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Neighbors welcome S.C. teenager home with Christmas parade after battling leukemia, COVID-19 over holidays

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 11:32 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - It may be January, but it’s still looking a lot like Christmas for one Carolina Forest family.

Ariel Griffith was in the hospital and unconscious on Christmas Day, so her family decided to make it up to her along with the rest of their community.

“Eventually they let me go out, and there were cars and a fire truck going down the road,” she said. “That’s sort of how I found out. I walked out the door and it was there.”

Ariel has been through more than most 13-year-olds. At one point last month, she was battling leukemia, pneumonia, sepsis and COVID-19 all at the same time.

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She’s recovered from three of the four and has gotten the cancer count in her bone marrow down below 1%.

“I knew she was strong, but I didn’t know she was this strong, so it’s pretty miraculous,” said Ariel’s mom, Lauren Hocin.

Ariel’s family aren’t the only ones who think she’s strong. Her whole community wanted to show their support now that she’s back home.

She was still on life support during Christmas and woke up not realizing she’d missed the holiday.

So the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, Horry County Police Department and family friends organized a Christmas parade going past Ariel’s house.

“I was really sad at the time because I thought I ruined Christmas for my family,” she said. “Now I know that I didn’t because we have this.”

The cars blasted Christmas music, brought gifts for Ariel and showed off welcome home posters.

“With her missing Christmas, it was important for us to bring the Christmas spirit to her, even though it’s late, and make sure we go into the new year for her on a good start,” said Lauren Guess, who help organize the event.

Ariel has two-and-a-half years of leukemia treatment ahead of her. Thanks to the parade, she now knows she’s not alone.

“It just means so much to me and my family that all these people care so much. It’s made everything so much better, and I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like without it,” she said.

Ariel’s family will also have a New Year’s celebration complete with family traditions like fireworks and crab legs.

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