Tutu Girls Reunite at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Four young cancer patients shared the bond of sickness, now health.

McKinley, Avalynn, Chloe and Lauren reunite.

Published in Dome - September/October 2018 Dome

It’s funny sometimes how traditions are formed.

In September 2016, four young girls who were being treated for cancer had become fast friends. On the fly, Chloe, Lauren, McKinley and Avalynn posed for photos in pink tutus — and made a little magic happen. 

Those simple images seemed to capture an entire world. With the girls’ little bald heads and sunken eyes, the photos conveyed the toll the disease and the treatments were taking. But they captured something else, too — a certain life force, a fearlessness and the kind of unbridled joy of which young children seem to have unlimited reserves.

One year later, in 2017, they reunited — each of them a little stronger and thrilled to see each other. They wore gold tutus, and shirts with lettering that read “Brave,” “Strong,” “Fearless” and “Warrior.”

This year, they honored the tradition once again. Now ages 4 to 5, the girls raced to greet one another on Aug. 9 in the lobby of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital with smiles and giggles. They had grown since last year, and are developing their own interests. Avalynn, a dedicated Disney fan, has an artistic flair. Chloe is a T-ball player and loves to fish. McKinley is into all things “girly” — princesses, jewelry, dancing. Lauren is an animal lover. She’s a big hugger, too.

A special milestone this year — all the girls have now completed their treatments and are in remission. Their shirts bear the same proclamation: “Survivor.” 

Nurse Paige Ward, who cared for all of them during the past few years, considers this reunion celebration the highlight of her career as a nurse.

“This is what we strive for, work so hard for, pray for, lose sleep over,” she says. “We all strive and work hard as a team for this outcome! ... I can’t wait for next year — the year after that, and all the years after that!”

Some days are especially sweet.