Ava Reinert was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2017.

An active 4-year-old girl when she was diagnosed, Ava loved dance, swimming and attending preschool each day.

In January of 2017, she began complaining of back pain.

“Within about a week, she couldn’t even stand, walk or sit up in bed,” said Amanda Reinert, Ava’s mother. “She was laying down 24/7.”

Visiting numerous specialists, Ava was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease after doctors found seven compression fractures in her vertebrae.

After two weeks of treatment and no results, Ava underwent more testing, ultimately leading to her diagnosis of lymphoblastic leukemia on March 27, 2017. She began treatment two days later.

Fast forward to June 9, 2019: Ava, now a first grader at Whitetail Creek Elementary School, wrapped up her treatment.

“She was on treatment for a total of 800 days,” Amanda Reinert said. “She went through about 12 months of physical therapy and had to completely relearn how to walk. Now she’s back to tumbling, cheerleading and dancing. You probably wouldn’t know just by looking at her that she couldn’t walk at one time.”

Last December, Ava’s family partnered with Sammy’s Superheroes Foundation — an organization that aims to raise awareness and fund research for all types of childhood cancer — to form their own organization, Ava’s Army, in efforts to raise money to fund pediatric leukemia research.

“Her oncologist said her treatment plan had been the same for over 20 years,” Reinert said. “I think she said that to comfort me, but it kind of freaked me out a little bit that that’s how long it takes to advance treatments for childhood cancer. There’s just so little funding.”

This year, Ava’s Army will host its first major fundraiser, which the Reinerts hope to make an annual tradition in years to come.

Ava’s Army’s overall goal is to raise $100,000 to kick-start research for pediatric leukemia. To date, the organization has raised about $25,000, with hopes to raise another $40,000 at the upcoming fundraiser.

“It’s pretty horrifying when someone has to come in wearing a full hazmat suit to administer these drugs going straight to your child’s heart,” Reinert said. “A lot of kids honestly don’t survive it. The chemo completely suppresses their immune system. Many of the medications used for pediatric leukemia are the same as those meant for adults. You just can’t treat a 4-year-old the way you’d treat a 40-year old.

“If a child is lucky enough to make it through their treatment plan, 60% of those that survive will endure complications or chronic illness later in life.”

The Sugarplum Ball will be held Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Steppe Center in La Vista, 11730 Peel Circle. The dressy dance is a family event that will feature a pizza and pasta buffet by Valentino’s, Santa, snow machines, Christmas crafts, a photo booth and more.

From Scratch Catering by Brooke Schildt and Baker’s Candies will offer dessert. DJ’s Nam Ryan Ewing & Nam Breanne Ewing from Black Fox Productions will host and there will be a special performance by the Nebraska Ballet Theatre and School.

A silent auction will offer boutique Christmas trees, Kansas City Royals tickets, massages, facials and more. Photo packages by Moments Photography, Graphic Design & Digital Media will also be available for purchase.

Cost will be $50 per adult age 13 and older and $35 per child age 12 and under. A table reservation for eight can be made for $400. For more information and tickets, visit flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/NDQzMjY. The deadline to purchase tickets was Tuesday.

“I hope to have about 200 people attending and raise about $40,000 for the night,” Reinert said. “I don’t want this to feel like every other fundraiser; I want this to be something that people are really excited to do each year as a family.”

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