Fundraiser held for local toddler battling rare form of leukemia

ENCINITAS, Calif. - A fundraiser was held Saturday for a local toddler battling a life-threatening illness.

2-year-old Avery Hanel was taken to Rady Children's Hospital 16 months ago with what her parents thought was a case of the flu. Seven months later, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Her parents say they are doing whatever they can to see that she continues to improve.

In June, 10News helped Avery's parents retrieve their four-door Honda Civic after it was stolen from Rady Children's Hospital – filed with toys – while Avery was undergoing treatment.

"Been through, let's just say, a whole lot and she's coming out on top and we're celebrating," said Avery's mother, Alexandrea Upton.

Avery has been battling juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, a blood cancer that in May required her to undergo a cord blood transplant.

Before that, she fought through more than 300 blood transfusions, seven bone marrow biopsies and seven months of chemotherapy.

"You don't have time to go to work," said Avery's father, Peter Hanel. "For my wife and I, we haven't worked in over a year … It's 24/7 every day."

That is why Avery's parents held a much-needed fundraiser on Saturday. Avery, though, could not really participate. She had to watch from inside a motor home across the street.

"She's in there because we are under isolation for 50 more days so she can't enjoy this party that we're having for her," said Upton.

However, Avery was well aware why so many people showed up.

"It's an overwhelming sense of joy and just everybody coming together for one solid reason and that is love," said Upton.

Friends, family and even strangers were doing what they could to make sure "Avery the brave", as people call her, continues to get better.

"People want to support and pull you out of, say, the gutter … you know, there's so much that we're going through and we need a lot of help," said Hanel.

If you'd like to help Avery and her parents, click here.

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