Get the latest from TODAY
Twelve-year-old Brooke Mulford had been counting down the days to see the movie "A Dog's Purpose." Ever since she saw the trailer in a theater near her home in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, months ago, she couldn't wait to see it — especially since she loves dogs and has a golden retriever named Bailey, just like the dog in the movie.
But things didn't go as planned: in January, a tumor on Brooke's skull grew into her brain and caused a brain bleed that resulted in emergency surgery and later brain radiation, and Brooke has been inpatient at Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) in Philadelphia since the end of February.
The tumor was part of a cancer that Brooke has been fighting since 2009, when she was first diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system, at the age of four. The cancer recurred in 2012, and Brooke has been in treatment ever since. Recent scans at CHOP show that her cancer has gotten "much worse," her mother, Amy, told TODAY Parents.
One day last week when family friend Marcie Aron and her sister, Alice, were visiting Brooke and her mom in the hospital, Mulford said Brooke grew "very tearful" about how much she wanted to see "A Dog's Purpose." "Now she was afraid she wouldn't get the chance," Mulford said.
Marcie Aron took action, writing a post on Facebook asking if anyone could help Brooke see the movie. Though she quickly received responses offering to find a bootleg copy of the movie somehow, Brooke was adamant that she only wanted to watch the movie in a legal way. "She wanted to make sure it was completely legitimate," said Mulford.
Word reached Cathryn Michon, who helped write the screenplay for the movie along with her husband, W. Bruce Cameron, who also wrote the original novel upon which the movie was based. The couple arranged for Brooke to receive an autographed copy of the book and movie T-shirts.
"For Brooke — I wrote this story because I believe love is eternal and that we all go on to meet again," Cameron wrote on the book's title page.
But that wasn't all. Cameron and Michon contacted the movie's production company, Amblin Entertainment, and arranged for a "completely legitimate" copy of the movie to go to Brooke's bedside at the hospital, where she had a private viewing.
"The day went perfectly!" said Mulford. "Marcie stopped at a movie theater on the way here and got two tubs of popcorn.
"Brooke loved the movie. When it was over, she just kept saying, "That was so beautiful," said Mulford. "She says her favorite part of the movie was the ending."
As luck would have it, Jennifer Henderson, a dog handler who worked on A Dog's Purpose, happened to be in Pennsylvania last week too. As a special surprise, she arranged for Trip, the dog who played "Bailey" in the movie, to fly to Philadelphia to meet her, and together, the two paid a visit to Brooke just a half an hour after she finished watching the movie.
"Brooke was the happiest I've seen her in so long," said her mom. "Trip got right into bed with Brooke, and Brooke told him what a great job he did in the movie. We both have been missing our dog Bailey so much and couldn't stop petting Trip."
Author and screenwriter Cameron told TODAY Parents he "was honored to be able to help grant the wish of such a courageous dog-loving girl."
Henderson and Trip stayed a few hours with the Mulfords and their friends. "Brooke was on a high the rest of the day into the night," said Mulford. "She said it was one of her best days ever and that she felt so much more like herself than she had in a very long time. Seeing her so happy was so good for my heart. It will be a memory I will treasure always."