Tiffany Fairbanks is searching for a miracle.
“The journey isn’t over,” Fairbanks said. “We are just praying and searching for answers.”
Fairbanks’ 12-year-old daughter, Samantha, has an inoperable, stage 4 brain tumor. But while the Springville family continues to search for options for Samantha, her school is stepping forward to help them afford future treatment.
Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo found out about Samantha’s tumor two weeks ago, and students immediately set to work to change a scheduled end-of-the-year concert on the last day of school into a benefit concert.
“So the last day when students usually don’t show up, they all decided to come together to help out,” said Jonathan Kano, the dean of the students for Freedom Preparatory Academy’s secondary campus.
The free benefit concert will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at Freedom Preparatory Academy’s secondary campus in Provo and will include music from performers such as Jay Warren, Madilyn Paige and the Gardiner Sisters, along with a bake sale, a silent auction and food trucks.
Kano said student groups across the school have jumped onboard to help out. Bracelets were made to show support for Samantha, and Kano said organizing the concert has helped to unify the school toward a common cause.
“The morale I think is just building and building and building,” he said.
A GoFundMe, Support for Samantha and Family, was set up by a Fairbanks family friend and had raised more than $7,500 of its $200,000 goal as of Tuesday evening.
Kano said he hopes that potential treatments for Samantha go well and they see the seventh grader in the fall. In the meantime, planning for the concert has helped the students to focus on a way they can help.
“They are really coming together for it and they are really passionate about it,” said Shelby Spainhower, who teachers seventh grade science classes and is Samantha’s homeroom teacher.
Spainhower said Samantha is a smart, kind student.
“She is such a sweetheart,” Spainhower said. “She always has a book in her hands.”
Samantha began waking up with bad headaches and nausea about two weeks before spring break. Fairbanks said Samantha had always been a healthy child and they took her to an ophthalmologist to see if her eyeglasses prescription was off. It was there that they discovered that the nerves behind Samantha’s eyes were swollen.
The specialist called the family, who was initially baffled. The swelling nerves were usually common in people who were overweight, which Samantha isn’t. A tumor was initially ruled out — and then the family was called, telling them they needed to go to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City to speak with a neurosurgeon.
Samantha underwent surgery to create a way for the fluid to flow from her brain. She hasn’t been nauseous or had headaches since, but then came the bad news. The tumor in her brain was inoperable.
“There is no cure for what Samantha has,” Fairbanks said. “And as a parent, you can feel like you can’t do nothing.”
Fairbanks said the options they were presented with were radiation and experimental chemotherapy. Fairbanks said she knew that road, and didn’t want go down it. Instead, they’re searching for other options.
That journey has led them to a clinic in Texas, which costs $18,000 a month and would lead to a year of treatment.
Fairbanks said Samantha isn’t a typical 12-year-old and is happy because she knows who she is and that there is a God. She said her daughter loves choir, acting and photography, and that while Samantha is quiet, she notices everything.
“She is the kind of kid who notices the ones that need help or need a friend,” Fairbanks said.
It’s the first year the Fairbanks family had a student at Freedom Preparatory Academy. She reached out to the school to see if it would share the GoFundMe with parents, and was blown away by the charter school’s support.
“You have to reach out and have hope, and they have helped us tremendously,” Fairbanks said.