Raelynn Fronczak is just like any other five-year-old. She loves playing with dolls, she has a comeback for almost everything her mom says and she loves spending her spare time at the football stadium as part of Turlock Youth Cheer.
Now, however, the kindergartener is facing something far from ordinary after her family received a devastating cancer diagnosis last week. She has a DIPG tumor in her brain — something which only affects 300 children in the United States each year and has a survival time of nine months to a year.
“She’s just a typical five-year-old. She’s so funny and witty, and she’s very caring and loving and thoughtful,” Raelynn’s mom, Krystal Velarde said. “She loves cheerleading. I’m really glad she got to do it because we don’t know if she’ll be able to do it next year.”
Velarde said she noticed her daughter’s eye moving inward last week, which was out of the ordinary. Other than that, she was completely fine, but on Thursday they received the results after a CT scan and MRI at Valley Children’s Hospital.
“Myself and her father were there and we were completely shocked. We had just brought her there the day before and she was fine, and now she has a cancerous tumor with barely a year to live,” Velarde said. “The doctors really haven’t told us too much, so we’ve been doing a lot of research on our own.”
The family’s next steps are to take Raelynn to San Francisco where a biopsy will be done. From there, they’ll see what treatment will entail, but they’ve already made changes to Raelynn’s diet and are exploring other holistic methods in order to help in any way they can from their side of the illness.
Raelynn is a kindergartener at Harmony Elementary School in Delhi, where she lives, but her first season of Turlock Youth Cheer for the Bulldogs has seen the five-year-old forge friendships in Turlock. The community has rallied around Raelynn, Velarde said, from friends and family to cheer teammates and even complete strangers, like one woman who sent the family essential oils that had helped her on her journey to beat cancer.
“It honestly makes me feel so good. I knew we had family and friends and people who care, but it’s really nice to see everybody come out and ask how they can help,” Velarde said. “When you have the stress of having to deal with this news, it’s so nice to have other people help us in ways that, mentally, we just can’t focus on right now.”
Friends and family are hosting countless fundraisers for Raelynn, and a GoFundMe fundraiser has already reached nearly $15,000 for the family. The family has also been in contact with the Make A Wish Foundation, Velarde added.
“It's just us trying to tell her that she is sick, but without trying to scare her,” she said. “We just want her to understand that this is going to be a life change. Hopefully if this somehow goes away and she does survive, it doesn't have to be like this forever.”
On Oct. 30, TYC and Turlock Youth Football will honor Raelynn as homecoming princess and all proceeds from a bake sale at the games that day will go to her family. That same day, a car wash will be held for Raelynn at the 76 Station on West Main Street in Turlock. For those who would like to donate money, a fundraiser for Raelynn has been set up at https://gofund.me/3c50c2b0.