School community providing support to cancer-striken girl and family - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

School community providing support to cancer-striken girl and family

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Posted: Friday, June 11, 2010 2:27 pm

Two weeks ago, Jessica D’Ambrosio had never heard of Jasmine Montes. Until this week, she and the brown-haired girl with big eyes had never met.

But when D’Ambrosio heard about efforts being made to raise funds for young Jasmine’s family to pay for her cancer treatment and other medical bills, D’Ambrosio said she just had to do something.

“Usually you say, ‘I’m going to do something,’ and life gets busy,” said D’Ambrosio, a teacher in the Higley Unified School District. “I couldn’t stop thinking about this little girl, and before you know it, I’ve had a bunch of sponsors” for a fund-raiser.

Until April, Jasmine, 8, was enjoying the second grade at Higley Unified School District’s Centennial Elementary School. But on April 29, her family took her to the emergency room when her legs started to turn blue. Doctors discovered a tumor sitting on the right side of her heart, cutting off circulation to her legs, said her teacher, Duangkhae Strnad.

The first day in the hospital, Jasmine underwent surgery to relieve the pressure, but the tumor spread to the aorta and blocked her blood flow. Doctors tried to save her legs, but in mid May, an infection ultimately led to the decision to amputate both her legs above the knee, Strnad said.

“We have an amazing community. Everyone has pulled together as soon as everyone found out about Jasmine’s condition,” Strnad said.

The school conducted a coin drive. D’Ambrosio put together a popcorn and movie night in her neighborhood with donations from several companies. A hair-cutting event took place, and on Saturday, the Centennial community will sponsor a car wash.

“I was shocked and in awe,” D’Ambrosio said of the 230 people who came to last weekend’s event. “All these people are doing things for Jasmine. I moved here three years ago from Chicago, and I will forever live here and shop here. It was very refreshing to find the good in people.”

During the events, organizers sent pictures to Jasmine’s mom to share with her in the hospital.

Jasmine came home Thursday from her nearly two-month hospital stay.

“She’s doing awesome. She’s coming home today,” Strnad said on Thursday. “They’re getting her ready. Her mom was at home yesterday trying to get her room ready. She’s so excited to be coming home. The family is so appreciative and humbled by all we’ve done.”

More than $8,000 has been raised.

Before coming home, Jasmine was fitted with a wheelchair. The staff came in with a pink one, Strnad said, assuming she would want that color.

Jasmine asked for it to be changed to red and black, her school’s colors, Strnad said.

“Oh my goodness, such an amazing little girl, so brave and courageous. She has so much life in her and is just so strong. She wants to get well. She wants to be back at school,” her teacher said.

Hundreds of cards arrived during her treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and that has encouraged the young girl.

“I don’t know how many we read together. It’s amazing. That gives her a lot of strength as well, knowing everyone is pulling for her,” Strnad said.

Car wash benefit for Jasmine Montes

When: 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20

Where: Circle K, 7260 S. Power Road

Donations to the family can also be made at any Midfirst Bank. The account number is 2073001082, and checks are payable to Centennial PTO, re: Jasmine Montes

(Story has been updated with new car wash benefit times.)

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