Rochester girl stars in commercial with King Felix


Seven-year-old Savana Schlesser of Rochester was diagnosed with brain cancer in June. Since then, she has endured three surgeries, leaving nerve damage, lack of balance and a paralyzed vocal cord.

Despite these medical issues, a recent chance to appear in a television commercial with Mariners baseball star Felix Hernandez was a “ray of sunshine” in her life, her mother told The Chronicle.

Savana moved into Seattle Children’s Hospital on June 14 to continue physical, speech and occupational therapy, her mother, Tonya Schlesser, said.

Despite Savana’s draining treatments, Tonya, who is now living in the Seattle Ronald McDonald House, said Savana is getting her strength back and will hopefully be released by January.

“She’s in good spirits,” Tonya said.

In early August, Savana spent a day with King Felix and the Mariner Moose to shoot a commercial for the fourth annual Run of Hope in Seattle, which raises money for pediatric brain tumor research.

The commercial first aired on KOMO TV on Aug. 24 — a week after Hernandez threw the first perfect game in Seattle Mariners history — and will continue for more than four weeks.

“It really made her happy that they picked her and she got to be on TV,” Tonya said.

Tonya said Savana was excited to meet Hernandez and wanted to wear a new outfit for the shoot. Hernandez signed a picture and baseball for Savana and made it around the hospital to meet other patients, Tonya said.

“It was a little bit of a ray of sunshine that day,” Tonya said.

Savana had her third surgery on Friday and will continue radiation treatment and therapy.

Savana is enrolled in second grade at Rochester Primary School and will do her schoolwork at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Tonya said she hopes to have Savana return to Rochester next year to finish second grade and get back to her family. Savana’s father, Jim Schlesser, works in Rochester as a subcontractor.

Considering the circumstances, Tonya said, staying at the children’s hospital and Ronald McDonald House have been a positive experience.

“You don’t always appreciate it until you have to be there,” Tonya said.