Arianna Dougan found out for her 11th birthday just what a friend she's got in Vladimir Tarasenko.
Dougan celebrated her birthday on Monday and got an enormous surprise from the St. Louis Blues forward when he presented her with a two-game road trip to Arizona and Colorado on the team plane. Dougan has been fighting Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that affects nerve cells, since she was three years old. She has relapsed four times, but her mother Lorie Zucker says the treatment Dougan is undergoing has gotten her close to cancer free again.
Tarasenko won the gift for her at the Blues' Casino Night live auction last week, outbidding all other attendees at the annual charity event.
"I was crying in the background," Zucker, told the Blues website. "She's so over the moon she doesn't realize what she's got yet. It won't hit home until she gets in the car. This has been the best birthday ever."
The two met when they were paired together for a Hockey Fights Cancer event in 2015 and became fast pals. She came back a couple days later for a trick-or-treat in the Blues locker room and Tarasenko found her in November 2016 for a selfie at Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
While Dougan has been fighting her own illness, she's been inspiring others to fight along with her. She's participated in musical therapy at the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. When she was just 7 years old, she wrote a song called "You Can Get Through It," in which she tells other young cancer patients to take their medicine with style.
She performed the number on stage for the Kids Rock Cancer event in St. Louis in 2014 and received a standing ovation from the crowd. You can see her in action at the 13:30 mark.
But Tarasenko has certainly given her a new clubhouse favorite for biggest thrill of her young life with the road trip in March.
"The fact that we're celebrating an 11th birthday is just the most amazing emotional thing anyway," Lorie said. "And then you add to it and see her walking around (the Blues locker room) and smiling and able to be here and get this amazing gift… it's amazing."