Girl, 14, Who Battled Leukemia During COVID Gets Big Surprise

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SOUTH ELGIN, IL — Kaylah Gonzalez, 14, and her family have had a rough couple years. Gonzalez was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August 2020 and battled hard against the disease while isolated mainly in the room of her house in South Elgin, struggling through chemotherapy, kidney stones and twice having to lose her hair, which was once long and thick.

“COVID scared me because I didn’t want her to get sick and I was afraid she was going to get COVID on top of what she was already having to go through,” said Damaris Gonzalez, Kaylah’s mom. “So we stayed home, we were isolated.”

But Kaylah, who is a “warrior,” is now near her end of treatment. And Advocate Aurora Health in partnership with the Chicago Bears decided to surprise her Wednesday with some exciting news: she’d been selected to receive an all-expense trip to see the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers play this Sunday at Lambeu Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

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Her family, including Damaris; her father, Luis; and brothers, Kadrieyel, 17, and Kaleb, 9, have been invited along for the fun.

Kaylah learned this news after getting off her bus after school Wednesday. She was greeted by Damaris on the sidewalk outside their home home and then was rushed by Bears mascot, Stanley Da Bears, who shared the news with her.

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It’s the first time in two years the Chicago Bears and Advocate Aurora Health have awarded a Advocate Aurora pediatric patient with the paid trip since the program got put on hold because of COVID. Kaylah was an easy pick for the honor.

“Our staff at Advocate spoke so highly of her and what a trooper she has been,” said Christina Enea, director of brand partnerships for Advocate Aurora Health.

Daniel Choi, a pediatric hematology/oncology doctor at Advocate Children’s Hospital, said Kaylah always had a smile on her face.

“Whether she feels great or terrible from her chemotherapy, she always gives you a smile” Choi said. “It speaks volumes about her amazing spirit and the loved ones she is surrounded by. It always brightens my day to see that smile.”

Enea said Kaylah’s weekend will start off at Halas Hall on Saturday where she will “send off” the Chicago Bears before boarding a flight to Green Bay with her family. She will get to meet some Chicago Bears players before the game on Sunday and will get on-field passes to Lambeu Field. Her family will have tickets to sit in the Bears section in Green Bay.

Kaylah is currently a freshman at South Elgin High School, and is a hard-working student who expects straight As for herself, Damaris said. Her family is looking forward to this weekend’s experience and starting to look forward to the future.

Kaylah is supposed to complete her treatment in November.

“I’m hoping we can pass this chapter of our life, and we have faith that she will be good,” Damaris Gonzalez said.

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