She may only be 11 years old, but Laila Anderson has had a huge impact on the St. Louis Blues and their improbable journey to their first Stanley Cup Final in 49 years.
Anderson is battling hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), an extremely rare, life-threatening immune disease. She met St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko in 2018 at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and formed an instant bond that has carried her through her chemotherapy treatments.
Prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, Anderson was on the ice as part of the pre-game ceremonies where she thanked the city of St. Louis for their support and rallied the crowd for a “Let’s go Blues” chant.
Here’s what you need to know about the super fan that is inspiring the Blues to go all the way.
1. Symptoms of the life-threatening disease are usually present within the first few months of life
Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a life-threatening immune disease in which people usually develop symptoms within the first few months or years of their lives, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. The Center reports that “in rare cases, affected people may not show symptoms until later in childhood or even into adulthood.”
Some symptoms of the disease include fever, enlarged liver and/or spleen, enlargement of the lymph nodes, breathing problems, easy bruising and/or abnormal bleeding and an increased risk for certain cancers.
2. Laila Anderson Met Blues Defenseman Colton Parayko at a Children’s Hospital Halloween Event
Colton Parayko could have never imagined the connection he would make when he took a trip to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital last October for a trick-or-treat Halloween event. It was there that he met Laila Anderson, a huge fan of the Blues and Parayko, and they formed an instant friendship.
Her mother, Heather, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “He was 100-percent committed to her, took her around trick-or-treating…he said, ‘I’ve got her – I’m going to hold her bag, I’m going to hold her drink, I’m going to do everything.’ He’s all in with her – they just have this bond.”
And it didn’t stop there. Parayko would continue to check up on his new friend, visiting her in the hospital and reaching out once or twice a week. “It’s a genuine friendship. They even friended each other on Instagram and send DMs. He doesn’t friend too many people. It’s something special,” said her mother.
3. Laila Anderson Had a Bone Marrow Transplant in January
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Anderson was able to find a donor through the organization Be The Match and underwent a bone marrow transplant in January and subsequent chemotherapy treatments.
Anderson would have never imagined back in January when she was in the midst of the battle of her life and her favorite team had the fewest points in the league, that she’d be watching them in the Final months later.
They “have been my inspiration this whole time,” Anderson said. “And I kind of feel like I’m their inspiration a little. I hope that’s the case.”
4. Laila Anderson Finds Out She is Going to Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals
For four months, Laila was only able to go to her home and the hospital. Her mother captured the amazing moment (which you can see above) when she tells Laila that her doctor has cleared her to not only get out of the house but to attend a Blues playoff game.
The Blues posted it on their Instagram and the video went viral. It’s been seen over ninety-nine thousand times.
Another video featuring Anderson, a collaboration with her friends at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, was played in the arena before Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
In the video, Anderson inspires her favorite team by ringing the bell and telling them, “I’m this close, you are this close. We do it together boys. We are going to fight until we win our battles.”
5. Blues Winger Pat Maroon Tells Laila Anderson That She Inspired Blues’ Stanley Cup Run
Anderson also attended the conference championship-clinching win in Game 6. Following the game, Blues winger Pat Maroon caught up with Laila and told her that she has inspired their run to the Final.
“We talk about you all the time…we fight for you…you got this, we are behind you,” said Maroon to an emotional Anderson.
Win or lose in the Stanley Cup Final, the St. Louis Blues have taken their fans on a historic ride, but more importantly, have provided strength in times of need.