WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A young girl from Clayton, nicknamed “Natalie the Brave,” has been awarded the honor of being the local Children’s Miracle Network Champion.
“Be brave like me.” That’s the motto Natalie Gondek has adopted at only 3 years old.
Just before her 2nd birthday, Natalie’s parents brought her to their pediatrician after noticing sudden hives and bruising.
“They did some bloodwork and our lives were completely turned upside down when the bloodwork suggested leukemia,” said Marci Gondek.
Natalie was taken to Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, where was diagnosed with a high-risk case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
After the diagnosis, she spent an entire month at the hospital fighting a severe infection, which caused her to lose all of her hair, 20 percent of her body weight and the ability to walk.
Now, a year later, she still travels to Syracuse once a month for chemotherapy and receives at-home treatments every night.
Natalie’s resiliency at such a young age caught the eye of the Children’s Miracle network of Northern New York, which named her the 2021 local champion.
“Every single story is important to us and it is really so hard to choose, but Natalie was the choice by our in-house people this year,” said Bonnie Eppolito, director of major gifts.
As a champion, Natalie will help raise awareness in the community by telling her story.
“We are excited to share our journey. We are excited to let everyone know what it’s like to be a CMN kid,” said Marci.