Tess Swearingen's big day at Culver's

Nathan Domenighini
Tess Swearingen, 4, of Morton, places a "Get Well Soon" balloon on her forehead. The balloon came in a box with an American Girl doll she received from the two Bloomington girls.

Tess Swearingen, 4, of Morton, has been undergoing chemotherapy for Stage IV Neuroblastoma. She has been back and forth between Memphis, Tenn., and Peoria while enduring a lifestyle with which few children are familiar.

Though her hair is gone, her smile is not.

That was evident Friday when she joined two girls she had never met at Culver's in Morton for lunch.

Maddie McDonnell, 11, and Claire Herbert, 12, both of Bloomington, learned about Swearingen's story when they logged on to CaringBridge.org, an online forum for cancer survivors and patients.

Maddie told her dad, Tom McDonnell, who runs the local Culver's, they wanted to do something for her.

In May, the two girls began to sell all of their toys — a table full of items — at a garage sale. The money they made from their sales went toward the purchase of an American Girl doll for Swearingen.

During lunchtime Friday, they met Swearingen for the first time and presented her the doll. The package came with a "Get Well Soon" balloon as well as a birth certificate for the doll, which Swearingen named "Lacey."

Read more on this story in Wednesday's edition of the Morton Times-News.