Vanessa Gissel is all smiles after her best friend and her B.B. Harris Elementary School family showed her the meaning of love and compassion.
"I think it is cool that even some people who don't know me tried to help me," said Gissel.
Family and friends said Gissel's bright smile and easygoing nature belie the paralyzing pain that sickle cell anemia inflicts on her body.
"Sometimes it takes weeks when she is in pain. It doesn't go away," said Dominique Gissel, Vanessa Gissel's mother.
Unlike many people with sickle cell, Vanessa Gissel has a shot to be cured.
"We've been really blessed to have this little one, this two year old who is a perfect match for Vanessa and we are able to have a bone marrow transplant," said Dominique Gissel.
It's an expensive procedure that could cost up to $500 million. That is more than Vanessa Gissel's family can afford, but that's where Vanessa Gissel's best friend and extended family come in.
"We just had a class competition, and whatever class had the most money, they would get a pizza party at the end of the week," said Sean Nestor, a school counselor at B.B. Harris.
After a week's time, the couple hundred dollars the school expected to raise turned into something much larger.
"The check says $4,168, but it's actually closer to $5,000 now," said Nester.
"My family and I are very thankful and grateful for our B.B. Harris family," said Dominique Gissel.
"To see young kids who have never met this child bring in dollars, pennies and quarters from piggy banks or from doing chores, it restores your faith in the goodness of children," said Nester.
Vanessa Gissel is scheduled to undergo the bone marrow transplant in April. She is expected to spend three months in the hospital recovering, but her mother said if everything goes according to plan, Vanessa should live a long and healthy life.
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