Gianna Elliott, a playful 5-year-old from Jamaica, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 3. Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been battling cancer, undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and numerous blood transfusions.
Then, the nonprofit Campaign One at a Time got involved in making Gianna’s dream of seeing Disney World come true.
Campaign One at a Time helps sponsors children with severe illnesses to raise money, helping some of their biggest dreams come true. The organization is based in California, but recently expanded its reach to the East Coast.
Gianna is the first child to be a part of the organization’s East Coast campaign.
Elliott began coughing and experiencing frequent fevers before eventually being diagnosed after her symptoms got worse. She was admitted to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park on March 27, 2020, as hospitals around the city were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Gianna’s mom, Juett Elliott, said that Gianna hadn’t made many memories outside of the hospital. Gianna hasn’t been able to go to school, see her extended family or see any friends.
Juett hopes the trip to Disney will make lasting memories for Gianna that aren’t related to cancer treatments and hospital visits.
“She couldn’t be around her cousins; she couldn’t be around anyone. I think it affected her a lot,” Juett said. “She has been through so much. She calls the doctor, ‘doctor school,’ because she wants to go to school so bad.”
Juett has been by Gianna’s side every step of the way. They both stayed in the hospital for almost four weeks, and when Gianna started losing her hair, Juett cut hers.
“She embraced [losing her hair],” Juett said. “She said, ‘mommy, we’re twins.’ She took it well; I was surprised with her. Me, as a mom, I’m just trying to stay strong for her. I don’t let her see me break down.”
As of now, Gianna has been in what’s called an “early remission,” where no leukemia has been detected, though this could change at any time as she still goes through chemotherapy every night.
“Gianna is very playful, she is a happy kid,” Juett said. “She loves princesses — that’s her thing. At some point, hopefully, we’ll be able to go to Disney World once the pandemic gets better and her doctor approves.”
The campaign hasn’t reached the $5,000 goal yet. To contribute to the fundraiser for Gianna’s Disney trip, visit the Campaign One at a Time website.