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Young cancer survivor rings in new tradition at St. Louis Children's Hospital

Four-year-old Avery Lucas got the honor of being the first to ring the giant bell on a new billboard. And she had family, friends, teachers and doctors there to celebrate with her.

Maybe you've noticed an eye catching new billboard along I-44. The giant bell stands 12 feet tall, and is part of a new tradition for children fighting the toughest battle of their lives.

The bell’s bold, brassy look is nothing compared to the sound it makes and the meaning behind its ringing.

Friday afternoon a young girl started a new tradition in hopes it will ring in many victories for children in St. Louis.

Around 3:30, the new billboard bell began ringing, drowned out only by the sound of people cheering below. It was a celebration two years in the making. And the ringing of the big bell represented something even bigger for 4-year-old Avery Lucas.

“I'm done,” said Avery. I’m done with my treatment!”

Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 2, Avery has spent much of her young life inside St. Louis Children's Hospital.

“It’s been very heart-wrenching. Lots of prayer, lots of faith that she was going to make it,” said Avery’s mom Morgan Lucas.

“She's been a real trooper. Even whenever she was down, she was lethargic, she didn't feel good she still smiled, she still played, she still laughed,” said her dad Will.

Friday was Avery’s last round of chemotherapy. And like every kid before her who made it to the end, Avery was the guest of honor at a special bell-ringing ceremony inside Children’s Hospital. She was showered with gifts and love and then enthusiastically rang a brass bell hanging near the entrance to the oncology ward.

But unlike previous ceremonies, Avery got the honor of being the first to ring the bell on the new billboard. And she had family, friends, teachers and doctors there to celebrate.

“It's amazing how resilient these kids are, Avery included,” said Dr. Shalini Shenoy, part of the team that cared for Avery during her treatment.

While this chapter of Avery’s life is now at an end, her mother knows there are many more soon to begin.
“This long, hard journey, she made it and now she gets to have a childhood again,” said Morgan Lucas.

Dr. Shenoy said Avery’s prognosis is excellent. And anytime you hear the bell ring on the billboard at Big Bend and I-44 you'll know another child like Avery just beat cancer.

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