DENVER – Danny and Jennifer Eckard are hosting a birthday celebration in honor of their late daughter Miranda Eckard who passed from cancer in 2014. Miranda would have been 21, and before she died, she entrusted her loved ones to spread awareness about pediatric cancer. Fight With Me was created by the Eckards to do just that and the party, Carolina Beer Mixer, will help raise funds for the scholarships supported through Fight With Me.
What’s the beer mixer for?
“Step Brothers was her favorite movie,” Jennifer Eckard explained. “So this party is our play on the catalina wine mixer.”
And Free Range Brewing was an easy choice for the venue because one of the owners, Sarah, was Miranda’s art teacher in the hospital.
“Even when Miranda was in a bad mood or whatever, she would always make time for Sarah,” Jennifer Eckard said, adding that the two had a special bond.
The Eckards hope for a pretty big turnout, as this is their first large-scale event for Fight With Me.
“I don’t think the goal of the party is to raise a lot of money,” Danny Eckard said. “I think the big goal is to celebrate her life. She would have been 21.”
In addition to celebrating Miranda’s jubilant, warm spirit, the Eckards want more people to get on board with Fight With Me.
“What you run into is the same families who knew Miranda who give all the time, and you’ve got to have a bigger base than that,” Jennifer Eckard said.
And the Eckards don’t want Fight With Me to lose momentum as time moves further out from Miranda's passing, Jennifer Eckard said, so the party is open to anyone interested in helping the cause.
“Jennifer and I had her, Miranda, in high school,” Danny Eckard said. “So the three of us kind of grew up together.”
Two weeks into her freshman year at East Lincoln High School, she was diagnosed with cancer, and in the two and half years that followed, Miranda went through chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
“She was pretty awesome to say the least,” Danny Eckard said, noting Miranda’s love for fashion, sports, art and music and her determination to do well in school.
“One of the best memories, was at Johns Hopkins,” Jennifer Eckard said, laughing.
Danny Eckard smiled at her, knowing just where the story was going.
“It was over Thanksgiving, and it was the first one where we weren't going to have to go to multiple houses. It was the three of us in the little apartment, and the church across the street was bringing the turkey so we didn’t have to worry, but she wanted every side.”
Danny Eckard jumped in, laughing, “Every burner was going, the oven itself was going, the microwave was going … and it was just the three of us.”
Jennifer Eckard said it was truly one of the only times the three of them got to be alone, which made for the “best Thanksgiving ever.”
The Eckards said Miranda left them with many good memories and a plan, literally – Miranda left her loved ones with specific instructions for what to do after she died.
“She left a series of letters for us,” Danny Eckard explained.
She left them for teachers, families and friends, and one of the things she told one of her favorite teachers at East Lincoln, Jason Dragoon, is that she wanted the school to do something for childhood cancer awareness. So a soccer tournament was created in her honor called the Annual Andy Kosmala and Miranda Eckard Memorial Tournament.
And the Eckards started started Fight With Me, a nonprofit that funds about $5,000 worth of scholarships annually.
What the Eckards are up to now
Since Miranda’s passing about four years ago, the Eckards have started and funded a scholarship at their church in Miranda's honor, in addition to the scholarships supported by Fight With Me.
The Eckards now have a two-year-old, Everly, who Danny Eckard said “is like a little twin of Miranda’s looks wise.”
Jennifer Eckard said one of the first words they taught Everly was giraffe, because it was Miranda’s favorite animal. They also show her pictures of Miranda and remind her she has a
Each year, the Eckards celebrate Miranda’s birthday by providing lunch for the Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, where Miranda received treatment. And they’d like to do more for those staying at the clinic, Jennifer Eckard said.
She said after the scholarship checks are written each year, there’s not much money left in the budget, and they’re hoping Carolina Beer Mixer helps change that.
“There are a lot of teens that are in treatment for a long time,” she said. “The first couple weeks people stop in a lot and drop things by, but after the first six months people don’t as much, things start to settle down. We’re looking to be that second phase.”