BABCOCK RANCH, Fla. — A Southwest Florida boy diagnosed with leukemia is making a world of difference.
Jurriaan “George” Ricca is only 8-years-old but he’s on a mission, raising money and awareness for childhood cancer. His efforts are capturing the attention of his community and school.
“As you can imagine, any parent- that’s their worst nightmare to hear," says Ashley Gabor, George’s mom. "Especially a condition you’re not familiar with.”
For George, life took a turn for him and his family after a routine doctor’s appointment.
"You hear leukemia and blood cancer a lot with kids but not this rare form," said Ashley. "This is a condition that usually affects elderly men, 70 and 80-years-old. We didn’t know anything about it so, as you can imagine, your mind when you don’t know goes to the worst possible outcome.”
Last year, George was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia- a very rare condition for kids under 10 years of age. An active kid with a love for hockey and karate, the diagnosis came as a shock to George’s family but it didn’t slow him down. When he was diagnosed, George asked if it would be possible one day for all of the kids in his school to wear a yellow t-shirt. Yellow to symbolize childhood cancer.
"This year- when we had the opportunity- we reached out to Ms. Treece, the principal at Babcock Neighborhood School, and she thought that it was a great idea," said Ashley. "She supported the cause and we took it a step further by raising funds for the care team at Golisano.”
That care team happens to include one four-legged friend named ‘Dorian' the therapy dog. Dorian was by George’s side every step of the way during his treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
"He’s nice and he helps me take my medicine and stuff sometimes,” says George.
"And when you have your blood drawn, right?” asks Ashley.
"Yeah," said George. "And… he’s nice.” (laughs)
So George and his family got to work, raising money and creating those yellow t-shirts.
"A date was selected for everyone to wear it and we all went up there together as a family that day to drop Jurriaan off at school," says Ashley. "It was pretty amazing to see. Whether they were able to purchase the shirt or not, they were able to wear a yellow shirt. It was just a field of yellow that day.”
A memorable day, no doubt, but perhaps the best news came just 24 hours afterward…
“I think the best part about it was the next day we learned that George reached remission," Ashley said. "So that was kind of the icing on the cake, right?”
And with George’s condition improving, he wants to keep giving back. George hopes to continue his fundraising every year with plans to expand even further next year.
"Hopefully, maybe, even broaden our horizons deeper into the community a little bit each year and just continue to build funds," says Ashley. "Whether it be for the care team at Golisano or just childhood cancer awareness- that in itself.”
Showing that anyone with the highest of spirits- no matter their size- can be the biggest of warriors.