For the last day of Sophia Petikas's proton therapy to treat tumors on her spine, the staff at a Louisiana hospital decided to send her off in a way they knew she would appreciate: doing the "Nae Nae" dance.
When Petikas, 12, was in the midst of her treatments, Daniel Speir, a nurse at Willis-Knighton Cancer Center in Shreveport, told her he would learn the dance so he could perform it with her on her last day. Little did she know that a whole group of other staff members of the Proton Therapy Center was also working on their moves to Silento's summer hit "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" to give her a day she wouldn't forget.
They all surprised her with a choreographed flash-mob performance at the hospital as she beamed in surprise and danced along. The video has been viewed more than half a million times in a week.
"She was just overwhelmed and really surprised, and it was overwhelming for me and my husband,'' Sophia's mother, Julia Petikas, told TODAY.com. "We're happy that they did it for her and it's making so many other people feel good."
Petikas was diagnosed with scoliosis as a small child and was wearing a brace when the pain became unbearable. An MRI in 2013 revealed that she had a tumor on her spinal cord, which she had surgically removed at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. However, last year, tests revealed that more tumors had grown on her spinal cord. Her doctor recommended proton therapy instead of traditional X-ray radiation, and she began treatment at Willis-Knighton last fall.
"It ended up being a huge blessing to be able to go to Willis-Knighton instead of Memphis because we live in Shreveport and our family could all be together for her,'' her mother said. "She touched the hearts of so many people at the hospital, and they fell in love with her. While she wasn't sad for her treatment to be finished, she was sad not to be going up there anymore to see everybody."
Sophia went to her first day of seventh grade on Tuesday after becoming the latest "Nae Nae" sensation. Whether it's the adorable Riley Curry, daughter of NBA star Stephen Curry, inspirational pediatric cancer patient Leah Still, a cop in Texas, or the children of TODAY viewers, the song has ruled the summer.
"(Sophia) loves that song, and she has a real bubbly, magnetic personality,'' Julia said. "She's excited, but she thinks the spotlight should be on Daniel and the crew there. They are the ones that did something special for her."