TAMPA — Ten-year-old Karis Harvey curled up in her mother's arms while a stranger with long blond hair and a soothing voice stroked her head.
Minutes earlier, Karis had found out she has leukemia.
Her mom had been struggling to comfort her when she heard nurses at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital say the name Delilah.
Janet Harvey asked if it was true that the Delilah from the radio, who listens to callers and helps ease pain with a song, was at the hospital. It was. She invited Delilah, 50, into Karis' room.
"Look at you, you're so tall and beautiful," Delilah told the girl.
Karis rested her head on the radio personality's shoulder and listened to her say a prayer. They posed for a picture.
When a publicist told Delilah it was time to go, she wiped tears from her eyes.
Down the hall, hospital executives, doctors and families waited to meet the new spokesperson for Together for Kids, a national alliance of more than 40 children's hospitals working to raise funds for families in need.
The group chose Delilah, born Delilah Rene Luke, because her syndicated show airs on more than 200 stations nationwide, attracting more than 8 million listeners.
When she speaks about the need for quality pediatric care, she does so with passion. She has eight adopted and three biological children, including a 16-year-old with severe asthma.
"With Delilah's support we hope to raise more funds to meet the needs of children in communities throughout the country," said Kimberly Guy, chief operating officer for St. Joseph's.
Locally, New Magic 94.9-FM broadcasts Delilah's show, Delilah After Dark, weeknights beginning at 7 p.m. The program airs live in Delilah's hometown Seattle but she takes calls from people across all 50 states.
Tracy Hernandez of Riverview called the show eight years ago after doctors predicted her son Connor, then 2, wouldn't live to start kindergarten. Delilah dedicated I Hope You Dance to the boy, who could no longer walk.
Hernandez later learned her son had leukemia.
When she heard Delilah was coming, she brought Connor, now 11, to meet her.
"I Hope You Dance has been mine and Connor's song for all these years," Hernandez said.
The three shared a hug.
Delilah said she wants to spread the word about Together for Kids to all her listeners.
In her arms, she carried T-shirts signed by children at the hospital.
Karis hadn't signed one. Still, Delilah couldn't help but think of the little girl down the hall.
"Her mom and aunt said they've been listeners for years," Delilah said, "so they're not really strangers."