SEBASTIAN COUNTY, Ark. — 25 teams gathered at Ben Geren park in Fort Smith for the Paint the Park Yellow Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 24.
The Sebastian County girls' softball league hosted the tournament to bring awareness and fundraise for childhood cancer. League Vice President Amy Adams says the inspiration for the tournament came from seven-year-old Aria Smith, a survivor of cancer. Aria’s mom Andrea explains it as a form of bone cancer that forms in a tumor.
"Dentists actually found out that she had a tumor on the side of her face," said Andrea. "That tumor pushed one of her teeth up in her eye socket."
At the age of 3, the Smith family found out that their only daughter, Aria, had fibrosis dysplasia osteosarcoma.
"She had about a team of six specialists working on her," said Andrea. "She had facial reconstruction. She had a skull removal and titanium put in there to replace it."
It was a difficult time for the Smiths with Aria battling cancer for 4 years.
"We never knew the outcome. So we didn't know if the next time we went to the doctor if it was going to be more serious," said Andrea. "It's kind of a scary situation all the time. And then I had a lot of anger. We never got answers. We didn't get a lot of answers for a long time. Of why it kept coming back for why they couldn't get rid of it."
Yet, despite fighting every day, Aria persevered to play her favorite sport. Aria formally played with the Sebastian County girl's softball league but is now on a travel team, hoping to further her sport. Fort Smith Northside Pitcher Mallory Craig is a player Aria works with and aspires to be like. Her perseverance in the sport has inspired many around her.
"At the end of the day, she inspires me so much. Nothing can seem to get her down," said her father Austin.
"She's going to be out on these fields for years and years to come," said Fort Smith's Neal Martin.
“I think lessons that could be learned from seeing Aria's situation is that nothing is beyond your reach. I mean, if you just power through, and you can get through anything and then also you have a lot of people supporting you” said League Vice President Adams. "I'm just speechless. It brings tears to my eyes just to see her be honored. Because she should be because she really is a champion. Win or lose on the field today. She's a champion in the hearts of all of these softball players out here."
Aria is currently in remission after claiming her win against cancer in the Spring. All the funds from Saturday's tournament will be donated to St. Jude's which was chosen by Aria.
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