Liset Marquez, The Daily Bulletin
Linda Macleod was having a difficult October. Her 9-year-old daughter, Julia, who suffers from child arthritis, was having a lot of flare-ups, which can be debilitating.
Then one day last month she got a call from a representative with the Loma Linda University Children's Hospital foundation, where Julia gets treatment, telling her that Toyota had given the foundation 140 free tickets to an Ontario Reign game.
"My faith was renewed, that there are people out there that do think of others," she said. "If anybody deserves something good it's these kids."
The tickets were donated by Frank Arena, regional marketing manager for Toyota out of Irvine.
The Oct. 30 game was not just the home opener for the Reign but it also marked two years to the day that Julia had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis.
And since her diagnosis, Macleod said the family has taken to celebrating it.
"Today is really special to me because I'm on a mission for a cure," Julia said.
Macleod added, "we celebrate it because of how strong she is and how well she's doing."
This year has been a little difficult for the family. In addition to her arthritis, Julia was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease. In February, Julia was also diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
There are days when Julia is feeling perfectly fine and other days it can be painful for her to walk around, her mother said.
"These auto immune diseases tend to flare up without notice," Macleod said.
So when the news was relayed that they were tickets being donated to families at Loma Linda, Macleod said she was grateful.
The Redlands resident said she asked for 12 tickets so they can enjoy the night with family and friends.
""It was exciting when we heard. It's nice to know we would have a night of fun because somebody out there cares," she said.
That's the case for many of the families that were in attendance said Joanna DeLeon, director of Children's Hospital Foundation.
The children's illness ranged from diabetes to cancer. But often many of these families are going through emotional or financial stress. The game, she said, was a chance for the whole family to come out and just have fun.
The group were given tickets to the all-you-can-eat section of the arena. During the game, team mascots the Dark Knight and Blaze met with the children and prior to the game they got to meet Reign players Chris Curran, Todd Jackson and Brian Kilburg.
"I was kind of scared because it's my first game," Julia said of her encounter with the players.
But the experience also left an imprint on the Reign's Jackson, who said some children were excited to meet him while others seemed shy.
"It's amazing for us to meet these kids and to see what they've been through, it's inspiring," he said.
It also helps put things in perspective, Jackson said.
From the back, Arena, watched as the families enjoyed the night.
Arena said he also appreciates the help from the Reign staff who reduced tickets prices.
This isn't the first time Arena and Toyota have donated tickets to the foundation. In September the Professional Bullriders Association was at the arena and about 70 tickets were donated to the Loma Linda foundation, he said.
"It's all about the kids," he said. "It's all about being able to bring a smile to their face."