Approximately 30 days after her second bone marrow transplant, an 8-year-old dancer, Lake Fenton student, and cancer survivor will be honored by local dancers in a fundraising event this Saturday, Oct. 5 at the 242 Community Church in Brighton.
Brinley Jungnitsch, who attends Torrey Hill Intermediate School, will turn 9 in January 2020. She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and has been battling cancer ever since.
The Saturday event, called Dancing for a Cure, will feature Fenton Ballet Theatre, Brighton School of Ballet, Great Lakes Dance Factory, and Modern Messages Dance Company, along with other local dancers, to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and #BrinleyTheBrave, according to a press release.
Tickets are $25. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Brinley’s most recent transplant was for her relapsed acute myeloid leukemia, said her mother, Jessica Jungnitsch. She’s currently in the hospital fighting the side effects of chemotherapy given during the transplant process and from having a poor immune system.
“She is such a fighter and continues to improve each day. We are hoping to be able to be discharged from the hospital soon and move into the apartment housing that St. Jude provides for another two to three months before being released back home,” she said.
Lake Fenton Community Schools have been “wonderful,” her mother said. This was her first year at Torrey Hill. Before, she attended West Shore Elementary.
“She has only been over there (Torrey Hill) for a visit as preparation in second grade so to answer if she likes it is difficult. I can say that her teacher Maggie Ribbick has been wonderful in helping to coordinate with school services at St. Jude and has a very strong desire to help keep Brinley on task,” Jungnitsch said.
Brinley missed a lot of school during kindergarten and first grade due to the cancer, only receiving minimal homebound services. She worked “very hard” with second grade teacher Ashley Warfield at West Shore to catch up to her classmates.
“For everyone that has worked through stress and tears to catch her up to her grade level, and who have a desire to keep her on track, I am so grateful and blessed. Remaining in her grade level with her peers is very important to her,” she said.
On Friday, Sept. 27, the school district supported a “Go Gold for Brinley” day where staff and students wore gold.
Brinley started dancing last year at Fenton Ballet Theatre with owner Brooke Holvick. Jungnitsch said she took a while to warm up to it, but the best thing the sport did was help with Brinley’s self-confidence.
“Ballet and dance was intimidating to Brinley as it was her first time ever dancing, and she initially sat in the corner and cried a lot. Brooke really embraced Brinley and helped her to open up and participate and feel comfortable being in class. Brinley didn’t get to dance in her final recital for the year, due to her recent relapse, but I know she would have shined and been so confident because of Brooke,” Jungnitsch said.
She also played softball with Lake Fenton schools.
The dance event on Saturday, Oct. 5 is in Brinley’s honor, but she and her family won’t be able to be there. They’re still in Memphis, Tennessee at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“We are looking forward to chatting with Brooke and others about how much of a success the event and of course seeing pictures and videos,” she said.
St. Jude has been good to their family. Brinley received a trial drug and was able to get back into remission at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, but went back to St. Jude.
“Dr. Jeffrey Rubnitz here at St. Jude really made us feel confident and comfortable that this would be the place that could give Brinley her best chance at life,” she said.