From diagnosis to helping her fellow fighters stay with their families during their treatment at Duke Children’s

In 2021, Harper was diagnosed with leukemia – but she didn’t let that stop her! Through her fundraising and advocacy, she has contributed thousands of dollars to cancer research. Now, she has turned her focus to providing housing for families with children in treatment at Duke Children’s.

Part 1: Harper’s Diagnosis

At the beginning of the 2021 school year, 8-year-old Harper was thrilled to return to school in-person. She and her friends had been remote since March 2020.

Soon after, she complained of headaches and bone pain. Her pediatrician had seen many children with similar symptoms, so at first, they attributed it to the shock of returning to school with new rules, routines, and masks.

But Harper wasn’t herself.

Then, in early October, Harper and her mom Heather went on a long-awaited beach trip with friends. During that trip, Harper struggled with extreme fatigue and listlessness. She could hardly muster the energy to get ready to go out to dinner.

That’s when Harper’s mom saw that Harper’s lymph nodes were very swollen. Alarmed, she called Duke University Children’s.

Within days, Harper was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). She immediately began her grueling hospitalization and treatment journey.

The initial weeks after diagnosis were a blur of uncertainty and fear.

Part 2: Harper’s Treatment Journey


Over the last two years, Harper has made over 100 trips to Duke.

Some of those visits were scheduled, such as for chemotherapy (IV and oral) to kill the cancer cells and labs to monitor her body’s tolerance to the treatment.

Too many of those visits were unplanned emergencies for everything from high fevers to excruciating headaches and uncontrollable vomiting.

She’s had infusions, transfusions, MRIs, a port inserted, and countless needle pokes, including dozens of lumbar punctures.

She’s spent over 50 nights in the hospital.

In the midst of a challenging physical and emotional journey, Harper and her mom found solace in Duke’s caring teams, both medical professionals and support staff. Harper quickly became known for her effusive energy, unforgettable dance moves, and fanatical need to help others.

Both Heather and Harper made lifelong friends in the pediatric cancer ward. There were precious moments of relative normalcy: Harper and the other kids, when they were feeling well enough, spent hours together, walking the halls, playing games, and doing crafts. They played, learned, and dreamed of life after cancer.

Ultimately, it was through those friendships that she learned just how fortunate she was to live nearby.

Part 3: Brave like Harper

True to her empathetic and positive spirit, Harper was determined to help her friends in the midst of her own treatment. She designed a T-shirt and launched the Brave Like Harper campaign to sell them.

Through her T-shirt sales, she’s raised over $27,000 for cancer research.

That campaign led to features in the local news, magazines, radio shows, and later, national newspapers, and websites. Along the way, Harper has become a symbol of strength, compassion, and resilience. She continues to raise awareness about the need for pediatric cancer research, and the vast need for additional support for families of children in treatment.

But research couldn’t address the immediate need of families of children in treatment: affordable short-term housing.

At the end of each grueling stay, planned or unplanned, Harper could at least go home.

Meanwhile, many of her new friends and their families trudged back and forth to dingy motels or overpriced Airbnbs.

Heather investigated, and learned that roughly 60% of their fellow patients lived more than 50 miles away. Between medical costs, job-related absences, and paying upwards of $100 per night for short-term housing, the stress and fear these families felt about their child’s diagnosis was exacerbated by housing insecurities.

Often, parents scrambled to find somewhere to stay, moving locations whenever they could find a cheaper rate or a closer room. Eventually, Heather and Harper realized they had the resources to help, right in their backyard.

Her dreaming was the spark that would become Harper’s Home.

“Harper is such a kind and thoughtful friend. She is articulate and passionate and around kids her age, she is empathetic and solves problems. She has made a lot of friends at Duke, spending time with younger kids. And she is well known for making personalized get-well cards and doing laps with others on their unit.”

Heather Hindin • Mom