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Community rallies around high school dancer after brain tumor diagnosis

Layla Julien was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor last summer and is currently undergoing treatment at Children's Hospital.

MINNEAPOLIS — A fundraising effort for the family of a Minnetonka High School student facing brain cancer has produced a huge response since being launched a week ago.

Her name is Layla Julien, the co-captain of the Minnetonka Skipperettes performance dance team in autumn and the competitive dance team during the winter months. The 17-year-old high school senior suffered slight seizures last summer and was eventually diagnosed with a malignant glioma that can't be removed.

"Layla's just an amazing girl. She's smart and funny and kind, just a really good friend and we love her," Angie Lindberg, a friend of the Julien family, told KARE.

Lindberg launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser for the Julien family, explaining they'll need help with the uncertain path their teenage daughter is traveling now. In just a week the appeal has already generated more than $97,000 from hundreds of donors, including people the family doesn't know.

"When we heard about Layla's diagnosis we were desperate to do something to help. We knew the family wasn't sure what they needed," Lindberg explained.

"We have been overwhelmed. The Julien Family has been overwhelmed and are so grateful for all the support they have seen from friends, the community, the family and people they don't even know."

Layla has been receiving radiation treatments at Children's Hospital for what is described as a high-grade, malignant tumor. In between visits to the hospital, she's trying to keep living the life of an active high schooler.

"They're taking it day by day. She's able to go to school when she's feeling up to it. She's able to dance when she's feeling up to it."

Lindberg's daughter Ainsley is a friend and Skipperette teammate of Layla's.

"She's a very outgoing person and is always there to support anyone on our team or even anyone outside of dance," Ainsley explained.

"She has the biggest heart. She's the nicest human I've ever met and will do anything for anyone."

Ainsley and other members of the Minnetonka High School dance team have started wearing rubber support bracelets in their competitions. They're gray, the color that signifies brain cancer. She said dancers from other teams are also reaching out in support of Layla.

"All around the state people have been donating and helping, sending messages to her and our team so she knows we're there for her. It has been really great to see the whole dance community out there supporting her."

Layla appeared with the Skipperettes at Friday night's football game. 

"She's been trying to dance whenever she can, and whenever she can we want her with us."

Angie Lindberg said surgeons have been tracking the behavior of the glioma, monitoring how it responds to the radiation treatments.

"There have been a lot of ups and downs and we are focused on the positives and focused on the fight. I know Layla is too. We're really proud of her."

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