St. Jude's poster child Cash Shank of Visalia dies of brain cancer

The Fresno BeeFebruary 7, 2014 

Cash Shank, 6, from Visalia died of brain cancer Thursday. He was in television commercials with actress Jennifer Aniston and also filmed with talk show host Jimmy Fallon to promote St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

JILL KNAUER/HARLOW GRACE PHOTOGRAPHY — SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Cash Shank was a "charmer."

While filming a commercial with actress Jennifer Aniston last year to promote St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the little boy from Visalia displayed his suave.

His line was "You want to do lunch?" but he had another idea.

"How about I say, 'Do you want to do lunch, beautiful?' " Cash said, recalled his grandma Charleen Bradford of Tulare. "He touched everyone's heart."

Cash died Thursday from brain cancer. He was 6.

Although he battled cancer for 15 months, he was vibrant and positive to the end, Bradford said.

His strength and spirit made him a poster child for St. Jude hospital, including filming with talk show host Jimmy Fallon last year in New York.

Cash was beating his cancer -- in August there were no signs of his brain tumor -- but a check-up in November revealed the tumor had doubled in size, Bradford said. Doctors said he might only have weeks to live.

But Cash was strong, and up until a few days ago, was still able to do things like play video games and watch his beloved "SpongeBob SquarePants" cartoons.

He also enjoyed hanging out with his older brother Wyatt, 8, dancing, and playing T-ball before he got sick, Bradford said.

"He touched so many lives by his strength and fight and never complaining about being sick," she said. "He inspired a lot of people and brought a lot of people together."

His Facebook page, "Prayers for Cash Shank," has close to 5,000 members. Last year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent Cash and his family to Disneyland.

Cash wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up, so Tulare County and Visalia firefighters did their best to make that dream come true, too. They stopped by a special Christmas party planned for Cash and let him play on the fire truck and spray its hose.

He was dubbed an honorary firefighter and given a firefighter hat and T-shirt.

"On behalf of all the firefighters in all the departments that were involved, our hearts and prayers are with the family," said Battalion Chief Darrin Hughes with the Visalia Fire Department.

"Cash experienced a tough battle and it just gives us a lot of strength to know he was very tough and resilient to just be happy all the time. He had a great attitude ... I think he would have made a great firefighter."

"The outpouring from the community here has just been amazing," Bradford said. "I just can't believe all the good people. It restores your faith, that's for sure."

Bradford said Cash's death was peaceful and wasn't drawn out.

"Don't take a day for granted ... life is precious, you just don't ever know," she said. "Hug your kids tight."

Cash Shank

Born: Jan. 28, 2008

Died: Feb. 6, 2014

Memorial service and reception: 1 p.m. Thursday at Visalia Nazarene Church, 3333 W. Caldwell Ave., Visalia

Surviving family: Parents Rob and Megan Shank; brother Wyatt Shank and sister Graycee Shank; and grandparents Alan and Pam Shank, all of Visalia; grandmother Charleen Bradford of Tulare; grandfather Darrell Bradford of Ivanhoe; grandparents Rhonda and Tracy Edwards of Yucaipa; great-grandma Dorothy Bradford of Ivanhoe; great-grandpa Robert Petersen of Visalia; great-grandparents Ed and Norma Holden of Cutler; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins

Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at www.stjude.org/donate

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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