CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Bella Ybanez has been embraced by the community since her tragic story was shared more than two years ago.
In August of 2017, the 5-year-old girl was severely burned on 40 percent of her body in an accident involving a barbecue pit. She was only 2 years old at the time.
"All of a sudden we hear these horrific screams," her father Abel Ybanez said. "And she's literally on fire. Her dress was on fire, her hair."
Bella was rushed to Shriner’s Hospital in Galveston and recovered after three months.
Since then, Bella has undergone several skin graft procedures to maintain her skin’s natural growth as she grows older.
"She will have surgeries all through her teenage years, maybe into her twenties," Abel Ybanez said.
Now, as Bella approaches yet another painful surgery in May, her parents Abel and Minnie Ybanez are hoping the community can lend them a helping hand with their traveling expenses. Medical bills are covered through their insurance and the hospital.
"Think of a two-and-a-half-year-old to have to be that strong just to survive," Abel Ybanez said. "She's gone through hell and back and she survived."
Because of the complexity of the procedure — the distance from the hospital to the hotel is important as well as the cleanliness of their accommodations - Bella will be vulnerable to infection.
"She's always worried about everyone else saying, 'Don't worry I'll be OK,'" Bella's mother Minnie Ybanez said.
But it costs money that her parents don't have. Minnie Ybanez is the sole provider of five children working at H-E-B since her husband has his own health complications.
There will be a #BellaStrong fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mar. 7 at PHAT Keto Co., 3741 S. Alameda St.
"She shared with me what they had been going through with Bella and her story," PHAT Keto Owner Margie Castillo said. "And it was very touching because Minnie is just one of the sweetest ladies that you'll ever meet."
There will be a face painting, balloon twisting, music and cupcakes.
Bella wanted to thank everyone for their prayers even though she said sometimes it all makes her sad.
When Action 10 News asked little Bella why she was so strong she said: "Because I'm a big girl."
The health-conscious restaurant will donate 20 percent of its sales to the Ybanez family and also have a donation box.