'Find the joy': 2-year-old leukemia survivor surprised with shopping spree

For Gabriel Crowe, this shopping trip at Burlington in Warren is no ordinary shopping trip. Defying all the odds, Gabriel is a leukemia survivor at just 21 months old. 

Now he's celebrating, but we'll come back to that.

After he was born, things seemed fine at first. But at nine months old, Gabriel's behavior drastically changed. He slept for hours on end, didn't have much of an appetite, ran low-grade temperatures and even stopped crawling. All within a few weeks.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Gabriel was diagnosed with a fast-growing blood cancer before his first birthday. 

"You're part of an exclusive club of parents that you just never wanted to join," said his mother Melissa Crowe. "It can be a very dark place - it can be very isolating."

Treatments began, but he was at high risk and relapsed. Melissa dreaded hearing the last words any parent want to hear: there's nothing more we can do. But they were told of alternative treatments for Gabriel.

Thanks to newer therapies heavily researched and funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Melissa said their sweet angel was given a second chance at life. He's on antibody therapy and immunotherapy, and the next steps are CAR T therapy and a bone marrow transplant in the spring.

Throughout everything, Melissa said you get to a point where you want to give up. So how do you get by as a parent, as a family? Three simple words: Find the joy.

"No matter what he's going through, you find the joy," she said. "There's always something you can find."

Whether that's his ability to trick-or-treat this year, or being thankful that now they can go to church as a family. Or being grateful to those people at church who want to support and fundraise for them.

"Every single day, even if it's the tiniest things, find the joy," Melissa said.

And now, just a few months shy of his 2nd birthday, it's time for Gabriel to celebrate his strength through this tough battle. Burlington Stores paired up with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to give him a surprise shopping spree for his own toys and clothes at their store on Dequindre.

"This takes a toll on a family emotionally and financially so it's nice to be able to provide a little something extra," said Ann Bradley with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Though the Burlington shopping trip certainly helps, medical bills pile up. You can help the family by visiting their Go Fund Me here.

You can also donate to kids just like Gabriel from now through December 2 by donating $1 or more at checkout at one of more than 690 Burlington stores nationwide. The partnership between Burlington and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has raised $37 million so far. Visit lls.org to learn more.