able to attend AuroraCorp's third annual Aurora-Con anime and video convention held Sept. 27-28 in Anchorage.
"It was like 'Make a Wish' Juneau-stye," Jeremy Johnson, vice president of the UAS Gaming Club, said.
The Gaming Club held a special anime party on Oct. 4 to celebrate Brandt's return from the convention as well as to honor those who donated toward the trip. The club also wanted to welcome Brandt to future club meetings and get-togethers.
Jill Burkert, hospice volunteer and special education teacher at the UAS School of Education, explained how the Gaming Club got involved.
"Two of the kids' tickets were taken care of with donations, and there was one more that was needed," she said. "A hospice volunteer, Dale Kelley, called Jeremy Johnson, who volunteered. ... These kids volunteered that they do this every weekend, so they said, 'Why doesn't she come up and join us?' That is a nice support system."
Jean Jasmine, bereavement counselor for HHCJ, explained what a great comfort the community has provided for Brandt.
"Allison is feeling alone because of her mother dying, and to know there is a community of people from hospice and the general community who care enough about her to support her and her friends in doing this, makes her feel like she's not so alone in the world," Jasmine said.
"I was happy that I was able to go," Brandt said. "The convention was cool."
By donating Alaska Airlines miles and spending money, supporters also made it possible for Brandt to take two friends, Robin "Clyde" Orcutt and Sheron Schramm, who share her passion for anime.
"To me, it's just a wonderful part of being in Juneau, to have the community care about this young girl who they don't know, who they've never met," Jasmine said. "They just heard about the need and want to provide something for her. Everybody heals themselves by giving, and that's beautiful to hear."
Brandt said the highlight of the convention was meeting Vic Mignogna, a popular anime voice actor.
"The famous one he's done is Fullmetal Alchemist, as Edward Elric," Brandt said of Mignogna. "We also watched the skits and the fashion show. And mostly we just went shopping."
Brandt's legal guardian Linda Rusaw, conveyed her gratefulness.
"I appreciate all these guys have done," she said. "These people are awesome for making it happen and for doing the little party here today. It's great."
Brandt said she was happy the convention was somewhat close to home, in Anchorage.
"Most of (the conventions) are down in the rest of the states," Brandt said. She also expressed her gratitude to those who donated money and miles for her to go.
"Thank you! Without them, I don't think we could have ever really gone there," she said.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.