Bella is Elon junior Nick Cook's four-year-old sister. Bella Elder was born with Down Syndrome, has had open-heart surgery before turning 5 months old, and was diagnosed with Leukemia.
In her honor, Cook put together a Buddy Walk team called Bella's Buddies for three years now. The Buddy Walk was held in Colfax, N.C. in Triad Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. But this was the first year the Bella could not come to walk in her honor. Her health has taken a turn for the worst. She is currently in the ICU.
"It was really hard, especially this past week and especially preparing for this event and to know that she couldn't be able to come was really hard for me," Cook said.
But even with Bella not at the event, Bella's Buddies never forgot why they were there, even her brother Nick Cook.
"We are all here with her in our, in our minds and hearts," he said.
All money raised goes toward the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro.
"I'm still here for her and we are going to have tons of people from Elon, tons of my friends and family coming out to support her," Cook said.
Cook says Bella's Buddies started with about 26 team members, this year about 50 people walked to support Bella. Cook's aunt Katherine Sobie is always thrilled to see the support Cook receives from his friends from Elon.
"It is very gratifying to see all the students that come out to support Nick and his family," she said.
Along with Cook's family and friends, his a-capella groups, Vital Signs, came to support Bella. They not only walked the mile, they performed in Bella's honor. One Vital Signs member, Danielle White, remembers just how close Cook was to Bella and difficult a time this is for him and his family.
"He adores her and we just care about her so much. He is constantly thinking about her all day, worried about her," White said.
Cook hopes to keep up the tradition and have another team for his sister next year.
"Why not, why not have a support system for Bella who can come to this amazing event?" Cook said.
After publishing this story, we have learned that money generated from the sold t-shirts goes to the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro. Also, 90 people bought T-shirts, but the final count at the walk was around 50 people.