Community carries Bothell family through daughter's death

Bothell residents are working together to keep a local family in their community after the family lost their 8-year-old daughter to leukemia.

Mikayla Bassett passed away last month after a three-year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. She has left behind her parents, three siblings and the community that carried her family through this tragedy.

"We're just trying to figure out how to function without her," Mikayla's father Michael Bassett said.

Mikayla was diagnosed with cancer in July 2009 while her family was living in Kansas City, Mo.

After a bone marrow transplant from her younger brother two years later, Mikayla was declared cancer free. But, doctors warned her parents that if the disease came back they would not have the resources available to treat her.

So, with just $500, the Bassetts drove across the country to Bothell where they would be closer to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and have better treatment options.

For one blissful year, Mikayla was healthy and thriving in the second grade at Crystal Springs Elementary School.

"Mikayla was the most spunky, energetic, smart and enthusiastic student," said Mikayla's teacher Jane Weiss. "She was a teacher's dream come true."

The majority of the school community wasn't aware of Mikayla's illness until her cancer returned in June last year. Families offered to help from the start. When Mikayla's mother, Rea, left her job to take care of her daughter, parents donated more than $2,000 to help cover the family's medical expenses.

"That seems to be the way our village works," said Lorri Kostenko, a parent at Crystal Springs. "You put the need out there and all the sudden someone's right there saying 'I got ya.'"

Mikayla received chemotherapy throughout the summer in preparation for another bone marrow transplant. But before that could happen, her heart began to shut down. Doctors believed she would only survive a few days, but Mikayla proved them wrong, living five more months.

During those months, the family of five - with kids ages 4 to 16 - moved into a single room with two beds at the Ronald McDonald House. To help them out, Bothell High School families donated holiday gifts. In January, when parents at Crystal Springs heard the Bassetts' van broke down they arranged to have a new engine put in, free of charge.

"People just keep coming out of the woodwork to help us," Michael said. "If they find something's the matter it's just fixed."

In the midst of all this generosity, Mikayla's health worsened. She died on Jan. 26.

Weiss had grown especially close with the Bassetts by then, often sitting with Mikayla at Children's Hospital when her parents were away.

"She taught us to never give up; love a lot; and be a great friend," Weiss said. "Don't waste your brain, try new things and don't be scared."

Since Mikayla died the Bassetts have moved in with Rea's mother in a two-bedroom apartment in North Seattle. The family is trying to save enough money to move into a home of their own in Bothell, where the community has shown them so much kindness.

"Our goal is to get into a new place to start the new normal," Michael said. "Originally we were just going to be here until Mikayla was cured. Now everyone's pretty glued here."

Kostenko is working with other supporters to make the Bassetts' dream come true by organizing a rummage sale at Mikayla's former school. Proceeds will help the family rent a new home.

"I keep telling Rea she's got this village behind her, and it's still growing," Kostenko said.

The "Mikayla's Journey Community Rummage Sale" will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Crystal Springs Elementary School, 21615 9th Ave. S.E. in Bothell. Anyone who would like to help the Bassett family can contact Lorri Kostenko at