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Canton girl's art raises money for cancer research

Nellie Jackson, News 13's Person of the Week, sells her paintings to raise money for UNC Chapel Hill's glioblastoma research fund. (Photo credit: Keisha Jackson)

A 5-year-old girl paints with the color of compassion to help raise money in honor of a family friend fighting terminal cancer.

Nellie Jackson is our News 13 Person of the Week. She started Crafts for Cancer and now sells her adorable paintings to raise money for UNC Chapel Hill's glioblastoma research fund.

"She does have a heart of gold for everyone," mother Keisha said of Nellie. "She definitely makes me very proud. She's the apple of my eye."

You can tell a lot about the family by looking at the refrigerator where Nellie's drawings are proudly displayed.

"1-2-3-4," she counted. "I'm just going to say I have a lot!"

Lately, she's found a purpose far beyond the fridge.

"There's a lot of people who need help," Nellie said.

She's painted all sorts of colorful critters almost half her life. This time it's her trademark turtle.

"It's so fun to do," she said.

A few weeks ago, Nellie was inspired to ramp up production. It's hard to look at her artistic creations without also thinking about Ashley Laton of Sanford, N.C.

"Cause she has cancer," Nellie explained.

In September, her mother's friend and former sorority sister at Western Carolina University was diagnosed with a Grade 4 brain tumor. Doctors told Ashley that she had 15 months to live.

"It's very upsetting," Keisha said. "It definitely makes you want to take every moment in and enjoy it and not take everything for granted."

Nellie took it upon herself to help, asking everyone she knows to buy a painting in exchange for a donation. When her mom talked about participating in a walk for the Brain Tumor Foundation in Charlotte recently, Nellie started thinking.

"It's her idea," Keisha said. "Originally, she wanted to sell her toys, but she came up with this idea instead."

The walk in Charlotte raised $120,000. Nellie added to the amount with her artwork.

"I think we've done 25 so far, and she's already raised $295," Nellie's mother said proudly.

Making so many masterpieces can be exhausting, so Keisha gives her daughter extra motivation to finish what she started.

"Stay awake and we'll go get McDonalds and get a happy meal!" she offered on the way to an art delivery for one of her admiring customers-- Misty Turner.

"I got something for you," Nellie said.

"Oh boy, what is it? Is it my pig I've been waiting for?" Misty asked.

"The piggy is for my aunt who collects pigs," Turner explained. "And the butterfly is for my daughter, for her bedroom."

"Thank you for supporting Crafts for Cancer," Nellie said.

"You're welcome, honey. I'm glad you're doing this for people with cancer," Misty replied.

The fact that she's 5 years old and has a capacity for compassion is a fact that can't be brushed over.

Nellie's joyful pieces shed light on Ashley's fight for her life.

"She's always been that way," Keisha said of her daughter. "Anything she can do to make people feel good or happy, she's always wanted to do it."

She's the heart of gold on the other side of the rainbow.

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