The bond between 13-year-old Tony Colton and 18-year-old Ashley Krueger has brought light to two teens' darkest hours.
"Laughter. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see Ashley. If I'm down or don't feel good, Ashley makes me laugh," Tony Colton said Wednesday.
The two met at St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital's oncology wing. Their friendship flourished as each pushed each other forward in their fight against cancer.
"It's just great to know there's someone down the hall that I can go talk to or hang out with, or ride the IV poles, which we're not supposed to do," Colton laughed.
Both have spent the past two years in and out of the hospital. When Tony was released for remission last fall, his friend and her family never left his heart.
"I just wanted to raise some funds, do some garage sales and stuff. And then it just started to go bigger and bigger each time I came up with new ideas," he said.
Colton later funneled donations to the online site 'Give Forward.' He raised nearly $25,000 to help her family with costs that insurance didn't cover.
"Medical bills, some. Co-pays, a lot. Pharmaceutical co-pays never end. Gasoline budget is just phenomenal," Ashley's mother, Patricia Myers, said Wednesday.
Just months later, Tony relapsed and will soon return for more treatment, just down the hall from Ashley. Now, Ashley's returning the favor and starting her own 'Give Forward' page to raise funds for him.
"I don't think any of us could have done it without each other. I don't know how to describe it. It's like a support system. We keep each other going," Krueger said.
Colton says it's a shoulder to lean on through a struggle most can't comprehend, but the true healing power of their bond is basic.
"When we get together, we just like to laugh, have fun, forget about what we have to go through," Colton smiled.
To donate to Ashley or Tony's 'Give Forward' pages, visit www.giveforward.com/tonystriumph or www.giveforward.com/ashleysjourney.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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