NEW YORK – Lauren Glynn is the shy one with the toy husky dog. Smiley McKinley Moore has a doll with blond hair just like hers, and Avalynn Luciano is the squirmer with the pretty white bow on top of her head. Together, they are a brave posse of cancer survivors known as the tutu girls.
All age 7 or nearly so, the three girls were diagnosed with leukemia in 2016 and met at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they became fast friends. In the hospital, they sang together and played ring-around-the-rosy. They shared popsicles, and kept each other company while undergoing brutal treatment.
That year, they posed for photos at the hospital in purple tutus with a fourth young cancer survivor, Chloe Grimes, and a tradition was born.
“Little did we know they were going to form this bond,” said Avalynn's mom, Alyssa Luciano in Englewood, Florida. “To them, they were just being kids.”
The tutus and photos were the idea of Chloe's mom, Jacquie Grimes. She thought it would be a good way to raise awareness about childhood cancer. The hospital was happy to share their story of resilience and friendship.
After the girls completed treatment, the close-knit moms, all in Florida, organized annual reunions. Once, they met in a park. The other times, they gathered at the hospital. Always, the girls wore their tutus, though they changed from purple to gold, the color that symbolizes the fight against cancer in the young.
“It's become their tradition,” said Luciano of the annual meetups. “They love it.”
One year, they wore their gold tutus to a reunion with T-shirts that reflected their tough journeys. One read “warrior” and the others “brave,” "fearless" and “strong.”