A 12-year-old Chicago girl battling a form of bone cancer got the opportunity to fulfill her dream of paddling in the ocean.
Ailani Banuelos was brought to Deerfield Beach, Fla. by her parents at the beginning of July to give her that opportunity.
“We don’t have an ocean in Chicago, so anything about the ocean is awesome,” Ailani said in a video posted to Facebook by the municipality.
The 12-year-old is currently fighting osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer she was diagnosed with in January 2016. The cancer was found when doctors discovered a malignant tumour in her left leg, which made it almost impossible to walk, according to her Facebook page.
She underwent chemotherapy and began walking on her own in April 2017, but one month later, the cancer returned in her other leg. After five more rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer metastasized to her lungs.
To grant Ailani’s wish, officials with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Deerfield Beach joined forces with local businesses to help her get in the water – and caught the moment on camera.
“They just are here to give her this moment of happiness and love,” said Courtney Palmer of the sheriff’s office fire rescue. “We’re here to help people give back, do more, realize that someone needs a little help sometimes, and then they’re off with that smile and a hug.”
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In the video posted by the municipality, Ailani is wheeled into the water using a special beach wheelchair before being transferred over to a paddleboard.
During the video, she paddles in the ocean with an oar and goes underwater to see the sea floor and collect shells.
“To know that a 12-year-old girl wanted to come to Deerfield Beach and one of the last things she wanted to do was stand up paddleboard made it all worthwhile to see her smile, to see her laugh, to see her family, to see her out here just being a kid,” said Thomas Noland with DFB Ocean Rescue.
Her mother, Mireya Banuelos, said Ailani has been through so much that the experience would always be memorable.
Asked what she thought of the experience, Ailani expressed her enthusiasm.
“It was awesome. It was so cool,” she said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 30,000 times.