SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A young girl had the opportunity to meet the New York City ballet Friday.
Aria VanDreason, 8, was once a ballet dancer, but a life-changing medical diagnosis put her dancing on hold. Aria was diagnosed with a juvenile brain stem tumor three years ago and was told she had less than a year to live.
“In the brainstem, it controls your heart rate and your respiratory rate which you need to live,” her mother Amy said. “And it’s not just cognitive or the nerves that go to your limbs. Its basic function, so that was heart wrenching.”
However, doctors at St. Jude Children’s Research hospital in Memphis successfully removed Aria’s tumor. She has not needed to undergo any further treatment.
“She did lose everything on her right side just as if she had a stroke,” Amy said. “But the doctor was confident she would get everything back eventually, and she’s gotten 90 percent at least back.”
Aria continues to visit St. Jude’s every six months for check-ups, but Aria spent Friday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to take part in a children’s workshop and meet the dancers from the NYC ballet.
“I can’t imagine,” ballerina Emily Kikta said. “We all think we have hardships and stuff, but she’s eight, and she’s gone through way more than I’ve already gone through. So just to be able to make her smile is pretty cool.”
Aria also received a gift bag from SPAC’s executive director Marcia White. White said she wants to create a special moment in Aria’s life that she hopes Aria will never forget.
“We like to think that we provide something extra special to everybody that comes through that gate,” she said. “But for somebody like Aria, we’re just doubly pleased that we can do something like that.”