Six-year-old Emilia Pocasangre is wearing her second tutu of the day and can't help but smile.
The Cascade Elementary School kindergartner returned Wednesday night after another trip to Seattle, where doctors examined a tumor in her head and evaluated her health.
But Thursday morning, she saw her friends at school for the second time in two months, and later that day was back home surrounded by family.
"Oh, I just like to be home," Emilia said. "I wanted to come home from the hospital because I wanted to see my brother (Brandon)."
Emilia's classmates and the community have stepped up as the Pocasangres seek treatment for the little girl. The Kennewick family received $12,600 this week at Cascade Elementary, collected through fundraisers and donations from businesses and individuals -- some anonymous -- to help with Emilia's medical bills.
Unfortunately, Emilia's tumor has grown, and Emilia's mother, Cynthia Pocasangre, said the family is focused on getting her daughter radiation therapy.
"It's just trying to get her better," said father Hugo Pocasangre.
Doctors found the tumor in Emilia's head last summer after she began suffering headaches, weight loss and exhaustion. The tumor is called a pilocytic astrocytoma and often is a benign but slow-growing tumor that presses on the brain.
Part of the tumor was surgically removed soon after it was discovered. Removing the rest of it threatens to take away Emilia's sight or speech, or could paralyze her.
Since then, Emilia has undergone numerous surgeries, some of them emergencies related to the shunts implanted in her head to drain fluid and reduce pressure on her brain. Earlier this month, she needed a shunt moved to a different part of her head because it malfunctioned, Cynthia said. Those surgeries are on top of the doctor appointments and checkups with specialists.
"Pretty much we've learned we have to go with what the hospital has (for an opening)," Cynthia said.
Brandon Pocasangre, Emilia's 17-year-old brother, continues to see his parents and little sister sparingly as she receives treatment and care in Seattle.
"I use every day my parents are here and take advantage of it," he said.
Sports and school continue to help keep Brandon busy and give him a break from worrying about his little sister. He plays baseball for Kennewick High School after having helped the Lions reach the playoffs in basketball.
Family members said much of their strength has come from the support they have received. Cynthia and Hugo said they continue to receive support from their employers at WorkSource Columbia Basin and ConAgra. Brandon said his classmates and teachers also offer help.
The family received the donation from Cascade Elementary during an assembly Thursday, with Emilia saying hello to her friends. Cascade students raised more than $5,000 through a month-long coin drive. More came from collections during the final Kennewick vs. Kamiakin boys basketball game and other donations.
"One person dropped off a $500 donation just before (the assembly)," Cynthia said. "The whole thing took our breath away."
Principal Chad Foltz said the school was packed for the assembly. Formal invitations weren't sent out, but many parents still found their way in.
"Everyone was just happy to see her," Foltz said. "Clear on up to the fifth-graders. They had big smiles when they saw her."
Part of donation includes about $4,500 provided by Conner Construction, Agrium and Luke Mezich Memorial Team Roping, which supported the school's Sparrow Club.
Teachers tried to set up the club, which is part of an Oregon-based charity, but they struggled to find sponsors until word of Emilia's condition spread through the Tri-Cities. In exchange for those donations, every Cascade student is working an hour of community service, Foltz said.
There are other fundraising efforts. Purple Peaches, a coffee and ice cream shop in Kennewick not far from the family's home, will have a gift basket drawing beginning April 1. Co-owner Erica Kelley said there also are plans for a car wash fundraiser when weather permits.
"They've been customers for a long time, but we didn't put the two together until we saw (Emilia) in the car through the window," Kelley said.
Cynthia said the family now is trying to make arrangements for Emilia to undergo proton therapy, a form of radiation therapy. Emilia's oncologist approved the treatment this week and is contacting treatment centers in Florida, Massachusetts and Texas with programs designed for children.
Cynthia said the treatment is the latest hope to stop the growth of the tumor and remove it. However, it will come at another cost to the family. The treatment takes five days a week during an eight-week period. If Emilia gets an appointment soon, it means Emilia and her mother won't get to see Brandon graduate.
There is hope, though. Emilia missed a lot of school because of her condition, but she was home-schooled by cousin Jessica Ibarra, and the family plans to have her tested for acceptance into first grade this fall.
And Emilia is upbeat, as usual. By Thursday afternoon, she had changed into her third tutu for the day -- a purple one with fringe and matching purple boots. She was to meet up with friends at Chuck E. Cheese and was waiting for Ibarra to take her.
"Are we ready to go to the party?" she asked, eagerly.