EAGLE, Idaho — An Eagle girl battling terminal cancer has died, just days before a planned community celebration aimed at bringing Christmas to her early.
Claire Elliott was 9 years old.
Claire was diagnosed in November 2018 with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG,) a rare brain-stem tumor that typically affects children under the age of 10. The condition is almost always fatal, with a median survival time of less than a year after diagnosis.
The news was a staggering blow. But even as hospital visits, medication and pain management squeezed out typical childhood activities like homework and cheerleading practice, Claire's mother held out hope that her daughter, who loved the lights and cheer of the holiday season, would make it to one more Christmas.
As that hope dwindled, she came up with a backup plan, asking neighbors and the community to help her bring Christmas to Claire by stringing up lights and decorating their homes and yards for Christmas.
Thousands of people responded, offering gifts, carolers, sleigh rides, and visits with Santa. The event was originally set for Nov. 2 in at Reid Merrill Park, which volunteers vowed to transform into a Christmas wonderland for Claire.
Reality intervened. Claire's health was declining rapidly, and her parents feared that November might be too far away.
A second, smaller celebration was set to take place in front of the little girl's home on East Hogan Street on Saturday.
In the meantime, Claire's classmates at Eagle Elementary School of the Arts came to her, standing in the driveway of her home to sing Christmas carols. Inside the house, volunteers set up glistening Christmas trees, and hung garlands, wreaths, and rows upon rows of Christmas lights on the walls surrounding Claire's medical bed.
She died Wednesday morning.
Claire's mother, Annie Elliott, wrote in a post on the Sunshine For Claire page Tuesday night that her daughter had gone into a decline, aspirating fluid into her lungs and struggling to breathe.
"I'm not ready to give up on this girl," she wrote in the post.
A celebration of life is being planned for Nov. 2.