The call from her daughter’s school came at 2:30 on a December afternoon.
“Scarlet has a fever,” the nurse told Rebecca Hendricks. “She’s lying down now. If you could come get her.”
The following day, Scarlet Anne seemed to be improving. She ate Cap’n Crunch for breakfast, drank her milk and curled up on the couch with her mother to watch “The Aristocats.”
Thirty minutes into the Disney movie, the child fell asleep. Alarmed by her labored and raspy breathing, Hendricks woke her up. She dressed the child in footy pajamas, put her hair in pigtails and rushed her to the emergency room.
Three and half hours later, the little girl with the irresistible giggle, long brown hair and piercing blue eyes was dead.
Scarlet Anne died during one of the worst influenza seasons in the country in years, and Hendricks struggled to make sense of her daughter’s death.
“I thought I can’t sit here and die in this darkness, this hole of sorrow,” Hendricks, 34, said. “I needed to do something.”
So in 2015, the year after Scarlet Anne died, the Tacoma, Wash., mother founded the Fight the Flu Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the seriousness of the flu, especially for families and children. The group since has gained official nonprofit status as The End-FLUenza Project.
It is one of a handful of national organizations, such as Families Fighting Flu and Alana’s Foundation, that have sprouted over the years to highlight an illness that, despite widespread education and vaccination campaigns, is viewed as just a seasonal inconvenience.