11-year-old starts crowdfunding initiative - KMSP-TV

11-year-old launches crowdfunding initiative for friend with brain tumor

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(KMSP) -

Amelia Sawalich is only 11, but she took it upon herself to facilitate a crowdfunding initiative through Piggybackr to help her young friend who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Nevaeh Belker is 6 years old and she doesn't truly understand what cancer is, but her parents Mike and Tessa Belker say she knows something is different. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, she's persevered through surgery, chemotherapy, and even a stint in Florida for radiation treatment.

"After the surgery she wasn't able to walk, talk or do these things so she's had to relearn those things," Mike Belker said.

And the medical costs just kept rising.

"As soon as Nevaeh was diagnosed, Tessa stopped working so we lost an income there," he said.

To make matters more challenging, he opened a personal training business that same year. However, that hurdle ended up being an incredible gift for the Belker family. Stacey Sawalich's daughter exercises through his program, and she shared their story with her daughter. Not only was she moved by their experience, she was prompted to do something about it.

Piggybackr is a website aimed at young entrepreneurs and allows them to collect small donations from a wide range of people for any idea.

"In addition to the business side there is this cause side which is really an amazing thing for young people to really think outside of themselves," said Amy Zehren, advisor to Piggybackr.

What began as a $5,000 goal soon grew to $10,000 and ultimately became $14,325 for the Belker family in one month.

"You use your networks, you spread the word and you get random acts of kindness of people who want to give back."

Today, Nevaeh and Amelia are closer than ever but both know there's still a long road ahead to recovery.

"I would tell her to keep her faith, and stay strong, and just trust in herself and god," Amelia said.

Nevaeh's scans have come up clean this year but she still has a lot of rehab for nerve damage caused by the tumor.

In addition, Amelia is the granddaughter of Bill Austin, the founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation that's given away hundreds of thousands of hearing aids around the world. It seems Amelia is on her way to being a part of that generous legacy.

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