Eloquent and well-mannered Arriana is one of the sweetest young ladies you would ever have the chance to meet. Underneath the petite exterior and beaming smile lies a true warrior; a determined little girl who has taken on battles than someone three times her age. Diagnosed at two-years-old with Crohns Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, meant a childhood of aches, pains and little relief.
If battling Crohn’s wasn’t enough, Arriana was also diagnosed with cancer at eight-years-old. Not one to back down from a challenge, she fought her large cell lymphoma with grace and dignity. Even when she lost her hair and became too weak to get out of bed, she remained determined to beat cancer and get back to just being a kid again.
During her treatments, Arriana was told she qualified for Make-A-Wish and was told to dream big. She wanted her trip to symbolize a new milestone in her life, one where she felt on top of the world. A cruise to the Caribbean would be just the trip to satisfy her need for adventure and to have all the warmth and sunshine she could take in.
Before leaving for her trip, Arriana and her family were notified that her wish had been funded by two very special people. High school student Hannah had decided to raise funds for Make-A-Wish during her sweet 16 party in lieu of presents. She also happened to be a huge Panthers fan who won a Skype contest with Panthers’ player James Anderson. During their Skype call, Hannah told James all about her fundraising effort. Impressed by her philanthropic spirit, James generously offered to match each donation dollar for dollar, so Hannah could reach her goal of fully funding a wish.
Hannah met her goal and was matched with Arriana. To celebrate the hard work and Arriana’s upcoming trip, a send-off party was arranged at the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte at their famed Urban Sip Lounge. Arriana, her family, some classmates and Hannah gathered to celebrate. They were all surprised with a special visit from James Anderson, who flew back to Charlotte specifically to attend her party. James signed autographs, gifted Arriana with some Panthers gear and even got the crowd singing by playing on the piano. All in all, it was a memorable event and this was only the beginning of Arriana’s wish!
A few weeks later, Arriana and her family packed their bags and headed to Florida to leave for Arriana’s wish trip. For an entire week, she dined like a queen, swam like a fish and got the family time she had wanted for so long. The family explored the Bahamas, St. Maarten and St. Thomas during their ports of call. One memorable moment for the family was hiking to the top of a mountain for the view and the freedom. Arms in the air, eyes closed and wind blowing through her hair, Arriana finally knew what being on top of the world felt like.
The trip brought hope back to the family, especially to Arriana’s older brother, Aaron. He refused to leave her side during her treatments to hold her hand and help her not be so afraid. Now cancer-free for two years, Arriana has enjoyed going back to school and getting back to her hobbies, one of which is her newly discovered love of painting. Her family still recounts the trip and is thankful for the impact it has had on their family. Her mom Arah even said, “These seven days erased the last eight years of hardship.”