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8th-grader brings town together in honor of her hero

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from WCVB Boston

At Grafton Middle School, the memory of a beloved school counselor is the inspiration for messages of kindness and an upcoming fundraising festival.

Assistant Principal Timothy Fauth remembers his first meeting with counselor Julie Flynn -- his job interview.

"When I walked into the room, obviously a little bit nervous, she was the one who greeted me with a high-five,” said Fauth.

That upbeat, infectious personality was Flynn’s hallmark. Her radiant smile was ever-present, despite a lifelong health struggle with a rare disease called VHL.

"Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome; it's a genetic disease,” explained Maggie Warfield, Flynn’s friend.

“They don't have the ability to not grow tumors so in their 10 major organs there's tumor growth.”

Warfield met Flynn in the 4th grade, before she was diagnosed at age 13.

Flynn lost her mother to VHL when she was 5 years old and would have to endure countless major surgeries and cancer treatments of her own.

But many of those who knew her were unaware of this struggle prior to her death in March.

"It didn't define her. It didn't ever define her, it just made us laugh harder, dance more,” said Warfield.

Warfield’s daughter, Rosie, is an 8th grade student at Grafton Middle School. She saw Flynn’s warmth at school too.

"She was so enthusiastic all the time and she was always positive,” the student said. "She would always give me a big warm hug whenever she saw me, we would have this little secret handshake."

The school is honoring Flynn’s memory with a festival. They obtained permits and collected raffle items for the event, which will raise money for to the Boston-based VHL Alliance, which funds research and supports patients.

Rosie Warfield is calling it the Festival of Hope.

"She always lived by the word hope,” Rosie said. "Mostly we hope to spread the word about VHL, also we hope to strengthen our community."

"What Rosie's done to promote and organize and build this event is remarkable,” said Fauth. "We're really getting a chance to celebrate Julie's life and her legacy."

The Festival of Hope is scheduled for 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday at Grafton High School. Find additional information here.

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