Peterson’s death impacts students from various high schools


Karleigh Gentry

After news of Peterson's death was posted on Facebook, teens took to numerous social media platforms to share the memories they had with her.

By Karleigh Gentry, Harrisonburg High School

“Maggi touched so many lives, including the people that never got to meet her in person,” sophomore Kori Turner from Buffalo Gap High School said. “She was heaven on Earth and she wasn’t only my best friend, she was my everything. My whole heart belonged to that ray of sunshine.”

Oct. 16, Maggi Peterson, a thirteen year old girl from Churchville, Virginia, passed away after fighting lymphoma since Oct. 15 of last year. After news of her death was posted on Facebook just after 7 P.M., many students from different high schools posted their condolences to the family and friends of Peterson on various social media platforms.

After being best friends with her for years prior to her diagnosis, Turner was shocked that Peterson had cancer, but knew she would remain by her best friend’s side while she fought a disease that takes the lives of over half a million people each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“[Maggi and I] had an automatic connection,” Turner said. “When she was first diagnosed, I was confused with the whole thing because I knew absolutely nothing about cancer, but I promised her from the beginning we were in this fight together and I kept that promise until the last day.”

In addition to Turner, both junior Brianna Myers and freshman Madeline Miller from BGHS, who Peterson played multiple sports with, were close to Peterson for years and never imagined her life would take a turn for the worst when she wasn’t even a teenager yet.

“Not in a million years would I have thought that one of the people I knew very well would have cancer,” Miller said. “I was scared for her.”

Myers, however, met Peterson by living in Churchville and she too never imagined someone from her community would be affected by a deadly disease.

“I grew up knowing Maggi practically my whole life [because] she was always very well-known. She was such a fighter and [I also felt] sad because she deserved so much more. [As a] community we helped with lots of fundraising and support [for her family],” Myers said.

In Dec. 2018, Peterson was declared cancer free and in remission. She celebrated her thirteenth birthday Jan. 31 of this year and went through her last chemotherapy treatment in February.

“When Maggi was declared in remission, it was probably one of the most stress relieving things I’ve ever heard. We celebrated with a sleepover after she got her picc line out,” Turner said.

Less than six months later, Jul. 11, Peterson relapsed, meaning her cancer had returned. This, in return, dumbfounded everyone that was close to her, but Peterson still remained hopeful and happy about life and posted a video of herself on instagram with the caption: “round two cancer. nice try. #stillsmiling”

“I was devastated [when Maggi relapsed]. My heart broke,” Turner said. “Maggi was the last person that ever deserved to be going through everything that she did, but I reminded her that I was always going to be here every step of the way, no matter how hard it got.”

Despite remaining hopeful and continuing to push through her second time with lymphoma, Peterson became very sick and was admitted to the University of Virginia Medical Center last month.

“Maggi’s crazy journey has made such an impact on my life. I missed school a few times to see her if she was going downhill and needed her best friend. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for that girl,” Turner said.

Although BGHS students were very close to Peterson, they weren’t the only ones affected. One of the sports that Peterson played was softball. Because of this, softball players from East Rock, Spotswood and Harrisonburg were also affected by her diagnosis, fight and passing due to the fact that they helped to raise money and support Peterson at many different Childhood Cancer tournaments within this past year. The Strikeforce Organization, which has age groups ranging from 12 and under to 16 and under, contained both players and coaches that loved Peterson and were dedicated to supporting her fight.

Sophomore Aeriana Rodriguez and freshman Cici Rodriguez formerly attended Skyline Middle School, but decided to go to Spotswood High School to pursue softball as a Blazer. Both Rodriguez’s are current players for Strikeforce and have forever been changed by their experiences with Peterson.

“The fact that we knew her and she once played softball played a big role for our organization because not only did she play the sport, but she loved it and it was her favorite, so we supported her fight because, [in our minds,] her fight was our fight and she never gave up on anything she did,” Aeriana said. “My favorite thing about Maggi was that she loved everyone and always had a smile on her face, [whether or not her situation was] tough or easy, she was always smiling.”

Just before the Strikeforce organization began connecting with Peterson, East Rock High School freshmen Braxten and Aspen Jones joined their 14 and under team; therefore, they too were impacted by the effect that cancer had on Peterson’s life at a young age.

“Maggi’s death has had an extremely big impact on my team and I. Mentally, it’s hard to play the game knowing someone we loved isn’t here anymore. Along with that, on the field we have no energy to do anything [because] we are all too upset to play the game we love,” Braxten said.

Alongside Braxten, Aspen also believes Peterson positively impacted her life and was the type of person that she wants to be like someday.

“Maggi always stayed positive about everything,” Aspen said. “She always had a beautiful smile on her face through everything and always helped people with their problems when she had bigger ones of her own.”

As an eighth grader at Skyline Middle School, current Turner Ashby freshman Kelsey Spitzer was a star pitcher for the JV softball team. Spitzer joined the Strikeforce organization and therefore, witnessed Peterson’s personality first-hand.

“I loved her smile, laugh and the way she lit up a room as soon as she walked in,” Spitzer said. “She made life beautiful when it was the worst days she had to face. She was a fighter and we loved her. She will forever be missed.”

At our school, students who participate in the softball program have also taken Peterson’s death to the heart, one of which is senior Kiara Richardson. Being so close in age, the fight that Peterson put up was inspiring to many children and adults, but taught our generation, especially softball players, to not take anything for granted, including life itself.

“Softball players are one. It doesn’t matter what grade level you’re in or what team you play for, we all love the sport and so did she. She showed us that softball can be taken from us in the blink of an eye, so I think now we all appreciate the opportunity to play more,” Richardson said.

Even though nobody wants someone they love to be diagnosed with cancer, Turner believes she became closer with Peterson’s family because of the deadly disease that completely transformed Peterson’s life over a year ago, as well as her family and friends’ lives.

“Maggi’s family took me in as one of their own the second I walked in their home. Her mom welcomed me into her house, even when uninvited, and her dad became a second father to me,” Turner said. “Our bond has gotten so much closer from the first time we met until now. They raised one heck of a daughter.”

Before Peterson passed away, she dedicated her time to educating others about childhood cancer through social media and public speaking events. In Turner’s mind, cancer caused Peterson to become better than she already had been.

“Maggi became more understanding and more uplifting [because of her battle with cancer]. Her love for Jesus grew stronger everyday and life definitely won’t be the same without her, but I know she’s looking down on me,” Turner said. “While Mags was in remission, her mind became set on giving back to what cancer stole from her. We did a fundraiser at the Family Dollar in Churchville to raise money for the two other girls battling cancer in Churchville and raised over $1,000 that day just in donations. Maggi had the biggest heart.”

Furthermore, Peterson’s battle with cancer influenced her decision on what career she wanted to pursue later in life.

“Maggi’s dream job was to become a children’s oncologist, so she could help out the children that were fighting the same fight she once had,” Turner said.

Despite her friends and family being saddened by her absence, Turner believes Peterson would want everyone to remember that she is no longer enduring pain and suffering.

“Maggi would probably be telling us to stop being sad that she is no longer suffering. If she were here today, I know she would want everyone to know that they should never take their health for granted,” Turner said. “If Maggi has taught me anything, it would definitely be to live life, love like no other and never lose your faith in the ones who created the universe.”

Although she is gone, Peterson will never be forgotten by each person that she inspired. Her friends will continue to remember her kind-hearted personality and her dedication to God and helping others.

“Maggi was the biggest blessing placed in my life and she is forever in my heart. Being her best friend has been the biggest gift,” Turner said.

This story was originally published on The Newsstreak on October 18, 2019.