GREENVILLE, SC. (Greenville News) - Ernie and Julia Dandeneau sit side by side at the counter at Starbucks in downtown Greenville. Julia, headphones in, fixated on the screen of her iPad. Ernie watching people as they enter the shop.
The sound of alternative music fills the air. Some people are hard at work, some people are simply waiting.
"With coming all the way from Easley to go to Children's Cancer Center at GHS, Starbucks was a good place for us to come and start the day," said Ernie, Julia's grandfather.
In the summer of 2011, Julia, a now 14-year-old cancer survivor, discovered she had anaplastic astrocytoma grade 3 (AA3) cancer in her right front temporal lobe. Because of the amount of times Julia was being stuck with needles, doctors recommended a cream be applied to her skin an hour before appointments to ease the pain.
"So we'd sit here, have our drink, have our coffee, put the cream on. So by the time we got to the hospital, the cancer center, we'd be ready for them to stick us with needles," said Ernie.
Julia endured many surgeries and chemo treatments.The cancer disappeared, then came back. They had to do it all again.
This meant more time sitting at a counter, waiting.
The "Julia Frappuccino" was born.
"Julia has been coming to Starbucks at least for the last three years since I've worked here," said Britteni O'Cain, a Starbucks barista. "My mom made cozies out of sleeves to go around hot cups. I thought Julia might like one, so I gave her one. I think it struck up a conversation, a friendship between us."
O'Cain recalls Julia's constant smiles and optimism during a very hard part of her life.
"She really inspired me to know how blessed I am, how grateful I am that my life doesn't involve a lot of chaos and that I'm really fortunate. In thinking about that, I knew that I wanted to shave my head for her."
Two-years ago Ernie's wife shaved her head during the annual St. Baldrick's Foundation head-shaving event in honor of Julia. Last year, Ernie shaved his head.
"We tried to get Julia to shave hers this year. But she kind of decided to keep hers after not having it for a few years," said Ernie. "When Britteni said she wanted to do it, I was like, cool, you know. It's really special that she would do it and think of Julia."
Over the past three years, they have raised almost $15,000 for the foundation, which supports research for childhood cancer.
"I knew it was going to be scary," said O'Cain. "But it's going to give me more insight into what cancer patients, especially children inschool, in insecure situations deal with when they have no hair."
When Julia was asked how it made her feel that O'Cain shaved her head in honor of her, she just smiled.
"Such a small relationship and exchange daily, over time, can significantly change your life," said O'Cain.
For the full story from Greenville Online, click here.