When Anna Hanger was a little girl, her mom, Lisa, would take her to events for children with cancer to help her develop a sense of empathy. "Some people didn't want me to see the bald kids," Anna recalls. "But it didn't bother me."
Little did Anna or her mother know that in 2003, Anna herself would become one of those patients after surgeons found a baseball-sized tumor on her brain. That cancer, and the surgery required to remove it, left Anna changed physically—blind in her right eye, deaf in her right ear and with a severely curved spine. While in the hospital, "I was getting tons of gifts," Anna recalls. "I noticed kids who didn't have anything. It was so sad."
Her response: Anna's Angel Fund, a charity that buys clothes and toys for kids with cancer and helps families with living costs. Since 2003, Anna has raised $100,000 from people who learned about the fund from Atlanta-area hospitals. "Anna is a bright spot in kids' lives," says Kris Colluro-Smith, a social worker at Children's Healthcare in Egleston. DeLisa Kennedy, whose baby, Karmen, has leukemia, recently got teething rings, baby blankets and a $250 prepaid grocery-store card. Of Anna, Kennedy says, "She's a blessing."
Now cancer-free, Anna—a straight-A student and Court TV addict—hopes to become a scientist. Once an aspiring ballerina, she can no longer dance because of her physical limitations. But self-pity isn't her style. "She is focused on kids who are worse off than she is," Lisa says. "She has a tender heart."
Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM. Please include your name, phone number and return e-mail address. For more information on Anna's Angel Fund, go to http://www.annasangels.org