Daniella was a kind, vivacious and happy nine year-old who always greeted you with a splendid smile. In 2004, she began to experience a persistent leg pain and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer. The next 15 months following her diagnosis were spent in and out of the hospital; but even so, Daniella never lost her smile.
Throughout her treatment, she showed a resolve and a commitment far beyond her years. At age 9, while in the midst of her treatment, she became a fundraiser for others in need. She made and sold bracelets, and her efforts raised $4,000 for the Love Jen Fund of Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Foundation and the Breast Cancer Center at Memorial Regional Hospital. Her smile graced the covers of promotional material for the hospital, she spoke at benefits, made a television commercial, and gave interviews on their behalf. In May 2007 Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Foundation nominated her for the Youth Philanthropist of the Year Award.
Through all of this, she not only kept up with her schoolwork, but she excelled. She returned to school full time in the fall of 2005 where her leadership skills and courage were acknowledged by her peers, and she was elected President of the Pine Crest Lower School Student Council. She loved learning, and Pine Crest School was the perfect venue for her to indulge in her passion. That year she was chosen to attend the Junior National Leadership Conference in Washington DC, and she achieved membership to the Junior Beta Honors Society for her academics the following year.
Then in the spring of 2007, the unthinkable happened. Daniella began to experience shortness of breath and she became increasingly fatigued. She returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with heart failure; a complication of Adriamycin, one of the chemotherapeutic agents used to cure her of the cancer. As she was only two and one-half years out of cancer treatment, she was not eligible for a heart transplant. Despite aggressive medical therapy, her heart function continued to decline. Daniella died August 5, 2007.
Daniella was an exceptional young person who in her short life touched the souls of many others. Despite her significant challenges, she was a gifted student who reveled in the art of learning. She taught us to believe in the strength and power of love, understood the healing powers of a smile, and she always cared for others. To continue her legacy of giving, two programs have been established in her honor: Daniella's Journey at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, and The Daniella K. Folleco Scholarship Fund at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
These programs were chosen to reflect Daniella's ideals. Daniella's hospital stays kept her indoors for extended time periods, and she longed to feel the warmth of the sun on her skin and be surrounded by the sounds of nature. Could this be possible within a hospital? We believe it can. An area within the new Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital where children can see and feel the sun, be surrounded by greenery and listen to the sounds of trickling water is envisioned. This will be a safe haven for the uplifting of mood and the healing of the soul. At Pine Crest School, an endowed scholarship fund has been established to provide financial assistance to a young person with Daniella's academic abilities and passion for learning. This scholarship will allow the recipient to experience the academic opportunities upon which Daniella flourished.
In Her Words and Art
"I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2004. Over a period of two years, I have gone through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. The beach has always been a place I love to go. It is a peaceful, fun place.
"My drawing represents the journey of healing I have had to endure. The waves are the rough times, and the sand is the calmer times. The palm trees are my doctors who keep me healthy and strong. The seashells represent all the big and small things that the people at the hospital did for me. The seagulls are my friends who have always been by my side.
"I am the sailboat, sailing my journey through good and bad times. My journey has changed my life forever."
Artist and Author: Daniella Folleco age 11
From Daniella's Friends
Continuing Daniella's legacy is important to me because it is a way of keeping her memory alive. Even when Daniella wasn't feeling so great herself, she took time to help out others in need, like when she made and sold bracelets to raise money for Joe DiMaggio Hospital. Besides helping out charities, she was also a trustworthy and honest friend. Daniella is not someone to be forgotten, and continuing her legacy lets people be touched by her warmth and kindness through the help of others.
This 5K is a tribute to Daniella's love of running, and she participated in many 5K's when she was younger. I remember going to our lower school's running club together, Run for Life, and it was always so much more fun when she was there. Aside from running, Daniella had many other interests and goals in her life that involved helping others, and hopefully we can continue those dreams for years to come.
Genny age 13