Imagine being 12-years-old and battling cancer, and at the same time being attacked online because of it. That’s the reality for Elli Cunningham.
Fortunately, the sixth grader now knows she has an army of support behind her following the Valentine’s Day surprise of a lifetime.
Dozens of police from Clay County Sheriff, Kearney PD and Missouri Highway Patrol (among other first responders) gathered in rural Clay County Tuesday afternoon for what appeared to be an unprecedented mission.
“When we roll up we’re going to get everybody in position,” ordered Clay County Sheriff Captain Matt Hunter to other officers. “I got flowers. We got cookies. We got cakes. We got cupcakes.”
As a giant caravan of law enforcement assembled, many onlookers had no idea the operation they were witnessing had nothing to do with an arrest, but rather an angel.
“We hope this is a day she will remember forever,” said Hunter.
Elli has spent the last year fighting kidney cancer. She also just recently became the target of an online attack from a cyber-bully.
“The messages she received were degrading, disgusting and demoralizing,” said Hunter.
The bullying not only targeted Elli’s cancer, but also involved derogatory pictures.
“It’s bad enough to have survived cancer and being bullied at twelve but to receive these types of messages, it really broke our hearts so we would like to show our support for her and what she’s been through,” said Hunter.
The police captain said he put out an email asking to help give Elli a Valentine’s Day surprise, something to let the 12-year-old know they have her back. He said the response was something he’s probably never seen.
“Were gonna give this little girl a special day,” he exclaimed before driving off to Elli’s house, leading the very lengthy caravan.
Just minutes later Elli would open the door to a Valentine as large as the fight in her heart.
Among the dozens of police officers arriving at Elli’s home also included: countless stuffed animals, flowers, gift cards, sugary treats and a giant Valentine’s Day card signed by everyone.
“it’s nice to know that they’re behind us one hundred percent,” said Melinda Cunningham, Elli’s mother.
Melinda was astounded by the warmth her daughter received, especially considering things were gloomy not too long ago.
“She had a bully come on Instagram and tell her that he wished that she would die of cancer and that her cancer would be back to kill her,” said Melinda.
But Elli is more alive than ever. And with her Valentine’s Day support came a message to others like her who may be fighting.
“Just, you’re strong enough to get through it. And people don’t know that you’re that strong,” said the Kearney middle-schooler.
And the police officers who came out to support her Tuesday had a strong message of their own as well.
“You mess with her. You mess with us. And we will find him and put him in jail,” said Hunter in regards to the cyber-bully.
While Elli hopes to return to school next month, doctors are unsure if she is in full remission yet.
Clay county sheriff’s office has their Cyber Crimes Unit investigating the cyber-bully who attacked her online.
By Josh Helmuth | KSHB News