If you need any more proof that St Louis Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko is not only a sensational hockey player but a stand-up guy, then look no further than the story of 11-year-old cancer survivor Arianna Dougan.
Arianna Dougan’s Battle
If you are unfamiliar with this amazing story, Ari is an incredibly brave girl who has undergone an eight-year cancer battle, which has included four relapses. She was diagnosed when she was three years old with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer which generally affects children and attacks the nerves in the body.
So how does Tarasenko come into this story you may ask? The NHL’s ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ initiative heralded the beginning of an incredible friendship between Ari and Tarasenko when they were paired together in 2015 for the Blues’ ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ blue carpet night. Their friendship continued over the next few seasons. Ari was given the opportunity to reconnect with the Blues superstar several more times at Scottrade Centre through various Children’s Cancer events.
Ari’s Surprise Gift
However, it would be in 2017 that Ari would receive the most incredible 11th birthday present from Tarasenko and the Blues and it would be a story that would bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened hockey fan.
The Blues held a Casino Night early in 2017, which featured a live auction. On the table was a trip for two on the team’s chartered plane to experience the Blues’ road trip to Arizona and Colorado in March. The following week, Tarasenko invited Ari and her Mum Lori into the Blues locker room and gifted the trip to Ari, as it turns out he was bidding to win the trip for her and her Mum. The envelope he presented to Ari had the following note inside:
“You are invited to join Vladimir Tarasenko as his guest to fly with the St. Louis Blues to Arizona and Colorado for a two-game road trip leaving on March 28 and returning on March 31. You and a guest will fly on the team charter plane and stay at the team hotel in Phoenix and Denver”.
If that wasn’t enough, Ari was treated to a rendition of Happy Birthday from the Blues players in the locker room. It was potentially the best birthday present a young girl could ask for. The best was yet to come!
The Road Trip Experience
Ari took advantage of every minute of her amazing road trip experience with the Blues with her Mum and doll Chelsea along for the ride. A highlight would have to be when she turned the tables on Tarasenko, interviewing him for Fox Sports prior to the game in Arizona. In what was a heart melting moment, Ari quizzed Tarasenko on his pre-game routine, dinner time and asked exactly how many goals he would score in the game against the Coyotes. Tarasenko responded to her final question with “we will try our best to get a win, especially with you in the stands”.
Ari gets her wish as Tarasenko scores a goal for her on what would be a winning night for the Blues, taking a 3-1 victory over the Coyotes. No playoff clinch as yet but a memorable night nonetheless for the young Blues fan.
The next day, Ari was on the plane with the Blues again, headed for Denver, Colorado. She was treated at the hotel in Denver by the friendly staff and a giant ‘Welcome Ari’ sign.
Ari would again feature in a Blues video interview, but this time she was the special guest in an episode of Bommarito Zero to Sixty, alongside Ryan Reaves and Carter Hutton.
The Blues take to the ice for their game against the Avalanche and as predicted by Reaves himself in their episode of Zero to Sixty, he opens the scoring for the Blues.
The game heads to OT and the Blues fall to the Avalanche but earn a point which is enough to secure their place in the playoffs, much to Ari’s delight!!
The road trip will be an experience Ari will never forget. It was a special experience for a special little girl and one which she will always treasure as she cheers ‘Let’s Go Blues!’.