Photo of Francesca with her medical support team
Francesca flanked by UC Davis staff members, Cindy Jones, Won Ki Chae, Jacquelyn Kay-Mills and Kathy Lorenzato.

Ripon girl to visit White House, meet Miss America, tape television show at Disney World

Francesca Arnaudo, 10, a two-time cancer survivor from Ripon, Calif., has been chosen as California's representative in the Champions Across America tour, an awareness campaign to highlight the vital work of the nation's 170 Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

The fifth-grader left early Wednesday, March 28, for Washington, D.C., to join 49 other young "champions" from around the country in a press conference at the White House, where they will share their stories of medical triumph. Their next stop is Disney World in Orlando, Fla., for the taping of a television show to be broadcast nationally in June.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to help other children who've had traumatic experiences in their lives, and to help doctors find a cure for me and other kids," said Francesca who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, at age 6, and acute myeloid leukemia, a white-blood-cell malignancy, age 8. Today, following four years of treatment at UC Davis Children's Hospital, Francesca is free of both cancers.

Tuesday morning, Francesca got a send-off at the hospital from the orthopaedic surgeons, bone-marrow transplant specialists, pediatric oncologists, radiation oncologists, pediatric nurses, child life specialists and other members of her large treatment team. Current pediatric patients at the hospital presented her with handmade cards and drawings, patients and staff signed a "bon voyage" banner, and Children's Miracle Network and UC Davis Children's Hospital officials extended their congratulations.

"We're thrilled that Children's Miracle Network has selected one of our patients to represent California on its awareness tour," said Anthony F. Philipps, medical director of UC Davis Children's Hospital. "The network is absolutely vital in supporting the extraordinary variety of programs, projects, equipment and people who make UC Davis Children's Hospital the important resource that it is for young patients in our region. For cancer patients like Francesca, for instance, Children's Miracle Network supports the research efforts of Dr. Douglas Taylor  to eliminate leukemia recurrences."

California has nine Children's Miracle Network hospitals, including UC Davis Children's Hospital. Together, the hospitals care for the majority of kids in California with cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, AIDS and other serious diseases. Children's Miracle Network provides about $17.5 million in annual support for the California facilities.

"Francesca is a powerhouse of optimism who actively raises awareness of childhood illnesses and shares her story to inspire hope," said California Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton), whose district includes Francesca's hometown. "On behalf of the people of the Central Valley, I take great pride in congratulating her on her selection as California's ambassador for children's hospitals."

Photo of Francesca waving goodbye to staff members from her limosine.
Francesca waves goodbye to UC Davis staff and patients as she starts her journey across the country.

Aghazarian presented Francesca with a framed member's resolution from the California Legislature praising her "courage, tenacity and perseverance."

The Children's Miracle Network was founded in 1983 by the Osmond family. Its member hospitals now treat 17 million children and provide $2.5 billion in charity care annually.

"These champions have overcome more than many of us can even imagine," said Children's Miracle Network co-founder Marie Osmond. "Each story testifies to the strength of these kids and the outstanding caregivers who have changed their lives."

Francesca, who will be accompanied on her trip by her big brother, Dino, and parents, Mary and John, returns to California on April 5. During the trip she will post photos and updates on a blog, at

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only comprehensive hospital for children. From primary care offices to specialty and intensive care clinics, pediatric experts provide compassionate care to more than 74,000 children each year and conduct research on causes and improved treatments for conditions such as autism, asthma, obesity, cancer and birth defects.