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Mascots join children with severe illnesses for special event at local aquarium

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Feb 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 00:44:33-05

DRAPER, Utah -- Hundreds of kids suffering from severe illnesses got the chance to forget about their problems this week and enjoy an evening at the Living Planet Aquarium, and they got to do it all with some life-size characters who specialize in smiles.

"Do you remember your teddy bear growing up? Everybody had that favorite teddy bear,” said Ellie Elliott of the Mascot Miracle Foundation. “This is a life-size teddy bear, and the kids love them.”

Utah mascots like the Jazz Bear and Bumble the Bee got up and close personal with a group of kids at the Living Planet Aquarium.

"You get to be here at a very, very special time," 8-year-old Lilly said. "It doesn't happen to most people. So most likely, my family and me, like to be excited about it."

You wouldn't know it when you hear her talk, but 8-year-old Lilly is battling leukemia.

"In the first year that she was diagnosed, she was in the hospital over a hundred days, and there was a lot of challenging things she was going through," said Jay Alldredge, who is Lilly's father.

All of the kids at the event are suffering from severe illnesses, but you wouldn't know it when you see the smiles on their faces at this event.

“You get to dance and have fun and get, like, tattoos and get your face painted and you get to just have fun with the mascots,” one young child at the event said.

Here, they're just kids.

"They get so excited,” Elliott said. “It’s a reason to keep going and a reason to keep fighting, to get to be with their friends.”

Here, these families can forget about the challenges.

"To find that moment of joy is kind of a relief,” Alldredge said. “To see them feel these peaceful and good moments and happy moments that they have, because it’s not often that they come around.”

Here, the hardest challenge is picking out their favorite mascot.

"OK that’s a very, very hard question," Lilly said. "But my very favorite is Felix. I have no idea which is my second favorite because they’re all my favorite. I can’t choose one."

The event was sponsored by the Mascot Miracle Foundation. The non-profit group invited families from Primary Children's Medical Center, Make-a-Wish, and the Ronald McDonald house.