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Friends, family hold special graduation ceremony for terminally ill Carmel teen at hospital

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Update: Lupton  passed away on the morning of Thursday, July 6 at Riley Hospital. She was surrounded by her family and friends.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A compassionate community is making sure a dying teen is able to achieve some of her goals.

Audrey Lupton is 17 years old and a rising senior at University High School in Carmel. In February, Audrey was diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer.  Recently, the cancer aggressively spread and doctors told Audrey and her family time wasn’t on their side.

“She started weekly chemotherapy that we knew would extend at least 44 weeks and unfortunately just were never able to get a hold of this disease,” said Suzann Lupton, Audrey’s mother.

The teenager realized she wasn’t going to make it to her graduation next year so with less than a day of planning, the graduation came to her in the hospital. School and staff members held a graduation ceremony complete with music and programs, all for Audrey.

“This was one of the happiest days of our life and not only because it celebrated the daughter we dearly love but also because the work this community did to make us feel that she completed a portion of her life that was important,” Suzanne said.

The ceremony was streamed on Facebook so all of Audrey’s other friends and teachers were able to see it.

A high diploma was just one goal.  A college acceptance letter was another.

“She had said to me one thing that she regretted was she didn’t have the opportunity to see where she would be admitted to college,” she said.

Unlike the majority of high schoolers, Audrey actually wanted to write her college essay.  The teenager became too sick so her teachers stepped in.  They chose a paper Audrey wrote earlier in the school year.

“She centered it on what it was like to sit downstairs when I shaved her head after she started chemotherapy and she used that as a lens to reflect on different experiences and stages in her life,” Suzanne said.

The teachers sent Audrey’s personal piece and official applications to schools she was considering.  It didn’t take long for those schools to respond and accept her.

“Like everything else right now it’s bittersweet. We are devastated at what’s happened to her and at the same time we are joyous that so many people came together to give her something special.”

In pictures, Audrey’s smile shows her satisfaction.  Her mother says her biggest accomplishments aren’t from her school work, it’s her sense of peace and the advice she leaves behind.

“I think the thing to take from her is what she’s learned which is the value of living life for today.”

So far, Audrey has received letters from The Art Institute of Chicago, Ball State, Middlebury College, Butler, Franklin College and the list continues to grow.

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