DFD and Cancer Organization Surprise Young Cancer Survivor

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: June 09, 2019 10:33 PM

The Duluth Fire Department partnered up with Pink Heals, an organization that supports men, women and children battling cancer, to give a big surprise to a local cancer survivor.


Nine-year-old Elizabeth Luiten of Duluth, was surprised with a Duluth fire truck outside her home Saturday filled with a bunch of firefighters wearing pink gear.

"She doesn't know we are coming. We are going to do a surprise visit for her and just show love and support and encouragement. It's a day of celebration for her because she's a five year survivor coming up from a very serious illness,” Brian Tribley, the Pink Heals Sauk Valley Ilinois chapter president, said.

Tribley made a special surprise visit to Elizabeth’s aunt, Jennifer Rogers, in February. Rogers was battling ovarian cancer. They connected on the idea of surprising Elizabeth then.

From there, Pink Heals teamed up with the Duluth Fire Department to plan the surprise for Elizabeth.

"They contacted us to see if we could give them an escort to this girl's house and help her celebrate her recovery," Bill Chopskie, a firefighter with the Duluth Fire Department, said.

Elizabeth was a little startled from seeing a fire truck outside of her Duluth home, but they quickly reassured her that they were there to celebrate her recovery from cancer. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoma when she was only two-years-old.

“I thank god every day that he let me keep her, it was not easy. She was going in her coma and they said she had 12 days to live and there was nothing more they could do to her so it’s amazing that she's here,” Jen Luiten, Elizabeth's mom, said.

"We wanted to go see her and just give a celebration of her life. She’s a miracle," Tribley said.

“It’s great that they came all the way from Ilinois to see my little girl, that means a lot to me,” Luiten said.

Tribley said pink is the color they use because it gets people’s attention and is a color that represents illnesses. The meaning behind Pink Heals is to bring healing to families and people struggling with cancer and other illnesses.

Elizabeth was spoiled with plenty of hugs and gifts from the fire department and Pink Heals.

"It’s important for us to support the community as much as they support us and give hope to people when we can and help out where we can,” Chopskie said.

Elizabeth got a tour of the fire truck and even got to sign a special Pink Heals helmet that’s signed by all the cancer survivors they visit.

"She’s kind of a shy person at first but once you get to know her, she’s a very outgoing person and she’s a very loving little girl,” Luiten said.

Plenty of pictures were taken to remember the special day. Elizabeth has gone through a lot at such a young age, that’s why the community came out to celebrate her battle and let her know she’s a tough fighter who beat the odds. Elizabeth is cancer free and continues to be in recovery.

"She is a miracle. If you don’t believe in god, I don't know what to say, but I do, because I have a miracle living with me every single day,” Luiten said.

"Just the satisfaction and joy that it brings you to be a part of this and to see the smile and encouragement and love from them on their face, let alone what we are bringing them. We encourage them and build them up but they build us up when we leave. It's very exciting for everybody, ” Tribley said.


Alejandra Palacios

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