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Community rallies to help 3-year-old cancer patient



Friends and neighbors of three-year-old Avery Hamilton have organized a dinner and live auction to raise money for Avery’s cancer treatments. The event is open to everyone and takes place on Friday, October 11, at 6 p.m. at the Karl Malone Training Center, 525 East 200 South in Lehi. Dinner is $10 for adults and $5 for children, but there is no entrance fee. All proceeds from the event, organized by the non-profit organization, Anything for a Friend, will defray Avery’s mounting medical costs.

In May 2019, a large lump appeared on Avery’s neck. Her parents, Tahnee and Loren Hamilton, took Avery to the pediatrician multiple times before she was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and entered the Primary Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The Hamiltons are small business owners and at the time of Avery’s diagnosis they didn’t have health insurance. The premiums on insurance were thousands of dollars a month and the cost of a doctor visit now and then was much less. This arrangement that had been working for the family. When the state of Utah voted to expand Medicaid, they opened enrollment for only the month of June, 2019. The Hamilton’s had to be denied Medicaid in order to qualify for IHC (Intermountain Healthcare) during that window of open enrollment, and they miraculously did. The family is covered for the rest of the year, but the medical expenses from those first few weeks after Avery was diagnosed are a heavy burden.

“The day before her first chemo treatment, Avery was at a friend’s birthday party at Kangaroo Zoo running around with all the other kids. It was shocking to see her just a few days later, not wanting to play and staring blankly. That’s the hardest thing to watch – my feisty little girl changed so much,” remembered Tahnee Hamilton. Avery spent 29 days in the hospital after tests showed a mass of cancer cells as big as Avery’s head within her chest. 

Family and friends of the Hamiltons organized themselves quickly, creating fundraisers, bringing in meals, and babysitting Avery’s sister and two brothers, but it didn’t feel like enough. Tahnee’s sister contacted Anything for a Friend, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help create avenues by which friends can express collective love, care, and concern. Anything for a Friend was started by three women, dear friends, who used their marketing and event planning experience to bring the community together to help when one of the friends was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer when she was 37 years-old with two small children. After their experience, the women wanted to create an organization to help communities take care of friends in need. They explain on their website, “Our society is quick to know how to help nations or communities in trouble all over the world, but are we as trained to help our family member, friend or neighbor in need? So much good can be done through community fundraisers.”

“What they [Anything for a Friend] do is amazing. They’ve created a handbook on how to do these kinds of events and they have all these contacts with businesses who will donate food and services,” said April Knapp, a close friend of the Hamiltons. Knapp is the “lead” here in Lehi for the event. “People are so generous. It’s so scary to ask for help, but everyone wants to help. People have thanked me for asking,” Knapp continued. The women at Anything for a Friend have reminded Knapp and others who are organizing a charity dinner not to focus on the money, but to focus on the love they have for Avery and the Hamiltons and providing an opportunity for the community to rally around them. 

The Anything for a Friend dinner is provided by Bella’s Fresh Mexican Grill, the silent/live auction includes vacations, a Liberty gun safe, Hoyt Archery Bow, beauty supplies, gift cards, services, and more. During the event there will be a Kids’ Corner with bounce houses, Disney princesses, and face painting. There will be a bake sale and raffle for great items as well.

To contribute to the fundraiser for Avery Hamilton, Venmo @Avery-Hamilton-Charity-Account, Paypal, and GoFundMe: All In For Avery (Help Avery Fight Leukemia).  

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