Spirit of giving is the legacy of Centennial's Keeley Imel [Ellicott City]

It's been just over a year since we lost a young shinning star in our community following a courageous and inspiring battle with pediatric cancer.

In 2007, 14-year-old Keeley Imel was diagnosed with medulla blastoma, a form of brain cancer. During her years at Centennial High School, Keeley was determined to live a normal teenager's life, staying on track academically and even participating in soccer, the sport she loved.

Despite the severity of her illness, Keeley's remarkable maturity and positive attitude was an inspiration to all who knew her.

"I think Keeley's story resonates with so many because she reminds us that all children deserve a lifetime of moments," said Judi Imel, Keeley's mother.

While waging her own battle against cancer with extended stays at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for treatment, Keeley and her family found the time and energy to help others.

They raised awareness for St. Jude's through national marketing and media efforts. In addition, Keeley was the inspiration for the Hope in the Harbor Gala benefit that has raised more than $750,000 for St. Jude's Hospital.

The world-renowned research hospital costs $1.8 million per day to run and care is provided to patient families at no cost. Seventy-five percent of the hospital's operating costs are paid by public donations and fundraisers such as Hope in the Harbor.

Keeley was front and center in her support for the lifesaving research and treatments performed at St. Jude, even speaking at the second annual Hope in the Harbor Gala.

This month will mark the fourth annual Hope in the Harbor Gala on Thursday, April 18, at the American Visionary Art Museum.

To honor Keeley and other children fighting similar battles, nearly two dozen chefs from the Baltimore area's finest restaurants — including Ellicott City's Chef Matthew Milani of Rumor Mill, Columbia's Chef Laurent Girard of Cafe de Paris and Little Italy's Chef Nino Germano of La Scala Ristorante — are preparing culinary dishes for 350 people.

Guests also will enjoy cocktails and both live and silent auctions. Capping off the evening will be exceptional cakes donated by longtime St. Jude supporters and honorary chairpersons Duff Goldman, Mary Alice Yeskey and Geof Manthorne of Charm City Cakes.

To purchase tickets, become a corporate sponsor or to place an ad in the event program book, contact St. Jude's Beth Desai at 908-281-5840 or go to stjude.org/hopeintheharbor.

Thank you, Keeley, for leaving an indelible mark on our community. Keeley's mother Judi summed it up best when she said, "Because of influences like her, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is making discoveries that are literally saving lives around the world."

Calling all shutterbugs! The Ellicott City Restoration Foundation is now accepting entries for its photo contest. The amateur photographer competition has three categories — adult (18 and over), junior (17 and under) and this year's annual special category, "Doors of Ellicott City." Pictures must be taken within the confines of the Historic District limits.

Entries will be accepted at the Howard County Welcome Center at 8267 Main St., Ellicott City, before the deadline of 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 26. Cash prizes will be awarded. All photos will be on display throughout a month long exhibit through July 7 at the Howard County Welcome Center. For more information, go to the foundation's website at http://www.ecrestoration.org

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