Surprise Squad pulls out the stops for a ‘magical angel’ and her mom ahead of the holidays

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 7:01 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – The KMOV Surprise Squad pulled out all the stops for a miracle little girl and her mom, a cancer survivor.

Fiona was born with unimaginable health challenges. Her mom, Tonja, calls Fiona her “magical angel.” While caring for Fiona is difficult, Tonja will not complain and doesn’t like asking for help.

Tonja’s friend Holly helped to set up the holiday surprise. Holly and Tonja went to lunch at Weber’s Front Row Neighborhood Pub & Grill, where the Surprise Squad had set up hidden cameras. Once seated, News 4′s Matt Chambers approached the table and introduced himself.

“So, Tonja, I have to be honest with you,” he said, as videographers filled the room. “This is the KMOV Surprise Squad, and my name’s Matt. And guess what, your friend Holly, we’ve talking with her for weeks about some of the hardships your family is facing. You have friends who care a lot about you. We want to make this the best Christmas ever for you, and Fiona, and your family.”

Wiping tears from her eyes, Tonja said, “I’m speechless.”

She then explained Fiona’s condition.

“I’m the mother of a special needs child with a disability that is not compatible with life. She’s the only child to ever survive this brain abnormality, and Down Syndrome, plus a broken heart, she has four holes in her heart, so Fiona is everything to me. I am just so thankful God chose me to have this magical angel in my life. I feel really blessed, but it’s really hard. Being her mom means there’s months I don’t leave the house, there’s months I feel very forgotten about.”

Matt then presented Tonja with the first of many presents. The first gift of Christmas was $1,000 in gift cards to be used at any On the Run across the St. Louis area for gas. He then gave Tonja a second gift, $1,000 for groceries.

After presenting her with both gifts, Matt started talking to Tonja about their backyard pool and how much Fiona enjoys it.

“I also understand that as she gets older, and frankly, as the deck gets a little bit older, it’s getting harder and harder for her to enjoy the pool and get in and get out the way she used to,” he said as Tonja nodded.

Matt then gave Tonja the third gift, a surprise from Decks OnSite.

“Are you serious? They’re going to build our deck?” asked Tonja.

Matt explained, “They’re going to make sure it is as accessible as humanly possible for Fiona.”

“She loves to be in the water,” Tonja said. “She’s weightless.”

Matt then asked Tonja to talk about the robotic gait trainer.

“When I was going through breast cancer, I took that six months, and I prayed, and I said, ‘God, what do you want me to do in this time?’ I started searching for something that would make Fiona’s life easier, and it’s a robot, and it’s really cool, and she walks,” explained Tonja. “Well, she started off at 10 steps, and she was up to 2,500 steps a day.”

The device costs $35,000, and if the device is not paid off, then there is a chance it will be sent back. So, the Surprise Squad gave her the fourth gift of $3,000 to go towards the robotic gait trainer.

“That gives me like five more months,” said Tonja.

Tonja was next introduced to Frank Padak, the President of Scott Credit Union, who had the fifth gift.

“Tonja, just a little something to help you out, because we’ve heard about your family, and we want to help as well,” he explained.

Through tears, Tonja said, “I don’t think I can take much more.” She took the lid off of the box and found $5,000 inside.

After giving hugs to Frank and Matt, Tonja sat back down, but there was one present to open.

“There’s still a little bit left on that pesky balance,” Chambers said before introducing Angie with Colton’s Cause, an organization that provides financial support to families of special needs children and young adults.

Angie gave Tonja the final box, which told her the organization would pay off the remaining balance for the robotic gait trainer.

An online fundraiser has been set up in support of the family. Click here to donate.