In 2011, we considered ourselves a typical a family of four, running here and there, caught up in the dramas of life. Our two beautiful, healthy and happy girls were busily immersed in life. As parents, we were preventative in healthcare. Our girls were screened by a dermatologist annually since the age of two, lived in sunscreen and never tanned. That summer, Claire was a regular 14-year-old, looking forward to her freshman year of high school, her blue eyes sparkling in excitement at all the possibilities. Then we blinked and it all changed.
A mole — one that had been on her ankle since the day she was born — suddenly looked “different.” Its removal was delayed by the plastic surgeon’s office. No worries, they said. “Kids don’t get melanoma.” They were wrong. Nearly four months later the call came: Our darling 14-year-old girl had malignant melanoma.
How did this happen? In short, she simply became a teenager. Hormonal changes, which routinely occur in puberty, prompted development of melanoma in our daughter; a risk we never knew was possible.
We were blindsided by her diagnosis, yet Claire and the rest of our family accepted no option but success. We were on that celebrated path more than once, only to be diverted by recurrence or metastases of the disease.
For three years, Claire fought hard with a quiet resolve, her sense of humor and joy of life fully intact. She kept her diagnosis private so she
Claire was a beautiful young woman who, at age 17, lost her battle with adolescent melanoma; the result of changes her body went through during puberty.
could be just a normal teenager as much as possible. Through debilitating treatments, she still managed to maintain her academics, sports, competitive aerobics and design studies. She enjoyed a bounty of friends who often found their way to our home. The day before she passed away in October of her senior year, Claire learned she was accepted into two colleges to study design, her longtime dream. She was thrilled and still making plans for her future.
Part of Claire’s plan included becoming an advocate to raise awareness of melanoma in young people. As her family, we now champion that cause while celebrating her passion for life and the joy, color and beauty she embraced every day.
We are still a family of four. Claire will always be with us, always our strength and inspiration. We carry out her mission every day by sharing her story and celebrating the amazing young woman we were privileged to call our daughter and sister.
Rocky, Marianne and Hillary Wagonhurst
We know there is more color, joy and beauty in the world because of you.
The Story Behind Our Hashtag
For a young woman who didn’t like a lot of attention, Claire has certainly become front and center thanks to her classmates and friends.
Inspired by Claire’s strength, laughter and ability to live a full and joyous life despite her battle, they created the perfect hashtag:
It is a reminder that no matter your circumstances, joy can be found each and every day. This hashtag of strength and celebration is etched into our coral Claire Marie wrist bands, which seem to be popping up everywhere, from college campuses and concerts, to marathons and even travels around the globe! It is a colorful reminder of our cause and the strength that can come from the smallest of moments.
With her passing, they committed not only to join the Claire Marie Foundation in the fight to raise awareness of adolescent and young adult melanoma, but also to honor the way Claire embraced each day.
Our Signature Color
Black has long been the advocacy color in the fight against melanoma. But for us, black alone doesn’t project the hope and positivity that we know awareness, education and prevention can bring. So instead, we choose to bring in a color that is full of vibrancy, warmth and joy: Coral, Claire’s favorite color.
As an artist and designer, Claire saw the subtle differences in colors with more depth and precision than most. If you asked her to describe the color coral, she’d say, “It’s not pink. It’s not orange. It’s not even salmon. It is coral”.
At her passing we embraced “Claire Coral” to celebrate her life and our mission at the Claire Marie Foundation. This ongoing search for all-things “Claire Coral” and the joy we find when we discover something in exactly the right hue binds us together, just as Claire did in life.
Coral for Claire. Black for melanoma. “Serious attitude with a splash of color and a smile.” These are the colors of the Claire Marie Foundation. Together, we’re stopping melanoma while celebrating the joy, color and beauty of the world!