One early March morning, 2-year-old Molly Johnson found a surprise in her front yard -- a flock of pink plastic flamingoes.
"It was better than Christmas morning," said Molly's mother, Amy.
Molly and her sisters -- Emily, 8, and Abigail, 4 -- were so excited they tried to ride the flamingoes, Johnson said.
"It was a big hit at our house," she said.
The front lawn of Amy and Dr. Eric Johnson's Evans home was flocked by friends Peggy Armstrong and her husband, Dr. Peter Armstrong, who are "flocking" yards as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
"It has been pretty well-received," Armstrong said. "Most people get a big kick out of it."
Molly, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December, is one of four people who inspired the couple to raise funds for the society.
The couple and their 16-year-old daughter, Taylor, were thinking of training for a marathon when a notice arrived by mail describing the society's Team in Training program.
The program provides training for athletes aiming to compete in endurance events, including marathons, half marathons, triathlons, 100-mile century bike rides, and hiking adventures, and raising funds for the society, said Mandy Prior, the Augusta Team in Training coordinator.
The Armstrongs will be running a 26.2-mile marathon in San Diego, Calif., in May.
"It was something we could do as a family," Armstrong said, adding that her family has raised more than $8,000.
"How could we not do this and how could we not help any way that we can?"
The society provides research, education and patient services for those with lymphoma and leukemia.
Johnson said doctors discovered Molly's cancer, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow and blood, when Molly complained of arm pain.
She receives cancer-killing drugs every seven to 10 days administered through a port in her chest, and sometimes other drugs are injected into her spine under anesthesia.
"She wakes up in the recovery room, and we get in the car and go home and she plays her little heart out," Johnson said.
"She's fantastic. She's so resilient that I am amazed by her each time we go through it."
The first round of therapy seemed to have put Molly's cancer in remission. And because she is young and it was detected early, Molly has a good chance of becoming fully cured, Johnson said.
Despite having to skip preschool and play dates to avoid germs, and some nausea, bone pain and tiredness, Johnson said her daughter, who she called their "little sunshine" is still a sweet girl with lots of personality.
"She's got a smile that will light up a room," Johnson said.
Molly and her battle are one of the inspirations for Armstrong and her family during the months of training needed to prepare for the marathon.
"Even in the training, there are aches and pains that go along with it, and that is just another reminder that this may be an ache in my head or a pain in my foot, but it is nothing compared to the chemo and to the fear and the anxiety and everything else that goes along with being diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said anyone can make at least a $25 donation to "flock" someone's yard.
A $50 donation ensures the flamingoes won't return for a month, while a $100 donation guarantees they won't come back for the rest of the training season.
"This is one of the most creative fundraisers I've heard of," Prior said.
To "flock" someone's yard, contact the Armstrongs at email@example.com.
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