She spoke to the crowd in a taped interview, a Carolina blue bandanna brilliant against her bright hair. She half-giggled her way through it, telling folks not to worry about her and thanking them profusely for their help. When asked why she wished what she did, her answer was simple.
"Well," she shrugged, "I just saw that God had given me a whole lot, and I had already been to Disney World and stuff. But I figured a lot of other kids hadn't."
Part of the $1 million she raised went to make Amber's wish come true. The brown-eyed girl and her family spent their last Christmas together on a cruise in the Bahamas.
Amber died of osteosarcoma in May of 2004, just shy of 16, and just months after the fight had begun with a complaint about pain in her shoulder.
It is fitting that these two girls' stories connected, and a shame they never met. They shared more than their struggle with a rare bone cancer. Their families marveled that night, at the Celebration of Hope dinner, at how both girls were stronger than their parents, and wiser than their years.
Both faced a terminal diagnosis before they faced driver's ed, and both swallowed, smiled, and said, "there is a reason for this, Mama."
Amber--being of the age at which one still has a favorite animal--loved frogs. She had them all. They were stuffed and ceramic and wallpapered, and some held toothbrushes or pencils. They were on every picture frame, poised to leap into the fray with Amber and her friends. Amber had picked frogs several years earlier, after her youth pastor taught her an acronym: FROG, for "fully relying on God."
She had always liked the thought, and the frogs served as little, amphibian reminders of her need to remember it. When she was diagnosed, she figured "fully relying on God" was about all she could do, and thanked the Lord he had seen fit to teach her that lesson at an early age.
Throughout her sickness, Amber reminded people what the frogs meant. Driving through the streets of her tiny hometown, one could rarely find a door not decorated with a frog cartoon or a business without a frog flag.
When Amber came home from the Celebration of Hope in Charlotte, she still had silver streamers clinging to her shoulders when she told her mother, "let's do one for Hope, too."
Amber's hometown Celebration of Hope added an extra $13,000 to the fund. Amber was determined to attend. She was wheeled in on her hospital bed, and was able to sit up long enough to sing her favorite hymn with a local Gospel band.
As a reporter, I had the privilege of being invited into families like Amber's and Hope's during the hardest of times. Cancer in a child is inexplicable, unfair, depressing, and bitter. Yet I have always been amazed that children with cancer can be tough, serene, uplifting, and cheerful.
When faced with death, Amber gleamed, Hope giggled, and both of them gave so much. Their faith and their strength changed me.
Next week is the two-year anniversary of my friend Amber's death. Please consider donating to Team Will, the Sarcoma Foundation of America, or Make-A-Wish to help these kids and their families. Their battle is a tough one. They are always in my prayers.