LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Last year at this time, 8-year-old Lewisboro Elementary School student Sabrina Marciante was battling for her life after being diagnosed with leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Last week, Sabrina, an aspiring cheerleader and gymnast, was in Hartford, Conn., performing alongside Team USA’s top gymnasts from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
It was a long and painful struggle, but in September, 15 months after being diagnosed, her doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center declared Sabrina was cancer-free.
While she was undergoing treatment, Sabrina met Ashley Del Monte Anton and her husband, Mihael, owners of Kratos Fitness & Acrobatics in Danbury, Conn.
The Antons worked to help Sabrina regain her strength and muscle tone and return to the level she was before she became ill. But then came the big surprise: The Antons chose Sabrina to be one of their four students to participate in the Kellogg's Tour of Champions event in Hartford, Conn., which was held this month.
The Tour of Champions is a national tour that features Team USA’s top gymnasts, including 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, as well as members of the men’s and women’s 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympic teams, along with other past Olympians. Sabrina and the other students who were chosen had the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremonies at the Hartford event, which drew more than 11,000 people.
“There were only about 80 children chosen out of all the New England states to perform. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young athletes,” said Ashley Anton. “Just a year ago when we met [Sabrina], she did not have the strength to even sit up without assistance and had the feeling she would never make her eighth birthday.”
Sabrina said she was thrilled that the Antons chose her.
“I couldn't believe I was going to perform on the same mat as the Olympic gymnasts,” she said. “It was really cool! I was really nervous in the beginning, but Ashley said we will be fine, and she smiled. I got so excited. I really got into the dance, because I was doing it and it was really fun!”
Sabrina said working with the Antons has been a boon to her recovery.
“Working with Ashley and Mihael makes me feel so very special,” she said. “I not only learned how to tumble the correct way, but I have learned how to keep going when you need to, and that it's OK to fall. You just get right back up and keep going. They are very encouraging, respectful and genuine.”
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