A 6-year-old Chandler girl has a lofty goal and vision, not for herself, but for her friend.

Kiana Banks, a second-grader at Chandler’s Hull Elementary School, wants to raise $100,000 for her friend and classmate Amber Fernandez, who is battling acute myeloid leukemia and scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant next month.

Kiana told her own mother she wants one thing for her birthday when she turns 7 on Thursday and one thing for Christmas:

“I want Amber to get better and be able to come home,” she said.

Amber, the daughter of Ben and Kelly Fernandez of Chandler and a second-grader in teacher Brittney Soenen’s class, is a patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital currently undergoing her third round of chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with the disease in July when she was visiting her grandparents in Virginia just before she was set to begin the school year.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. The disease can progress rapidly and can be fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.

Kiana, who likes to draw and go shopping with Amber and talk about heart-throb Justin Bieber, hasn’t been slow to act on her fundraising plans — from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, the first fundraiser will be held at Marley Farms, 26601 S. Val Vista Drive, Gilbert, in which 100 percent of the day’s proceeds will go to Amber’s family to help cover the bone marrow transplant. Those in attendance will get to participate in hay rides, visit the petting zoo and take part in other activities where various vendors will be set up.

Then, on Dec. 10, Skateland Chandler at 1101 W. Ray Road, will donate $1 from each admission that day to Amber’s family. The event for Amber is from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., but proceeds from the entire day will be donated for Kiana’s cause.

All of that is leading up to an overall effort by the 150 second-grade students at Hull Elementary School — they are putting together a quilt of 165 squares to give to Amber for Christmas.

Each quilt square will symbolize an activity that its designer is known for or known to do with Amber such as sports or shopping.

The quilt, which will be put together by Eagle Wings Quilting Store in Casa Grande and will be made of materials donated by the business, originally started out as a project by 20 of Amber and Kiana’s friends, but once word spread about the project, the whole grade now is supporting it.

Kiana’s church family at Brighter Day Deliverance Ministries in Tempe also has made a donation to help get the fundraising project moving forward.

Last month, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Arizona Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society held a special event Amber, where she signed a check for nearly $23,000 for the society. The funds were made possible for the society by a Flamenco music fundraiser concert spearheaded by her aunt Natalie Fernandez and uncle Justin Fernandez’s band, Tesoro Flamenco, in Tucson last month.

Kiana’s mother, Keshia Banks, said Thursday that her daughter’s project is a testament to how one person can help make a difference and wants to help get the word out to others who may want to help.

“Kiana wants to do something for her Amber that will give her strength and courage,” Keshia Banks said.


What: Fundraisers for Amber Fernandez, 7, a second-grader at Chandler’s Hull Elementary School who is battling acute myeloid leukemia.

When: 2 to 6 p.m. Friday at Marley Farms, 26601 S. Val Vista Drive, Gilbert.

Other fundraisers: Friday, Nov. 18: Inta Juice, 796 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, donating proceeds; from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Skateland Chandler, 1101 W. Ray Road.

Information: (310) 770-9786.


What: Light the Night

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tempe Arts Park, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway

About 4,000 walkers are expected to participate this year with illuminated balloons: white for survivors and current patients, red for supporters and gold for those walking in memory of a loved one. The walk is held each year to raise funds for cancer research and patient services.

Information: Visit www.lls.org or call (602) 567-7598.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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