VALLEJO -- Many held signs, but with words of encouragement and not protest.

Police stood by, but there was no crime. Politicians talked, but not about politics.

On this one day, a shy, ailing 10-year-old united a community with the wisdom of a sage, a magical smile wider than the Carquinez Strait, and the courage of, yes, a superhero.

Monika Romo, elevated to near oracle status as "Wonder Girl," received the red carpet treatment at Pennycook Elementary, Vallejo High School, City Hall, the California Maritime Academy and a morning-ending return to her fifth-grade classmates Thursday in a veritable tour-of-hope.

A preschooler from St. Vincent Ferrer school peeks out from under a signto look for Wonder Girl as he sits on the steps of Vallejo City Hall on Thursday.
A preschooler from St. Vincent Ferrer school peeks out from under a signto look for Wonder Girl as he sits on the steps of Vallejo City Hall on Thursday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Diagnosed with leukemia in April, the daughter of Pedro and Alejandra Romo attracted attention for her essay detailing how "Wonder Woman" (secret identity Monika Romo) would help Vallejo residents work hand in hand to rid the city of hate and evil.

Borrowing a page -- maybe a few pages -- from San Francisco's "Bat Kid" Miles Scott who received the hero treatment last month, a surprised Monika received gifts, plaques, certificates and a police escor.

The day was organized by Maria Guevara and Vallejo Together.

"It's overwhelming, but in a good way," said Alejandra Romo, joining 20 family members for a photograph after the City Hall appearance in front of 125 well-wishers.


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"I never expected this to get so big," she added. "I thought it would be something small. But we're happy and really appreciate it."

"I think it's been amazing," grinned Pedro Romo. "All these people helping us. She is very happy about it."

Monika said she was "scared and excited at the same time" of the attention that included a cluster of TV cameras. Because of the chilly weather, she wore a jacket over her red Wonder Girl shirt and cape. But her smile was on full display, and never wavered as she received a Solano Hero's Certificate from Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan,the Officer James Capoot Heroism Award from the police, a laptop courtesy of Vallejo firefighters, and the key to the city from City Manager Dan Keen.

"I think it's very nice," said a humbled Monika, believing the best part of Thursday was "everything."

For many in the audience, the whole "Wonder Girl" story was a welcome respite from the recent spate of violent crime in town.

wonder girl in Vallejo
Employees from the City Attorney's office don super hero costumes as they wait for Wonder Girls arrival at City Hall in Vallejo on Thursday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

"I'm excited for the little girl. It's good to have something positive happening," said Stephanie Tatum. "It's the first step in the right direction in getting back together as a working community."

"It's just the innocence of it," said Valery Asenjo, a five-year resident. "It's about the struggles people have to overcome no matter at what age. It's a triumph of spirit, especially at Christmas. Her wish is to make Vallejo safe and that's my wish, too."

St. Vincent preschool director Candie Munson said she originally brought 45 students to City Hall to visit Santa but remained when she heard Wonder Girl was arriving.

"I think she is something Vallejo needs right now, something positive," Munson said.

Monika's health and courage "makes you really think about how precious life is," said Angela Davis.

Police Lt. Sid DeJesus had the "honor" of driving the celebrated girl around town and grew to adore the diminutive "Wonder Girl."

"It's been awesome," DeJesus said. "She's inspiring me to be greater than I ever hope to be. Through the mouths of babes comes true wisdom. Her smile tells the whole story. All of us can learn something great from Wonder Girl."

Hannigan, observing the "Together We Can," "We Love Monika," and "W Love Vallejo" signs, said the honored resident is inspiring.

"She's a young lady stepping up to the challenge of a very scary disease. We should all honor a superhero in our community like Monika Romo. She's my superhero."

An emotional Capt. John Ha of the Vallejo Fire Department said Romo deserved hero status "because she keeps our hopes and dreams alive."

The day's activities and attention wasn't just about Monika, but about all children with cancer and educating the public about the disease, said Alejandra Romo, Monika's mom.

"Hopefully, this helps spread the word for cancer awareness," she said. "Hopefully, it can help a little. We need more research so kids can lead a better life."

Monika's parents both acknowledged their child's courage.

"Every day, she's fighting for her life," Alejandra Romo said. "If a little girl is fighting for her life, we can do something good for our city, too."

Pedro Romo posed for the family photo with his arm around Monika, the oldest of three children.

"I'm proud of her, of course," he said.

Speaking softly behind a microphone, Monika quoted "my favorite Beatles song, 'Let It Be.'"

" 'When you find yourself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.' That first part speaks to me," she said. "'And in the hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.' The second part speaks to Vallejo."

And with the awards, the applause, the balloons, and the tears, Wonder Girl could only -- of course -- smile.

"Thank you, everybody," she said.