Madeline Guarraia loved animals.
None more than the tiger.
“Throughout treatment I’d bring that tiger every day and that would give her strength to go on,” her father Matt Guarraia said of Madeline's favorite stuffed animal.
In April, she passed away peacefully at the age of nine following a five year battle with leukemia.
"She might not be here physically," her nanny Amy Parulis said. "But she will always be with us and there will always be things in her honor."
Madeline's mother Amie Guarraia continues telling her courageous journey on the Mad About Madeline Facebook page, which has more than 30,000 likes.
“She finds it comforting to share Madeline’s story and my wife gets a lot of benefit from that,” Matt said.
The detailed posts about the care Madeline received at the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital inspired Parulis to become a 2015 Closer to Free team captain.
“We’re not a big team," Parulis said. "But we definitely roar."
Parulis is riding again this September in the hospital's biggest event to raise money for patient care and cancer research. Last year’s participants raised $2.2 million.
“We just feel so fortunate to have an intuition like Yale so close by us to give us the care we needed for our daughter,” Matt said. “Not just the medical care, but the emotional support and the way they helped us through.”
Madeline required a bone marrow transplant last year. Her younger brother Anthony was the perfect match.
"We found out we were delighted," Matt said. "It was an answer to our prayers. It was a best case scenario in a pretty crummy time."
Even during the toughest times, Matt said his daughter kept smiling.
"She would take advantage of every second she had," he said.
Madeline became an honorary Waterford Police Officer and last Christmas she passed out gifts to other child cancer patients.
"She was just the bravest girl I’ve ever met, bravest person I’ve ever met," Matt said. "I think she’s probably done more in her short lifetime than I will probably do in my entire life."
"She never quit," Parulis said. "She absolutely didn’t. She kept fighting until the end."
NBC Connecticut is a proud sponsor of the 2016 Closer to Free ride on Saturday September 10th. You can still sign up.
Parulis said she's be happy for more cyclists to join the Mad About Madeline team.