Ailing Bay Shore girl's wish comes true
Tears draped Paula DeZotti's cheeks as the 9-year-old -- diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia nearly a year ago -- laid eyes on her new princess-themed bedroom in Bay Shore.
The 9- by 11-foot room was transformed in seven hours while Paula was at Hemlock Park Elementary School in Brentwood, where she is in fourth grade. It was unveiled when she came home Wednesday.
So Paula could have the room to herself -- after frequent hospital stays and painful chemotherapy -- her sister Adriana, 11, moved in with their oldest sister, Nelly, 15, in the DeZottis' modest three-bedroom, split-level home on Stein Drive.
"She was so excited over all of this," Nelly said of Paula's wish coming true. "I thought it would be special for her to have her own room. I think it'll make her happy; she's been through a lot."
The wish was granted through Blue Bunny Ice Cream's 100 Years, 100 Wishes program, in which the Iowa-based company is helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation grant 100 children their wishes.
While volunteers from the Suffolk branch of the charity finished her bedroom, Paula was picked up from school in a white stretch SUV limousine and taken to a salon for a manicure and pedicure.
As the door opened to her dream bedroom, which included a princess coach bed, a silver vanity with a purple throne and plush pink carpeting, Paula cried and fell into the arms of her father, Jorge DeZotti, 53. He wept, too.
"My head fell on the floor that day," DeZotti, a mechanic, said, describing when his daughter was diagnosed last December at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.
"We had six months of craziness; going twice a day to the hospital, still trying to work, clean the house, do laundry, eat, take care of our other daughters."
Paula, whose favorite princess is Cinderella because she's "brave like me," knowledgeably recounted the time from her diagnosis, through rounds of chemotherapy that will last for at least another year. "I spent my birthday in the hospital," she recalled. "I missed a lot of school last year."
A muralist painted the bedroom ceiling in a two-tone pink-and-blue effect. A glow in the dark stars and strobe lights reminds Paula of a friend she met in the hospital who lost a battle to leukemia two weeks ago.
At the unveiling of her room, Paula was surrounded by friends and family who described her as "a joy" and a "wonderful little girl."
"I'm so happy for her," said her mother, Marinelly DeZotti, 40, who works in pharmaceuticals. "We're past the hard part, so now we just have to see how everything goes. For now, she can just enjoy this day."