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3-year-old with cancer gets special surprise at airport

Ryan Rainey gives his daughter, Saniya, 3, a kiss as they wait to check in at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport before leaving for a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Saniya was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
Ryan Rainey gives his daughter, Saniya, 3, a kiss as they wait to check in at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport before leaving for a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Saniya was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Like any other military unit, the 81st Force Support Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base is trained to work together in times of crisis, no matter what the situation.

And Friday, they rallied together at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport for one of their own.

The daughter of Staff Sgt. Devanie Rainey, 3-year-old Saniya Rainey, was diagnosed with terminal cancer just over a year ago. Since that time, Saniya has had to go through frequent and painful chemotherapy treatments.

It’s been an anguishing ordeal for Devanie and her husband, Ryan Rainey, who have had to process every parent’s worst fear.

In late summer, the Make-A-Wish Foundation got word of Saniya and worked behind the scenes to provide the family an all-expenses-paid, week-long Walt Disney World vacation.

“We got word of Saniya a little later than some of other wishes, but we felt like we had to do something. Usually the whole process takes about three months. In this case, we put it together in weeks,” Make-A-Wish for South Mississippi Director Shellie Moses said.

Friday morning, several of Devanie’s colleagues with the 81st squadron quickly filled up the upstairs balcony of the airport. They carried poster-boards and waited for the family to check-in and walk up the escalator just before the security check.

When the family rolled up the escalators, a small smile crept onto Ryan and Devanie’s faces. Saniya was a little shy in her father’s arms, but later smiled a bit herself. She was wearing a pink Mickey Mouse shirt in recognition of the trip. It’ll be the family’s first trip to Disney World.

“It’s been a rough journey,” Devanie said. “But I’ve never had bigger and better support system from day one,” Devanie said, referring to her work colleagues and friends.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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