Lissette Huerta is a feisty little girl.
A diva, her mother said.
She draws people in with her spunk and personality. With her smile.
After a very scary time, she's finally stating to smile again.
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Lissette, 4, of Kennewick, who has Down syndrome, was diagnosed with leukemia in June.
Then, while in the midst of chemotherapy, she developed a fungal infection that ravaged her little body. She lost her left eye, most of her palate and part of her cheek and sinus cavity on her left side.
At one point, it didn't look like she would make it. Doctors said there was nothing more they could do.
But Lissette is getting stronger now. "She's still very weak and sleepy. But she does communicate," said her mother, Rachel Casanova.
She's showing flashes of that smile. She's making progress.
And friends and relatives back home in the Tri-Cities are making sure she and her parents have the support they need for the long road that's ahead.
A taco feed fundraiser is planned Saturday. The event starts at 11 a.m. at Gateway Foursquare Church in Kennewick.
Lissette's father is Josue Huerta and she has an older brother, Edward, 10. They're with her at Seattle Children's Hospital, along with Casanova.
Casanova said by phone Thursday that her daughter likely will remain in the hospital for months. At this point, the infection "is not getting worse but it's still there," she said.
And there's the leukemia to contend with. Chemotherapy could resume next week.
It's been a difficult summer, Casanova said. Right now "we're better because she's still with us and she's doing better."
But they're also worried, including about Lissette's right eye, which seems to have little to no vision.
The 4-year-old loves the movie Frozen, and "we've been putting it on for her so she can hear the music -- something familiar since she can't see," her mother said.
While Casanova sat with her daughter in Seattle, organizers worked furiously on Saturday's fundraiser.
They've recruited a long list of businesses -- from Grocery Outlet in Kennewick to El Fat Cat Grill -- to donate supplies.
Lissette is covered by insurance but costs are piling up and the event will provide some much-needed aid to the young family, organizers said.
Monique Marron of Richland, who's helping with the event, knows Lissette and her family through the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia.
She said she's in awe of the little girl's resilience. "I can't express to you not only her courage but this family's courage. Their love for each other is amazing," she said.
Lissette's grandmother and great aunt spoke of that love Thursday. Of how hard it's been for the little girl, for her parents and brother, for the whole family.
Of how special Lissette is. "She just brings to joy to all of us. She's the center of the home, the heart of the house," said grandma Rachel Ortiz.
Ortiz's sister Sindy Ediger described the 4-year-old as a "firecracker" and "sunshine."
"Her feistiness -- it's helped her with this fight," she said.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald
IF YOU GO
What: Taco feed fundraiser for the family of Lissette Huerta, a 4-year-old Tri-City girl who was diagnosed with leukemia in June and now is fighting a fungal infection. A silent auction, bounce house, face painting and snow cones also are planned.
When: 11 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Gateway Foursquare Church, 4312 W. Kennewick Ave.
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
Other ways to get involved: An account is set up at Key Bank under mom Rachel Casanova's name and a Facebook page — Lots of Love for Lissette —has updates on her progress.