David Anderson planned to throw a spa party for Ali Shae Coleman and her friends when she was halfway through chemotherapy for a rare childhood cancer. But Ali died before then, in July 2015, just after her sixth birthday.
The local salon owner told his longtime friend Tiffany Coleman he wanted to keep his promise to her daughter. Anderson’s idea grew into an annual celebration of Ali to help other families dealing with childhood cancer.
The third annual Ali Shae Spa Day Saturday at the Casper Country Club is open to all with a suggested donation of $30 per family. Local businesses have sponsored some tickets for those who aren’t able to donate.
“So it’s been a promise that we’ve kept for three years now, and hopefully many, many more,” Coleman said.
The event benefits the Ali Shae Coleman Pink Rose Foundation created in memory of Ali to provide supplies that families probably wouldn’t know they need until they’re traveling and spending long periods of time in hospitals.
The spa day incorporates of all of Ali’s favorite things, like crafts, dressing like a princess, posing for the camera and spending time with friends and family.
“If we raise a dollar, we raise 500, 5,000, 5 million; it is about celebrating her,” Coleman said. “It’s keeping her name there; it’s keeping her alive in a sense for us. It’s just celebrating her.”
Celebration of Ali
The Ali Shae Spa Day gives kids the royal treatment from the time they’re crowned a prince or princess on the red carpet to the time they leave, decked in sparkles and color.
“It really is over the top, I mean it’s ridiculous,” Anderson said, “Like, we all get into it.”
Anderson’s staff at ROOTZ Salon + Spa will give quick prince or princess hair with color spray and jewels, while Basics School of Beauty will offer mini-manicures with options including nail tattoos that glow in the dark or feature superhero to Disney characters.
“It’s a very small amount of time and each little station,” Coleman said, “but they get the works.”
The celebration is for boys and girls alike, and kids can receive stick-on tattoos, play games, visit with characters from Dream upon a Princess and eat kid-oriented snacks catered by the Casper Country Club and treats by Frosted Tops. A photo station with props and a new backdrop every year sends attendees home with photos, and new this year is a full craft room. Anderson will teach his Daddy Daughter Braiding class, which is open to anyone who wants to learn, he said. There will be extra hairstyle mannequins this year for kids to play with.
Ali loved autumn, and the spa day is timed with Halloween so kids can come in their costumes or sport festive attire on hand at the party. Anderson’s youngest son became a T-rex at spa day last year, he said.
The foundation’s main fundraiser has grown from about 60 kids to at least 100 expected this year plus their families, Coleman said.
“It’s a good celebration to honor a little girl, in all the ways that she would want to be honored.”
Ali’s parents would carry her, sedated for radiation treatment, across the Denver Children’s Hospital campus for chemo. Then they spotted a mother at the hospital who pulled her child and their gear in a wagon, Coleman said.
Soon, Ali was rolling around in her own canvas wagon tricked out with her pillows, toys and activities for comfort and entertainment.
“On good days, Ali could even pretend the wagon was taking her on an adventure…” her mother wrote in the foundation’s blog.
The Ali Shae Coleman Pink Rose Foundation provides wagons like Ali’s and backpacks, another necessary item, filled with compact activities customized for each child. Supplies for their parents include a medical diary and treatment calendar they’ll need on hand at all times. There are notebooks, travel toiletries and even a mug filled with instant coffee.
“Just a lot of the things that, unfortunately, you don’t think about until you’ve been there, right?” Coleman said. “And, unfortunately, I had to be there, and I had to walk the walk. So, hopefully, I can help others who are going through it as well — at least make one day or one thing a little bit easier.”
The foundation has given the wagon and backpack care packages to 15 families around the region so far, said Coleman, who’s president of the nonprofit. They deliver gifts for local families at Wyoming Medical Center during holidays and started Ali’s Little Lending Library and Blessings Box at Apple Tree Learning Center.
The family thought they were winning the battle with cancer as Ali celebrated her sixth birthday on July 4, 2015, at home with a break from chemo. The cancer was shrinking in Ali’s brain and was gone from her bone marrow and lungs. Soon after, scans revealed the cancer had spread into the nerves of her brain. She died July 21.
Ali remained fun-loving and smiling despite the harsh cancer treatments.
“And you never would have known she was suffering at all,” Coleman said. “She was tough, she was tough.”
Anderson knows where she got it.
“So’s her mama,” he said.
Coleman’s not so sure, but she holds to her daughter’s words in her work to help during trying times and keep Ali’s light going.
“She always said cancer can’t steal her shine,” Coleman said. “And we’re shining on, sometimes a little tired, sometimes a little haggard. But we’re still shining.”
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!