When she was only 10 months old, her parents Athena and Nick had taken her to Riley Hospital because she was having stomach problems.
Not long after, a specialist informed the parents that Jillian had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that attacks the lungs and pancreas. According to Wikipedia, the disease is a "hereditary disease that affects the entire body, causing progressive disability and early death." However, information provided by Athena and Nick states that 70 percent of people diagnosed with the disease do not have a family history.
"We were so scared and shocked," the two stated on their Great Strides home page, a website dedicated to cystic fibrosis research.
Despite the diagnosis, Jillian's parents state on the home page that their daughter, "is a normal, feisty, playful 2-year-old," even though she has to go to Riley Hospital frequently for specialized care.
And the family has taken the necessary steps to fight back. Last year, the Coopers took part in Lafayette's Great Strides Walk, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's largest national fundraising event.
However, they decided to contact the organization to see if it was possible to set up a walk closer to home.
Now, Jillian, along with her parents and brothers Mickey, 5, and Garret Cooper, 1, are inviting all to take part in the Great Strides 2007 Walk along People Pathways near Wal-Mart Saturday.
Scheduled for Saturday, registration for the walk is set for 3 p.m. and will begin at 4 p.m.
"The plan is for people to come with donations at 3 p.m.," Athena said Tuesday.
She added that following the walk, plans have been scheduled for a DJ to perform in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
In addition, several items will be raffled off at the event, including a 1994 Geo Metro. Cost for the vehicle raffle is $20.
A $10 raffle ticket or three tickets for $20 will offer people the chance to win an official signature stamped Indianapolis Colts football.
All ticket donations will go to the cystic fibrosis foundation for research. Information provided by the Coopers states that only 150 tickets will be sold for the car raffle
Athena said the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation national headquarters informed her they should have a goal to raise $15,000 from the event. However, Jillian's Great Strides website indicates their fundraising goal is $3,000. In fact, they have raised nearly $400 already.
Despite the suggested goal, Athena said she hopes people come out for the walk and enjoy themselves.
"I just want it to be a positive day," she said. "If we don't make (the suggested goal), but the kids have fun, I'm happy."
Sponsors for the event include Mason's Jewelry, Almost Home, Anthony's Pizza, Bright Futures, Treasures on the Square, Alex's Alleys, Greencastle Moose, Spencer Moose, Stone's Auto, Muffler Connection, Headley's Hardware, among others.
For more information regarding the event, call 655-9130 or visit the family's Great Strides home page at www.cff.org/ Great_Strides/AthenaIckCooper.