Community Rallies to Honor Encinitas Teen
Authentic, tenacious, thoughtful, funny, perceptive. These are the words Wendy Stanley, the mother of 18-year-old Kira Stanley, chose to describe her daughter, who passed away from a rare form of brain cancer on Dec. 25, 2019. Kira was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in 2017, just two months after her 16th birthday. She fought the disease publicly, with Wendy posting regular updates on the Facebook page @kirascancerupdates, drawing a following of over 20,000 people. Kira’s great uncle, actor Jim Beaver, also tweeted about her diagnosis along with a link to the Stanley family’s GoFundMe page, resulting in widespread support that helped raise more than $400,000 to partially cover her medical expenses.
“If there was anything that Kira loved the most it was sharing and connecting with others.”
Kira was beloved by those in the Encinitas community and beyond for her positive attitude and fiery spirit, even attracting attention from public figures like pop star Billie Eilish, professional surfer Kelly Slater, and former president Barack Obama. She loved to surf, draw, write, listen to music, watch food shows with her mom, and spend time with her friends, boyfriend, and dogs. “If there was anything that Kira loved the most it was sharing and connecting with others. Sharing her life, her feelings, her observations – and even more than sharing her own experiences, Kira loved to connect with the experiences of others, on all levels,” Wendy said.
The Stanley family, which includes Wendy, Kira’s father Robert, and her older sister Zane, dedicated Jan. 18 to celebrating Kira, with a memorial paddle out at Moonlight Beach in the afternoon, followed by a Big Ol’ Life Celebration Party, per Kira’s request, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds that evening. At least 1,200 people joined in the celebration party, complete with a DJ, live music, pink hair extensions, a temporary tattoo station with Kira’s artwork, a photo booth with Kira-inspired props, donation raffle, and drinks and food – including Kira’s favorite, Chick-fil-A. Guests traveled from as far as Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, and Mexico. One couple in attendance, who had never met Kira but lost their own son to DIPG, even traveled from Seattle, WA to show support and honor Kira’s life.
“Anyone who shares their experience of knowing Kira – how they met her, what she meant to them, how she impacted their lives – they have a resounding common theme. They felt important to her. She made everyone she interacted with feel as though they were the only one that mattered and that they felt understood and accepted by her,” Wendy said. “This is her legacy. Love each other. Be kind. Be real. Be honest.”