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Close to Perfect

'Don't ever feel like you're less than perfect.'

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Lula Coe donned a new purple sweatshirt emblazoned with the words "Team Lula" and sang her favorite song, "Perfect,"in front of a packed house at The Venue on December 15:

"Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel like you're less than perfect."

All smiles as she exited the stage, Lula said singing to an audience was "sort of fun and sort of scary," and that she loves the song because "it's about being pretty."

For more than a year, nine-year-old Lula has been battling Wilms' tumor, a cancer that typically occurs in children--first in her kidneys and liver and now in her lungs. The concert and accompanying silent auction were organized by friends and neighbors to raise money for Lula's family.

"We're just so grateful for everyone's generosity," said Lula's mother, Kat Coe. "It's been overwhelming."

Wilms' tumor--or its more formal name nephroblastoma--is a cancer that is typically highly responsive to treatment. But Lula's is a rare opposite case.

She has already had one kidney and part of her liver removed, and the lesions in her lungs have failed to respond to several rounds of chemotherapy. The next step for Lula and her family could be a bone marrow transplant, which would require her to live in Salt Lake City for at least two months. For Kat Coe, who has three other children, the scenario is daunting.

"We're figuring out how to do life with a distance," she said.

But the community interest and involvement in Lula's struggle is taking a small part of the burden off the family. Neighbors have been keeping an eye on the Coes, willing to help out in any way possible.

"I know people have been bringing food to the house. Kat has been so busy at the hospital all the time that it interferes with simple things like her ability to grocery shop," said Monique Zehner, one of the concert's organizers.

Zehner, who owns a small convenience store near the Coes' home, has been soliciting donations for Lula and her family for several months. Her customers have risen to the occasion: a can on the store counter decorated with photos of Lula and her brothers has raised hundreds of dollars. Zehner also gathered items for the benefit concert's auction, resulting in nearly $6,000 raised for Lula's upcoming treatment.

"People are taking care of them," Zehner said. "They even set up a Christmas tree at the concert so that people could bring things for the family for Christmas."

Even those with little to give have been lending a hand. It was one of Lula's 9-year-old friends who had the idea to organize a concert to raise money, and who single-handedly garnered enough donations for a rented bounce house for children at the event.

Through it all, Lula kept smiling. Friends of the family laughed and said that her "default setting is happy."

"The biggest thing for Lula is, it was her choice to give 10 percent of what we raise to the music-therapy program at St. Luke's," said Kat Coe. "It's been her favorite thing to do and probably the thing that keeps her heart up the most at the hospital."

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