GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arianna Dougan's 11th birthday was on Feb. 20, but the six weeks it took for her present to arrive was well worth the wait.
Getting to go on a trip with her favorite player, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, on the team charter for a two-game swing through Arizona and Colorado when the Blues faced the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and Colorado Avalanche on Friday, is something Dougan and her mother Lori Zucker will always remember.
"This stranger to us who has befriended our family and done so much for us, he just has the biggest heart and is the kindest person," Zucker said of Tarasenko. "It's just amazing. It renews your belief in humanity when you meet someone that is so nice and generous."
Tarasenko and his wife Yana were the winning bidders for the trip package at the Blues' Casino Night, held Feb. 13. On her 11th birthday on Feb. 20, he surprised Arianna on her birthday in the Blues locker room in front of the team, which sang her "Happy Birthday."
At 3 years old, Dougan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer that affects the nerve cells and can spread throughout a child's body. She's relapsed four times the past eight years in her battle, but this time, Arianna is undergoing treatment that appears to be working and could be cancer free again.
Dougan and Zucker boarded the Blues' charter for Phoenix on Tuesday. Dougan baked cookies for the team and sat with Tarasenko during the flight.
"She looks pretty excited," Tarasenko said of Arianna. "I knew it before, but if you look in her eyes right now, me and my wife make the right decision to buy this and make this little present. It's not much, but when you make a kid happy, this means a lot."
Tarasenko first met Arianna prior to the Blues' game for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in 2015. It was an instant connection.
"If you make a kid smile, that's just a little part what we could help with and make her a little more happy," Tarasenko said. "It's nice to have her here and then we need to win [these] two games for her and make her even more happy."
At the Coyotes game, Dougan was rinkside during warmups, got interviewed on the scoreboard during first intermission and got to see a Tarasenko goal in the Blues' 3-1 win against the Coyotes.
"This is a small thing for what she's going through," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I think it's on all of us to try and make it as enjoyable as possible and for the team and everybody to hop on board to make it that much better, it just goes to show the type of people that we have around here."