Joyful night at ball for Brianna

Otago Boys’ High School pupil Eli Ellison and Dunedin girl Brianna Steedman strike a pose at the...
Otago Boys’ High School pupil Eli Ellison and Dunedin girl Brianna Steedman strike a pose at the school’s ball on Saturday. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT
Among the glitz and glamour of the Otago Boys’ High School formal was a 6-year-old girl, metallic stars shimmering on her dress and a toy unicorn in tow.

After being diagnosed with cancer in February, Brianna Steedman deserved to be treated like a princess for a night.

So, she headed to Saturday night’s ball on the arm of year 13 pupil Eli Ellison (18).

Brianna’s mother, Julia Steedman, said her daughter’s journey began when she had a BMX accident and never fully recovered.

Trips to the doctor led to a trip to the hospital, where Brianna was diagnosed with cancer.

Three months in Christchurch followed. The family learned Brianna had a large Wilms’ tumour, which affects the kidneys.

"Brianna started chemo to reduce the size of the tumour before they were able to operate and remove the tumour and kidney," Mrs Steedman said.

Months later, she is still undergoing chemotherapy.

"There have been many ups and downs along the way but Brianna continues to take it in her stride."

Throughout her challenging year, Brianna has developed a special bond with her Opoho School teacher, Korina Ellison — Eli’s mother.

After talking it over with his mother, Eli decided he wanted to take Brianna to the ball.

"It was pretty cool. Everyone was really respectful of her and they were playful around her and joyful around her," Eli said.

"Everyone made her feel really special. She just loves dancing — that was her favourite part."

Before heading off to the formal, a special kapa haka routine was performed at the Ellisons’ home for Brianna, Mrs Steedman said.

"She really loves kapa haka and the songs ... it was a truly amazing night for her."

They were blown away with how the night went.

"The way all the students were with her, and they all took time to come and talk to her and dance with her.

"She keeps talking about it and telling everybody."


Fantastic story, and hope her cancer treatment goes well. It's a hard road to travel, from personal experience.

Well done to Eli, you're a true hero!



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