SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Like many other little girls, 2-year-old Maxine loves butterflies. But unlike most other girls, Maxine suffers from a rare genetic disease that makes her body stiff and sore.
The disease strikes quickly, and the last six months have been challenging for her and her family. So when Arizona's Family Surprise Squad found out about Maxine, they arranged for her and her family to get the VIP treatment at Butterfly Wonderland at the Arizona Boardwalk in Scottsdale.
"We told her we're going to go see butterflies, and she gets really excited," her mom Heather said. "First time we brought her here, she was just wanting to walk all around. We just wanted to keep bringing her back because if this was a place she wanted to walk and be motivated to do that, we wanted to bring her every day. It just wasn't something we could do anymore."
"We had come in July, and she had already started showing signs of her disease," added her dad Kevin.
"It started out kind of simple. She just was locking her left leg when she would walk, so we started her in physical therapy at the end of May," Heather explained. "And after three or four sessions, she just was not able to walk afterward. She was crawling around the house and just sitting, and it just quickly progressed from there."
Maxine suffers from metachromatic leukodystrophy. It's a disease that affects the white matter of the brain.
It attacks a person's motor skills, and they suffer from nerve pain and sore muscles. Her life expectancy is only around three and a half years, so being able to experience special moments like the one at Butterfly Wonderland meant so much to the family, but there was more in store for them than just seeing butterflies.
"We're so glad you could join us today," said Pam Palermo, the Butterfly Wonderland Foundation executive director. "We're so delighted that Maxine enjoys butterflies, and we wanted to just give a few little things to Max." Pam presented the family with some child-sized butterfly wings and a gift bag.
"That's so she can become a little butterfly. And there's a few other little things in here for her, and there's an annual pass for your family. We want you to come back as often as you can, and as often as you would like to so that you can enjoy this as a family together and visit the butterflies anytime you like," said Palermo.
3TV's Javier Soto was also there for the surprise. "On behalf of the Valley Toyota Dealers and the Surprise Squad, we want to help out as well and give you this $5,000 from the Surprise Squad."
"Thank you, thank you so much," Kevin said.
"We hope that can help you with medical costs, with retrofitting your home to help out with Maxine and her stroller and whatever you need it to help out with," Soto said.
"It's really emotional, to be honest," Heather said with tears in her eyes.
"It's like fighting back tears, but we're so excited. We've been trying to come for three months now, just knowing that we have limited time with her, and she loves this place. I know her expressions are starting to kind of fade, but you can still see the excitement in her eyes, and in her smiles and with the fish and the butterflies and her baby sister here, it's just everything to us."
If you would like to donate to help Maxine and her family, click here.