PORTLAND – The family of Madeline Stasium struggled Thursday to accept the death of a young girl who had so much to offer.

“Everyone seemed to be drawn to Maddie and wanted to be her friend,” said her father, Mark Stasium of Portland.

Maddie, a popular sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle School who liked swimming, skiing and being with her friends, died Monday after a battle with leukemia. She was 13.

Maddie, who had Down syndrome, was described by her family Thursday as a typical kid, who could be stubborn and persistent but tried her best at everything she did. And it showed.

Maddie was active with Maine Handicapped Skiing and also enjoyed dancing and gymnastics. Her mother, Susan Stasium, said Maddie loved the thrill of skiing down a mountain.

“It was hard work for her … but she loved it,” her mother said. “She liked to go fast and ski with the boys. It was thrilling for her. She was brave.”

For the past few years, Maddie participated on the Deering Little League’s Challenger baseball team.

“She loved going to her brothers’ games, but Sunday was her day,” her father said. “She liked being part of a team, just like any other kid. Kids with disabilities are often thought of as being different. Kids like Maddie are a lot more like their siblings than they are different.”

She was close to her two brothers, Nick and Ben Stasium, who looked after her when she played in the neighborhood with them.

“The boys and their friends had very good instincts with her and included her in everything,” her mother said. “Maddie got a home run every time. If Maddie got her hands on the football, she got a touchdown. They all wanted to be her friend.”

Maddie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. She received chemotherapy for two years, which put her cancer into remission for the next three years.

In July, her doctors discovered that her cancer had returned. Maddie spent the next six months at Maine Medical Center, where she received more chemotherapy.

On Jan. 17, Maddie underwent a stem-cell transplant at Children’s Hospital Boston. Her 10-year-old brother, Ben, courageously donated his cells to help save his sister’s life.

The operation appeared to be a success. Maddie’s immune system showed signs of improvement. But recently, she developed a complication with her lungs that caused her health to decline.

“We worried about this outcome,” her mother said. “That was the hardest part about it. We made it clear (to Ben) that it was nothing to do with him.”

Maddie’s family and friends will gather Sunday to celebrate and honor her life. Her mother said she will miss Maddie’s sense of humor.

“She could make me laugh when it was the farthest thing from my mind,” she said. “The boys are very sad. As a family, we are crushed and trying to digest this. It seems very surreal right now … that this possibly can’t be happening.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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