By Stacy Jacobson
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- On Thanksgiving day, Alyssa Panish, 9, has much for which to be thankful: "Being out of chemo and everything that has happened to me."
At nine months old, doctors diagnosed Alyssa with stage 4 neuroblastoma.
"I did not leave her side the whole time. It was really stressful," said her mother, Angela Panish.
Alyssa is now in remission and attends camp every summer at Camp Happy Days.
"We help them year round so they have a support system and can meet other kids going through the battle," programs director Teresa Bishop said.
Camp Happy Days is a benefactor of Charleston's annual Turkey Day Run. Organizers chose Alyssa to blow the air horn to start the third heat.
It was the push the runners needed, just like the push she gave fellow campers and other child cancer patients.
"If people are going through it, more people can help them to get better. Or I could help them get better. I pray for them and send them cards," she said.
"She's a tough little girl. She's got a wonderful heart," Angela Panish said.
Alyssa said she wanted to help walk other kids through their ordeal.
She said she'd tell them "I know how you feel and sometimes you have to push yourself to get where you need to be."
She said she'll remind them there always a finish line.
"Before you know it, you'll be out of the hospital and you'll be bubbly just like me," Alyssa said.
The 2012 Turkey Day Run had a record attendance of almost 6,300 runners. This is the ninth year in a row attendance has increased.