Aracely “Cely” Gonzalez, the 9-year-old daughter of Pettis County Sheriff’s Deputy Javier Gonzalez and Kimberly Gonzalez, died at 10:37 a.m. Saturday of a brain tumor at University Hospital in Columbia, according to the Hope for Aracely Gonzalez Foundation Facebook page.
The following statements were posted to the Foundation’s Facebook page by the Gonzalez family:
“Our sweet Aracely Elaine Gonzalez went to heaven this morning at 10:37 a.m,” the family posted Saturday afternoon. “Our family will not be the same without her.”
“We are now home and heartbroken,” the family posted Saturday night. “Aracely was hospitalized for 264 days. I am so thankful for our family coming together to help us today. It is so hard to believe she is gone. We have spent the past 8 months and 3 weeks helping her fight this battle and then it’s suddenly over. Monday we will make arrangements for her celebration of life. Thank you for all your messages of encouragement. We have appreciated everyone’s positive thoughts and prayers during this past few months. Our priority now is helping our other 2 daughters cope. They want their little sister.”
Cely Gonzalez’ young life changed dramatically June 1, 2015, when she was diagnosed with a PNET (primitive neuroectodermal) tumor of the brain. Despite several surgeries to remove the tumor and chemotherapy treatments, Cely lost her battle to the disease.
The Pettis County Sheriff’s Office has been in close contact with the members of the Gonzalez family since Aracely was first diagnosed.
“We have been following her condition very closely this past week after Cely took a turn for the worse,” Sheriff Kevin Bond said by phone Sunday afternoon. “This is such a huge loss to her parents and her sisters. Everyone in the Sheriff’s Department offers our condolences to the family.”
Bond also complimented the members of the community for the prayers and support they had been offering to Aracely and the family.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous,” Bond said. “Cely’s legacy will continue to live on through the foundation created in her honor.”
The Hope for Aracely Gonzalez Foundation was created earlier this year in an effort to help the Gonzalez family as well as other individuals who serve in public safety in a time of need.
“We are still planning to assist the costs to the family during this time,” Bond said “The foundation will remain in place in cases there are others who may find themselves in time of need as well.”
The following statement was released by the Sedalia School District Sunday afternoon: “It is with great sadness that we report Parkview Elementary School fourth grader Aracely Gonzalez, 9, passed away Saturday after a more than eight-month battle with cancer. The entire Sedalia 200 community extends our sincere condolences to her family and friends. District counselors will be available at Parkview on Monday.
“While Aracely was away from school for treatments, her seat was filled by Sadie, a stuffed monkey provided through the Monkey in My Chair program, which helps classmates better understand cancer and cope with the student’s absence.”
Parkview Principal Stephanie Jackson spoke to the Democrat by phone Sunday afternoon.
“Cely was a little girl who has touched so many lives at Parkview,” Jackson said. “She was such a special part of our school and we will always remember her warm, sweet smile as she would walk through the halls here.
“She was such a very happy, happy girl, and we are extremely sad for her passing,” Jackson added.
Jackson said she and her staff planned to meet with the Parkview students Monday morning as a group to discuss plans with students and Cely’s classmates as to what the students would like to do as a memorial for Aracely, adding that she wanted to allow them to have some ownership in the decision of how to pay tribute to Aracely.
Residents of Pettis County rallied around the Gonzalez family by hosting several fundraisers and establishing a GoFundMe account to help the family defray some of the medical costs. Funeral arrangements are pending at Rea Funeral Chapel in Sedalia.
For parents who are helping their children cope with the grieving process, the Sedalia School District 200 recommends these suggestions from the National Association of School Psychologists: www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and crisis/addressing-grief.
Individuals wishing to donate to the Hope for Aracely Gonzalez Foundation should visit hopeforaracelygonzalezfoundation.org or call 827-0052.