Harper Drolet, 11, loses cancer battle

Harper Drolet sits for her photograph for a painted portrait by family friend Beverly Grantham Derrick in June.

Harper Drolet fought an exhausting battle with unwavering spirit and, at age 11, taught a community about giving, even when she herself needed more than anyone could provide.

Harper, a sixth-grader at Blessed Sacrament School, died Friday from a rare form of soft-tissue cancer after once beating the disease. The precocious little girl became a public figure in fundraising campaigns for cancer patients, taking the microphone at charity golf tournaments and going on the air for a radio pledge drive.

She led a campaign to collect 7,000 toys for the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital as her own treatment there ended the first time.

To call her a horse lover would be an understatement, and she recently adopted a mare named Fiona from the Livestock and Equine Awareness and Rescue Network.

"That's been her big passion," said Jamie Drolet, Harper's father and the retail advertising manager at The Post and Courier. "And, believe it or not, she'd been doing her homework."

Harper continued treatment, even when that alone became difficult. She tried to receive platelets just hours before she died.

"She was a fighter, and she fought her last fight today," her father said. "She cared more about everybody else and always sacrificed herself for them."

Harper made people pay attention: She garnered more than 1,300 fans on Facebook, and her favorite restaurant, the Sunflower Cafe, collected money and decorated its walls with paper chains of well-wishes for the girl.

Harper kept a journal and, knowing her time was fleeting, wrote: "When I get to see Jesus, I will be on the biggest horse cloud in the sky."

She is survived by her parents, Jamie and Amy Drolet, and her sisters, 8-year-old Henderson and 4-year-old Helen.