Pop idol JoJo Siwa hosts birthday Zoom dance party for pediatric patient
For many Latino families, the 15th birthday marks a special moment in the lives of adolescents making their transition to adulthood. Called a quinceañera/o, the birthday often is celebrated with a festive flourish that includes huge princess dresses, family dance parties and unique gifts. For Litzy, a young patient at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, such dreams came true when she celebrated with a Zoom dance party hosted by teenage pop performer JoJo Siwa after awaking from a COVID-19 medically induced coma.
Litzy is full of spirit and high energy. "Before she caught COVID, she loved to sing and dance," said Litzy's mother, Maria. "She was obsessed with JoJo Siwa."
Litzy's entire family fell ill to COVID-19 earlier this year. Both she and her father were admitted to a Los Angeles-area hospital in January, and both entered comas due to complications fighting the virus. When Litzy was transferred to UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, her mother was terrified that she might lose her. Because of restrictions on visitors, Maria was not able to see her child for two months.
"Litzy coming out of the coma was a miracle. Because of her pre-existing conditions," Litzy has Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that predisposes children to obesity and diabetes, "I wasn't sure if I would ever get to see her alive again," Maria said. "It was so hard not being able to be with her and hold her tight."
But with the care she received at UCLA, Litzy was able to fight through the virus, and she woke from her coma after three weeks. When visitor restrictions were amended, Maria was again able to be with Litzy and spend time as she slowly regained strength.
Siwa's music was one of Litzy’s biggest motivators during her recovery. Litzy made a special "wake up and dance" choreography based on Siwa’s song "Boomerang," which helped her warm up for a day of rehab.
Jenna Bollard, manager of music therapy at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, became aware of Litzy's love for Siwa and knew they had to celebrate Litzy's birthday and recovery journey. She reached out to Siwa's team, and the star didn't hesitate to say yes to virtually meet one of her biggest fans.
A couple of weeks before Litzy's birthday, Siwa and Litzy met via zoom for their dance party. Litzy showed off her dance moves as Siwa watched from a monitor, joy radiating off of both their faces. "I think you're the best 'Boomerang' singer there has ever been!" said Siwa of Litzy's sing-along chops.
"Due to COVID, we couldn't celebrate Litzy's quinceañera the way we wanted to, but I see the fire back in Litzy's eyes," Maria said. "She never allowed her Prader-Willi syndrome to keep her down, and this birthday gift was what she needed to keep fighting because she felt seen."
Litzy now is on the road to recovery, and she will begin school again. She hopes that once COVID is over, she will get to see Siwa live in concert.
The Chase Child Life and Music Therapy programs work hard to make moments like this happen for hospitalized children and their families. To help support their efforts, please visit: tinyurl.com/music-therapy-support-fund.