San Diego

Community Rallies Around Surfer Girl With Brain Tumor

Park 101 in Carlsbad was packed Saturday night - not because it was a weekend - but because of a 16-year-old girl with cancer. 

Kira Stanley, a junior at La Costa Canyon High School and surf instructor in Encinitas, was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) on Nov. 9, 2017, her father, Robert Stanley, told NBC 7.

The evening at Park 101 was part two of the support for Kira. Earlier in the day, there was a surf competition in her honor at Moonlight Beach.

"A 13-year-old at the beach was having a birthday party. He wasn't even part of the contest. He got $130 for his birthday and came up and donated all of it," Jason Rowells, who attended the competition, said. 

Another guest, David Goyette said the cause is close to his heart.

"I've had family members struggle with cancer - and friends. It's just something you want to rally behind," he said.

At first, Kira's family thought her symptoms were just vision problems. 

“It started as double vision, which we thought was her eyesight since she had astigmatism,” her father wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to assist the family with medical costs. “We figured she needed to update her prescription and visited the optometrist.”

After several failed diagnoses and trips to the emergency room, an MRI revealed a tumor inside her brain stem, Robert said.

The family talked to several different hospitals but ultimately decided to get Kira's treatment from a facility in Mexico. 

"A lot of people questioned our decision to go to Mexico, actually," Robert said. "When you are trying to make a decision for your child, you are just doing the best you can with the information that’s available -- and the best information we had came from other families with the exact same situation.”

The medical treatment costs the family $20,000 to $35,000 every three weeks. The fundraiser is meant to raise money for the costs. 

"It was going to be just the surf contest, including some of my surf teammates and anyone who wanted to be in it," Kira said ahead of the event. "It just kind of blew up on the Internet and now it's going to be hundreds of people showing up. Oh, man, it's going to be crazy."

About 800 people had registered for the evening event at Park 101 Carlsbad The party was meant to act as a "celebration" as well as a fundraiser, according to the event’s website. During the event will be a raffle and silent auction, with items donated by professional surfer Kelly Slater, whom Kira got to meet this week. 

"So Stoked that Kira had the chance to meet her surf hero Kelly Slater today," Robert wrote in an Instagram post. "He was super cool and fun to hang out with. So awesome!"

"I donated one of my surfboards that I hand shaped. It's the least that I can do," Rowells said. 

Kira has received widespread support from the community. The GoFundMe page created on her behalf has raised $315,000 since it was created two months ago.

The event "started out as a little thing that we were going to do for Kira to help her feel better, maybe raise some funds, but really get all her surf buddies together and, like, celebrate her and now it’s just become almost a southern California movement in a way,” Robert said with a laugh.

"Supporting Kira is not just supporting Kira. It's supporting everyone and recognizing this is a big issue for people and it's not just about her though she's the center of attention right now. It's about all of us," Goyette added.

Kira, herself, was moved by the outpouring of support. 

"Ah, I feel great," she said. "I don't know, It feels really great. Just so much love."

Kira has received three treatments so far with another scheduled for next week. She has had one surgery to battle the cancerous tumor.

"The results have been positive," Robert told NBC 7. "The fact that (the tumor) hasn’t grown is kind of a big deal – a really big deal.

A family friend and organizer told NBC 7 they believe they raised more than $100,000 between the two events. 

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