Nonprofit donates special gift to Newport News girl battling bone cancer

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Relissa Sharpe has learned at the age of 12 that life is not always easy.

The Newport News girl has been battling bone cancer for eight months. She says it’s been scary.

“Mostly because when they first told me I had it, I thought that it wasn’t curable.”

Despite her diagnosis, Relissa remains optimistic.

“I smile a lot and I am happy all the time.”

Relissa has a lot of reasons to be happy: Doctors recently removed a tumor and replaced her knee joint. Just last week, she finished chemotherapy treatments. And now, she’s riding a brand new tricycle, which was donated by the nonprofit Smile. The organization has now gifted 25 kids in Hampton Roads with adaptive devices.

“We kept hearing more and more stories of kids who’s insurance wasn’t covering therapeutic tricycles, hearing aids, alert dogs,” said Kristen Mantlo, of Smile.

Mantlo’s sister, Samantha Trost, died in 2009 from the same bone cancer Relissa is relentlessly fighting — osteosarcoma. The next year, they launched Smile: Samantha Making Life A Little Easier.

“Knowing we have alleviated that burden and then that item is going to turn around and make their quality of life and how they operate in their daily lives better, it’s fantastic,” Mantlo said.

Kim Sharpe, Relissa’s mother, says her daughter is finally getting some of her energy back.

“When you are going through those intense treatments, it’s difficult,” Kim told 10 On Your Side’s Joe Fisher. “A lot of times, you don’t feel like doing anything.”

Relissa’s parents say they’re thrilled the one-time gymnast and cheerleader is back on the move.

“It means that she gets to get out and do normal things. That’s a big issue whenever you are a cancer patient as a child,” Kim said. “We’ll do physical therapy and get her back doing all the normal thing she did before.”