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Three-year-old Ellie Aquino, whose smile never dims, wants to see Disneyland

COURTESY PHOTO: AQUINO FAMILY - Three-year-old Ellie Aquino, who has been battling cancer, dreams of visiting Disneyland. You would be hard pressed to find someone more deserving of a trip to the "world's happiest place" than a brave 3-year-old Gresham girl who always has a beaming smile despite facing unbelievable difficulties.

Ellie Aquino is called "Miss Independent" by her mother because she is very curious and loves to explore the outdoors. One of her favorite things is coming across "creepy-crawly bugs," especially spiders and ladybugs. Ellie also could spend hours watching fish in aquariums.

The young Gresham resident's second home is the library, with her mom reading new books to her. And Ellie is passionate about outer space — she loves her astronaut costume, could name the entire solar system when she was a year and a half old, and her favorite planet is Saturn.

Ellie is smart, happy and brightens any room she enters.

But she also has gone through a year's worth of cancer treatments, and doctors say they have run out of options. So her family is focusing on continuing to bring Ellie happiness, and they need the community's support to make it happen.

Helmed by California-based nonprofit Campaign One at a Time, a two-week-long fundraiser is being launched to raise $5,000 to send Ellie to Disneyland, a place she has always dreamed of visiting.

From Saturday, July 10, through Saturday, July 24, donations for Ellie's dream vacation can be made online at

Ellie's story began when she turned 2 years old. Her parents noticed something wasn't quite right with her mobility. The active toddler had started limping, and she was no longer running. They learned it was due to a large tumor found by doctors on the left side of Ellie's brain that was affecting her motor skills.

In August 2020 she was diagnosed with ependymomo, a rare type of primary brain or spinal cord tumor. A few days later she had an eight-hour surgery to remove the tumor. Ellie would face radiation therapy and chemotherapy for the next few months, ringing the bell in April of this year.

But she was not cured.

In June Ellie faced a second brain surgery, and the family were given devastating news. Her cancer had not reacted to the treatments, and the tumor had continued to grow.

With no more options available, the family is now dedicated to continuing to make Ellie smile. She was traumatized during her visits to the hospital, and the radiation and chemo treatments were difficult for her. Her family wants to give her a sense of safety and make her feel like a "normal" kid again, thus the trip to Disneyland.

Ellie is most looking forward to meeting Mickey Mouse, her favorite character.


Help send Ellie Aquino to Disneyland by donating online at

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