The touching reason Virginia family hosted benefit for 9-year-old with cancer

Athena Keane: 'We will never forget about Bella. She's in our hearts forever.'
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Posted at 8:12 PM, May 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-14 15:02:20-04

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- A Mechanicsville family who lost their child to an infection while battling cancer held a benefit for another girl with the disease as a testament to their daughter's giving spirit.

Chrissy Francesca remembered her 11-year-old daughter, Bella, as hilarious, quick-witted and very giving.

"I don't care if you were two or your're 102 -- she just had a general love for people," Chrissy Francesca recalled.

But while in remission for leukemia, the treatment weakened her immune system, and the 11-year-old died of an infection last August.

"I laugh every day and I cry every day," Chrissy Francesca said. "There are days I beg her to take me with her. I just want to hear her voice -- say she's OK."

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But through Bella's challenges of battling cancer, Chrissy Francesca said her daughter was always concerned about how others were doing.

"She was she was such a trooper. She didn't complain the whole time. She thought of others, she worried about me not crying, [Jake] not crying," said mom."She just always giving to the next person. I mean, her -- that's how her mind works like 24/7."

And the family is working to carry on that legacy. This Saturday the Francescas hosted A Gift for Bella Day with all proceeds going to support the family of Kennedy Keane.

The 9-year-old and Bella became friends as both were diagnosed with the same cancer. Kennedy marked two years since her diagnosis on Thursday.

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Kennedy remembered her friend as "really happy, kind, friendly."

Theresa Keane, Bella’s aunt, said the day was a way to bring the community together.

“It’s a tribute to the Francesca family,” Keane said. “They just had a way of connecting with the community and who’s here today is people that have been around the Francescas for decades… Bella just touched all of their lives.”

Gift for Bella Day

Kennedy's mom, Athena, said she is grateful that Bella's family is continuing her legacy.

"We will never forget about Bella," she said. "She's in our hearts forever."

And while this may be the first fundraiser in Bella's honor, Chrissy said it will not be their last.

"We just tried to continue on with random acts of kindness and Bella's honor and we are thinking forward in more fundraisers but we're just we're just getting started," Chrissy Francesca said.

The event featured area businesses selling treats, a DJ, a bounce house, animal adoptions and more.

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