CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Whenever she looks in the mirror, Isabella Santos can only see the reflection of the average little girl.
"I like to go to school, play with my friends and do crafts at my school," she said.
Still, her definition of normal is different than most. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age 2, Isabella has become a fighter -- enduring exhausting chemotherapy for the last 3 years.
Her mother Erin knows, Isabella's strength is larger than her stature.
"She's extremely tough, she's been through more in 3 years than anyone should ever have to endure and she's still, you know, in great spirits," she sobbed, "It's amazing."
Something that's helped along the way are several little puppies; small plush animals from the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas.
I got them when me and grandma went to the hospital and my grandma got blood.
Every time someone give blood this holiday season, their name is attached to a puppy; and in turn given to a child like Isabella who needs the blood as well as the comfort.
"We found that it really is just a small way we can help brighten a child's hospital stay, even if it's just for a minute," CBCC Spokesperson Lauren McConnell said.
One of Isabella's most frequent donors is her grandmother who travels from Michigan just to help.
"she was so excited, she came home that day and had all three puppies, it was like a little puppy family."
Family means a lot to Isabella. "Because I love my grandma, and I think my mommy is really special," she said.
It doesn't matter if family is someone she knows or not; because anyone who's a donor will always be related by blood.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Because the Community Blood Center for the Carolinas says the blood donated all stays in the local community, the organization wants to help people and organizations set up blood drives of their own.