Young cancer patient forms special friendship with Blues star

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – A young St. Louis girl who’s battled cancer nearly her entire life has struck up a special bond with Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko.

Arianna Dougan and Vladimir Tarasenko first met a couple of years ago at a Hockey Fights Cancer event and since then, Ari has formed a friendship with the Blues right winger.

"The first time I met him, I just immediately connected with him," said Ari.

Ari was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of three. After relapsing four times, Ari is on a new round of treatments and close to being cancer free. But that's not the only exciting news in Ari’s life.

On her 11th birthday in February, Ari visited the Blues locker room, where she received the gift of all gifts from her buddy Tarasenko.

Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo presented Arianna with a jersey before Tarasenko gave her an envelope that contained the following message:

"You are invited to join Vladimir Tarasenko as his guest to fly with the St. Louis Blues to Arizona and Colorado for a two-game road trip leaving on March 28 and returning on March 31. You and a guest will fly on the team charter plane and stay at the team hotel in Phoenix and Denver."

As if that wasn't cool enough, the entire team then sang "Happy Birthday" to her in the locker room.

Last month, Ari and her mother hit the road with the Blues, not only going to the games, but also flying on the team's chartered plane and staying at the team's hotel.

"It means a lot to me to connect with the players,” Ari said. “On the plane I got to play cards with Vladdy and just being able to be with all the players. It helped me get through some rough times.”

The trip was actually one of the prizes available during a Blues Casino Night auction event and Tarasenko outbid everyone in order to give the gift to Ari.

In the meantime, Fox 2 News is teaming up with Fox Sports Midwest next Wednesday, April 19 to benefit the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation. Fans who go to the game that night can purchase a limited edition bracelet in support of Ari. Proceeds will go to the foundation.