Georgia girl's cancer battle inspires $20 million donation

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It's been exactly one year since Benji and Lee Anna Hollis of Buford, Georgia, said good bye to their oldest daughter Anna Charles at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

"It's a hard day, it's going to be hard to be back inside the hospital," Lee Anna Hollis says.
"We left that hospital without her on September 16th, but we're going back on September 16th," Benji Hollis adds "  And, it's amazing what can happen in a year, through love."

Because their 6-year old, who sometimes went by the nickname "A.C." has now inspired one of the biggest gifts in Children's history. The Peach Bowl donated $20 million dollars to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to create the Peach Bowl LegACy Fund, to honor Anna Charles.

Her leukemia diagnosis, in the spring of 2018, turned her family's world upside down.
Three days after they got word Anna Charles had acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, she came out of emergency surgery to remove a mass of cells from her spine unable to feel or move her legs.

"She went from this healthy child to leukemia, to acute myeloid leukemia, to a wheelchair," Benji Hollis says. "We just kept free-falling."

That's when the Hollises found themselves inside the world of childhood cancer.

"If you don't have a sick child, or a child affected by it, you're scared to look in that window," her father says.

But on the inside, Benji Hollis says, they saw much more than they ever expected.

"There's hope, and love, and people taking care of each other," Hollis says. "They're going to see resilient, strong, amazing children."

Yet, the Hollises also a found a real lack of cutting-edge treatment options for kids like Anna Charles.
Most of the cancer drugs and therapies were developed for adults. Only 4% of federal cancer research funding goes to childhood cancer.

"We need parents involved," Benji Hollis says. "We need parents of children that are healthy.  We need them all to get involved. Because they're all our children."

Benji Hollis is the Vice President of Sales for the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl, and his family's struggle inspired his coworkers to create the LegACy Fund, which will hyper focus on funding the most promising cancer drugs and treatments for children with AML.

"The fact that this is going to go specifically to pediatric research that could possibly have saved our child and could save so many other children, that is, it's amazing," Lee Anna Hollis says.  "It's absolutely amazing."

In the end, Anna Charles' cancer batter lasted just 5 months. Benji Hollis says they lived every day with "intention," hanging on to every minute as a family.

"It was about her, it was about Everlee (Anna Charles' little sister), it was about each other," he says.
Anna Charles died peacefully September 16, 2018, surrounded by the people who loved her.
They had been preparing for radiation and a bone marrow transplant when her heart failed.

"Up until the last day, we held out hope," Benji Hollis says.   "I'm going to sit here today and tell you, we're still holding out hope, for the other children and their families."

Lee Anna Hollis hopes the LegACy Fund will help researchers and clinicians find treatments that can save generations of children to come.

"We're going to help," Hollis says.  "She's going to help someone else."

Anna Charles, her parents say, would have loved that.