By: Jennifer Surles
In February 1013, Carly and Richard Blaine embarked on a journey no person wants to take. Doctors diagnosed their beautiful two-year-old daughter Ellie with Pineoblastoma, a rare brain cancer. In the following months, individuals from across the globe came together to support the family and to shower them with love and prayers among many other gifts.
Ellie left this earth on December 22, 2013, and spent Jesus’ birthday wrapped in his loving arms where she will remain until joined by her parents and siblings in Heaven. However, Ellie’s story didn’t end when she joined her Heavenly Father. Her time here on earth inspired Joni Kanazawa to start Ellie’s Elves, a non-profit foundation to help cancer patients, their families, and any family in crisis.
Having experienced her own battle with cancer, Joni understood exactly what challenges the Blaine family and any family struggling with a cancer diagnosis experience. She brought the more than 1,500 people known as Ellie’s Elves together to ‘light the night for Princess Ellie’. People across the globe joined in, including individuals from Australia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The candles lit the pathway to the celebration of Ellie’s life and her memory continues to light the way. In addition, candles were lit around the world in her honor by those who were unable to attend this event.
Today, Ellie’s Elves mission is to bring joy to individuals who are suffering from cancer and those who find their family is struggling in one or more ways. While many organizations focus on offering one or two services, Ellie’s Elves does it all. Whatever the family needs, Joni and Assistant Director Elizabeth Nast calls on the more than 3,400 Elves to see if anyone can be of help.
A young boy diagnosed with cancer only had a short time to live. Joni brought the elves together to create Whoville, his favorite part of the How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie, in his front yard. A smile overtook his face when he saw what had been done and that wasn’t all. Santa appeared to visit with him and share this special moment and the owner of a Lamborghini arrived to take him for a ride in his dream car. This is what Ellie’s Elves strives to do, bring people together to shine a light when things seem their darkest.
A young girl lost her father to cancer. The mom contacted Joni asking about a good place to buy the child a basketball hoop. Joni offered to ask on her page, and the mom was surprised to see she asked for a hoop to be donated rather than about the best place to purchase one. Not only was one gifted to this child, but it was delivered directly to the home on Mother’s Day. The mom and child arrived home from her basketball developmental league to find it in the front yard, a wonderful gift for both on what is meant to be a special day.
Another young boy lost his mother to cancer just days before his birthday. Ellie’s Elves wasn’t going to let him celebrate alone. Joni immediately started contacting people to help make the day special and to show him he was loved during a time when the family was grieving. The love and support the family received are sure to be a memory they will treasure for a lifetime.
Ellie’s Elves succeeds because many people with different talents come together to make things that might otherwise seem impossible happen. Cancer patients have enough bad things happening in their life. The organization works to show them the good that is still out there and in the form of thousands of people, many who have never met and don’t know the person or family they are helping. It’s about caring for others in a time of need and letting Ellie’s light continue to shine just as her smile lit up a room when she was here on this earth.