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St. Johns deputy surprises boy with cancer with trip to Disney World

For one week, 7-year-old Acorlia Gillard can forget about his diagnosis

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – On Friday morning, Acorlia Gillard received his final chemo treatment for bladder cancer. Later the same day, the 7-year-old got the gift of a lifetime.

St. Johns County Sheriff's Sgt. Napoleon Staggers, who originally met Gillard while working his beat in West St. Augustine, surprised the child with a party and a week-long trip to Disney World.

"When you see Acorlia, you will not ever forget him," Staggers said. "Acorlia is one of those guys -- bright, vibrant young man that's got that glow in his eyes, smiling. He's always happy."

One day, Sgt. Staggers noticed Gillard getting off the school bus. The boy didn't have any hair, so the deputy approached the child's mother, Octavia Bailey.

"My son was getting off the bus and he asked me, he stopped the car and said, 'Why did you cut his hair?'" Bailey recalled. "And I told him, 'I didn't cut his hair. The chemo pulled it out.'"

It was then that Staggers decided to raise enough money to send Gillard to Disney World. Originally, Staggers wanted to send the child and his family on a weekend trip, but the fundraiser really took off.

Soon, several other law enforcement agencies and the Make-A-Wish Foundation got involved, and now Gillard's family is going to the most magical place on earth with some spending money in his pocket.

"It means a lot because he's never really been nowhere out of St. Augustine," Bailey said.

Gillard still has Stage II bladder cancer, but now he has an army of people like Staggers in his corner.

"He’s not fighting this alone," Staggers said. "This is a community fight and if we know about something we’re here to help you. I just want that gleam in his eye. That glow in his spirit that laughter in his voice to come back."


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