ORCUTT, Calif. - Family, friends, community members and even strangers are remembering the late Lexi Brown.
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary the 12-year-old Orcutt girl passed away after a courageous battle against cancer.
"I cried a lot yesterday, but today I figured we've got so much going on, so much to be excited for and so much to be thankful for, today is a good day," said Lexi's mom Lisa Brown. "Today is a good day to smile and let everyone know that life goes on and it's okay to cry and it's okay to be sad, but you have to make the most of it, live everyday like she did."
As she reflects on the past, Brown, along with her husband Jon, are also using the day to look to the future.
"Today is the one year anniversary of Lexi's passing, but we wanted to have something fun to do today, something light," said Jon Brown. "We wanted to continue her spirit, so we launched her website for her non-profit."
After more than a year of planning, and about three months after it gained 501 (c) (3) non-profit status, Project Lexi Brown Foundation is now officially operational.
"The idea came before she even passed away," said Lisa Brown. "We wanted to give back. We wanted to do more for the community."
The new foundation will benefit Central Coast kids and their families who are fighting cancer and feature three initial projects.
"We want to stay local," Jon Brown said. "We want to help families in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. That's where we were helped. That's where the help came from and that's where we want to give back to."
The foundation will feature three initial programs, including one called "Family Fun Times."
"We want to plan a fun event," said Lisa Brown. "A night of bowling, a baseball game, whatever it might be, so these families who have so much going on and all this stress of a diagnosis and what that might, that they can get together and forget about it for a while and just have fun."
One of the other programs the foundation will organize will be "Kids Make a Difference."
"We want to provide college, high school kids, even elementary school kids with the tools necessary, a backpack, coloring books, LEGOs, cards, and give them and arm them with the tools to go to hospitals and visit kids in the hospital fighting cancer," said Lisa Brown.
The foundation will also provide Book of Life "Angel Kits," which will be special boxes families can keep important personal mementos.
"We would like to contact hospitals and hospice and provide these kits to families that might have to go down that road, so they can have an "angel kit" that they can keep all their favorite things in one place," said Lisa Brown.
Project Lexi Brown will also pass out hundreds of "Lexi's Angels on Earth" cards. Sized as a business card, these small cards will inspire community members to "pay it forward."
"You do something nice for somebody, anything creative or unique or whatever you want to do, but when you do something nice for that person, give them this card because there's specific directions on the back," said Lisa Brown. "We would love for them to share this story and to pass along and keep going and going and going, because one-by-one, we can make a difference."
Making a difference is exactly what Lexi Brown did so well during her life and continues to do even a year after her death.
"We can't give up," said Jon Brown. "This kid fought harder than any other kid I ever met, any person that I've met. To do what she did, we just have to get up and keep doing what she started."
For more information on Project Lexi Brown Foundation, visit: www.projectlexi.org