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UPDATED: Catholic community helps grant wish of girl fighting cancer to meet Luke Bryan

UPDATE, 7/30: Mary’s wish came true!! She was treated to a VIP meet and greet backstage with Luke Bryan himself when he performed at the Ball Arena in Denver. Thanks to all who shared the social media posts and tagged Luke Bryan! You helped make Mary’s dream come true! Mary begins her 43rd round of radiation on July 31. Keep Mary and her family in your prayers!


Original story follows below:

Seven-year-old Mary Stegmueller is a fighter. She has been battling cancer since she was four years old, but her cancer is spreading. It has left her weak and unstable. She finds joy in music, especially Luke Bryan. And this Saturday, she gets to live out her dream of hearing him live at Ball Arena, all thanks to the local Catholic Community.   

Mary Stegmueller is a student at Frassati Catholic Academy, and her family are parishioners of St. Scholastica Parish in Erie. In 2020, Mary was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG), an extremely rare form of cancer with no known cure. After her diagnosis, she was given weeks to live, but thanks to a cutting-edge Car-T cell trial at Stanford University and an outpouring of prayers and support, she is still here, 33 months after her initial diagnosis. The dire reality of DIPG diagnoses is that 10% make it to the mark Mary is currently at. 0% make it to five years.

After hearing about Mary’s case and her love for Luke Bryan (she considers herself Luke Bryan’s #1 fan), Bill Hanzlik, founder of the youth sports organization Gold Crown Foundation and former Denver Nuggets player started making calls to see if there was a way she could attend Bryan’s latest tour when it rolls through Denver July 29. Hanzlik understood that it would be a challenge for someone as tiny and frail as Mary to be in the general crowd, and he was able to find someone to generously donate a private suite.

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So, Mary’s wish was granted: she, along with her mom Kristin, dad Bobby, five-year-old brother Robbie and some other family and friends, will all be enjoying the Luke Bryan concert on Saturday! Her second wish is to meet Luke Bryan — and if anyone reading this can make that happen, please share this social media post on Facebook and/or Twitter!

Watch Mary dance to Luke Bryan:

We first told Mary’s story back in March 2021, when Frassati Catholic Academy held #MaryStrong Day and raised money to help alleviate the many stresses that come with a cancer diagnosis like Mary’s. Since then, the Stegmueller family has continued to receive support from the Catholic community, and Mary has continued to prove that she is indeed #MaryStrong.

Since her diagnosis in 2020, Mary has undergone more than any person — let alone any child — should ever have to. This includes: 42 rounds of radiation to the brain stem (12 of them awake), two brain surgeries before the age of 5, 12 rounds of chemo, hair loss twice, 17 rounds of stage 1 Car-T cell trial, four rounds of apheresis, five PICC line surgeries, one port surgery, 55 MRIs, 70 times under anesthesia, four x-rays, three cat scans, 17 EKGs, three ECHOs, 19 trips to California for treatment (270 days total), 74 ommaya taps (spinal taps in the brain), five walking braces, two walkers, 11 blood transfusions, two chemical burns from medical cleaner and has learned to re-walk twice.

As Mary’s mom Kristin told us in 2021:”She’s going to be a miracle, and she believes it, too.” This certainly holds true for Mary’s miraculous journey. Next time Luke Bryan plays on the radio, say a prayer for Mary!

Aaron Lambert
Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the former Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.

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