Siblings of Childhood Cancer: Zak's Story

Zak Summy was 12 when his father, Hank, woke him up at 4 a.m. “I’ll explain in the car,” Hank said as he led Zak out of the house.

Zak - Sibling Ambassador The explanation was hard to comprehend. Zak’s little sister, Naya, age 9, had a brain tumor and needed surgery. It was only a week earlier when Naya and Zak were skiing together in Vail, Colorado. Before she went into surgery at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Zak had a chance to talk to her. “It was sad in the beginning,” he remembers, “but she kind of lifted me up.” A week later, the Summy family was told Naya had medulloblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer in children.

Naya had that effect on people. “She was a really happy and joyful person,” remembers Zak. “She liked to talk to people. I was more quiet and she was always the louder one.” And while Naya didn’t share Zak’s love of golf, she always went along and drove Zak around on the course, zooming around in the golf cart.

In 2013 and 2014, Naya proudly served as an ambassador for the Four Seasons Parkway Run & Walk. Heartbreakingly, she passed away in late 2014 at the age of 11. This year, Zak will pick up where Naya left off, serving as a sibling ambassador for the 2015 Parkway Run & Walk at Lincoln Financial Field. Team Naya raised $230,000 over the last two years, and the Summy family has continued Naya's commitment to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer research.

Naya’s mother, Amy, remembers a conversation with Naya three months before she died. “It was a very brief conversation, and she asked, ‘Mom, if I don’t make it, how much did Alex’s Lemonade Stand raise?’" I replied, "Over $50 million." Naya’s response serves as the family's inspiration, "Well, I want to do what Alex did if I don’t make it."

Zak’s leadership at Parkway Run is an important part of Naya’s legacy to raise awareness and funds for the brilliant researchers at CHOP who work tirelessly to cure childhood cancer. “That is her most important legacy,” says Amy, “and she started before she died. We're just going to continue what she started.”


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