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South Buffalo boy raises $380 for schoolmate with leukemia

The rules to enter Evan Harper’s hoops match Saturday were simple: Pay $10 and score some points for Kayla Iadresin, a 13-year-old Buffalo girl who has leukemia.

At least 16 people showed up to the three-on-three basketball tournament fundraiser on Hubbell Avenue in South Buffalo. Evan, a 13-year-old boy who attends Discovery School, organized the event, which raised $380 from entry fees and donations.

Kayla found out she had leukemia a few days after her 11th birthday. After four rounds of chemotherapy, she went into remission for about two years.

But Kayla, who just finished 8th grade at Discovery, relapsed a few months ago and couldn’t attend her middle school graduation on June 23.

In January, Evan decided to organize the fundraiser. His father, Brian Harper, at first shot down the idea ­— he didn’t think his son had the time to plan the event.

In addition to going to school, Evan plays lacrosse, hockey and piano, and he volunteers as an altar boy at church.

But the boy didn’t give up. He ordered shirts and requested donations from various businesses. He promoted the event by passing out fliers and posting on social media. And he reached out to South Council Member Chris Scanlon, whose office obtained a porta-potty for the event. The portable basketball rims came from the City of Buffalo.

“He has a good heart,” Brian Harper said of his son.

“He always thinks of other people.”

Evan picked the Fourth of July for the tournament because the stretch of Hubbell Avenue near his house was already going to be closed for a block party.

Saturday morning, the Harper family waited anxiously for people to show up.

At about 10:22 a.m., a few boys started filtering in. In less than an hour, at least 16 children were shooting basketballs on the makeshift courts in the street.

Kayla, who had a bone marrow transplant about a month ago, couldn’t be at the event. But she was moved by the gesture. Her parents told her not to worry about the cost of treatment, but she knows how expensive it can be.

“It’s just amazing that they’re able to do this and take time out of their summer,” Kayla, who is recovering from the transplant at home, said later Saturday.

After registration, each player got an orange shirt that read “Hoops for Kayla,” a water bottle and a granola bar.

Many of the attendees were from South Buffalo, but people also came from downtown and other areas of the city.

Not everybody knew Kayla. Shana Perrott, her 13-year-old son and his two best friends have never met the girl, but they showed up anyway. At the event, Perrott helped keep score.

“I can’t believe so many people are here,” said a neighbor who stopped by.

Evan was happy he could help Kayla, who expects to go back to school next year. He struggled to find words to describe the success of the event.

“I feel good about it,” he said.