It's just unbelievable that a little girl would think to do this. It's just, it's overwhelming. —Lindsey Simon
FARMINGTON — The message "keep calm and carry on" hangs framed on a wall in the living room of the Simon family home.
Another plaque with the saying is posted next to the front door.
Lindsey Simon said she has always liked the phrase, but after her 3-year-old daughter, Courtney, was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to frame what is actually a card she received when the family received the bad news.
Now, the saying hits home, especially after neighbor Mati Ball decided to use her pig to help the family carry on.
After Courtney was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a connective tissue cancer, the neighborhood rallied together with a garage sale and fundraiser.
When Mati, 9, caught wind of the camaraderie, she decided she needed to join in.
"It's a community effort," said Jon Ball, Mati’s father. "We take care of our own. We circle the wagons when somebody needs the help."
Mati, an ambitious 9-year-old and winner of the 4-H Grand Champion Showmanship award, has spent the past six months taking care of three pigs — filling their water buckets, feeding them marshmallows, taking them for walks on leashes and spending her mornings before school with them.
Together, she and her father decided to give the proceeds of one of the pigs to the Simon family.
Originally, the money earned from selling the pigs — Oreo, Rosie and Lightening — was going to be saved for Mati's goal to attend BYU and become a veterinarian. But Mati said Courtney's story hit home. She has a brother, Boston, who is the same age.
"I couldn't imagine if it was my brother and what he would be going through," she said. "That would be hard."
Lindsey and Steven Simon said their "world has been flipped" since a month ago when Steven was watching a baseball game with his arm around Courtney and felt a hard bump in her abdomen.
"We've seen these stories on KSL a million times, and to think now we're doing it is surreal," Steven Simon said.
Lindsey Simon said when she heard what Mati was doing for her daughter, she couldn't help but tear up.
“It's just unbelievable that a little girl would think to do this,” she said. “It's just, it's overwhelming."
Steven Simon said it’s not uncharacteristic of the Ball family.
"It was a shock for sure, but then it's kind of like, it's the kind of people they are," he said.
Jon Ball said he and Mati decided to split the meat from Lightening, who was renamed Courtney's Famous Pig, into four groups and sell each for $500. Before the fair, Mati and her father found buyers for three of the sections and raised about $2,000.
On Aug. 17, Courtney's Famous Pig entered the auction arena at the Davis County Fair, where the last section was sold. The bid quickly rose to $1,800 from a group of businesses and families who then donated the meat back and told the auctioneer to sell it again. The second auction fetched another $500 for Courtney.
Mati said during the auction she didn’t realize how much money the pig brought in because she couldn’t understand the auctioneer.
She was thrilled when her mother told her, “It sold twice for lots (of money).”
Steven Simon said finding out their child has cancer, learning about it and worrying about Courtney has been difficult.
"There's a lot of dark moments," he said. "It's good to know when you are in that dark moment that there are people there to help you."
"I feel like I have almost an army around us backing us up," Lindsey Simon said. "Their strength and their friendship and the things they're willing to do is just incredible."
The tumor in Courtney's abdomen was 12 centimeters when they found it; 5 centimeters is considered large, her father said. But after four chemotherapy treatments and the start of radiation treatments, her parents say she is responding well.
The tumor has decreased 60 percent to 70 percent in volume, they said, but she will need to continue treatments for at least a year.
Steven Simon said in just one month they have seen a big change in their daughter.
"I think she feels that people care for her, people are concerned for her," he said. "I almost think maybe that's kind of brought her out to be more open."
He said one month ago Courtney wouldn't step on the scale and gave doctors a blank stare. Now when prompted, Courtney will show how strong she is by flexing her arms and gritting her teeth.
Randie Ball, Mati's mother, said the Davis Junior 4-H livestock program has taught her daughter to work hard and be responsible. And the experience with Courtney has taught Mati and their family even more.Comment on this story
"It's been a good teaching moment for charity and love and everything else that you want to teach your kids as a parent," Randie Ball said.
The experience has brought the two families together; the Balls with their horses, pigs, ducks and chickens, and the Simon family, with one cat that stays outside. The mothers also found out Thursday that they are cousins.
Next year, Mati plans to raise a steer, though her mother isn't too keen on the idea.
A website has been set up for donations and updates about Courtney.