Slowly but surely, a 7-year-old Chandler girl with a grown-up Christmas wish to raise $100,000 to help pay for her friend's bone marrow transplant is moving forward now with the help of others.
Whether it's a dollar or a dime at a time, Kiana Banks' fundraising efforts for her friend and classmate, Amber Fernandez, a Hull Elementary School second-grader battling acute myeloid leukemia, are picking up steam.
When Amber, the daughter of Ben and Kelly Fernandez of Chandler, was diagnosed with the disease in July, Kiana said all she wanted for her birthday last month and for Christmas is for Amber to get better and to come home.
Although Amber's bone marrow transplant was initially scheduled for Thursday, she may not undergo the procedure until February as she now is undergoing her fourth round of chemotherapy at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
So far, Kiana has raised more than $2,500 toward the $100,000 goal, a sum that is continuing to grow as the story has garnered national attention and more fundraisers are being planned.
On Saturday, a fundraiser will be held at Skateland Chandler with $1 from each admission going toward the Amber Fernandez Fund. A special program for Amber will be held from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Kiana said that the fundraising - which has included an event at Marley Farms in Gilbert, Inta Juice in Chandler and a donation from Kiana's church family at Brighter Day Deliverance Ministries in Tempe, has been a little more work than she expected, so she knows she has to keep moving toward her goal.
"I really appreciate it," Kiana said of the help she's received. "I wanted to say thank you."
Kiana said she last spoke with Amber over the phone on her birthday when Kiana turned 7 last month, but their conversations about heartthrob Justin Bieber took a backseat that day.
"I wanted to make sure she was OK," Kiana said.
Amber knows what Kiana is doing and is "excited."
Kiana also recently hurdled the task of talking for about an hour on a radio program about her mission, reaching thousands of listeners as she was interviewed by talk-show host Louanna Faine during the program, "Real Talk with Louanna: Real People, Real Lives, Real Truth," on www.suparadio.com. Radio Supa is a Tempe-based 24-hour online radio station that has listeners around the world.
"I was a little nervous at first, but it was fun," Kiana said.
What did she talk about?
"We need to get more stuff done and raise more money," Kiana said.
Kiana and her mother are hoping for a large turnout Saturday.
"The message we're trying to get out is that one person and $1 can make a difference," Keisha Banks said. "Kiana wants to do something for Amber that will give her strength and courage. This will have a lasting effect on Amber and her family."
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