Early in September, the story of a 4-year-old girl from West Monroe, with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Ella Ecker, aired on Fox News about her one big wish to go to Disney World. Soon, donations for Ella’s wish to come true began coming in, but what sealed the deal sooner than later was an anonymous donation of $5,000 through a non-profit, self-funded charity, The Cancer Journal Project. In a follow up interview with Little Ella, her mother, Jennifer, and The Cancer Journal Project’s founder, Kenan Irving, they thanked the anonymous giver and are obviously excited for their expense-paid, much-needed vacation from dealing with this rare, genetic disease.
The Cancer Journal Project was founded by Irving, who followed one of his dying wife’s last wishes, which was to start a charity. Irving had lost his wife, Ashley, to stage 4 stomach cancer in late 2013, but she kept a colorful journal that she wrote in constantly about all her thoughts, feelings, and final days battling her illness. Being avid fans of Disney World themselves, the Irvings wanted to give anyone afflicted with a severe illness and who wished to go there a unique opportunity to bring along loved ones and have a great time. All these are made possible in close collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the country’s leading non-profit organization that focuses on arranging experiences for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Ella was diagnosed with SMA two weeks before her 2nd birthday. Her mother, Jennifer, explains that while the disease poses many challenges, Ella is a fighter and has not let her condition limit her. “These kids, most of them go through so much. It’s just a really special thing, a time for them to celebrate and have fun, because not everything that we go through is fun,” she said.
Little Ella is the first benefactor in Louisiana of the Cancer Journal Project. Irving shares that because of all the support that came in just 5 weeks after the project was launched, they have $2,000 left over to give to the next child they were going to grant a wish to. Those interested to get involved, can learn more through the Cancer Journal Project website. It takes about $6,500 to sponsor each child’s wish, so Irving is encouraging everyone to donate what they can and help spread the word about the project. You can also follow Ella’s magical trip to Disney World through the project’s Facebook page.