Bianca Huerta never asked questions about sacrificing part of her childhood to help care for her dying sister, Joselyn.
She just did it.
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"I helped a lot. It became like a habit," the 15-year-old Carpentersville girl said. "I felt like she needed it, like I always put myself in her position."
After 10 years of battling the disease, Joselyn, 12, died in February 2013 of metachromatic leukodystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder that attacks the nervous system and left the little girl bedridden.
Joselyn lacked the strength to play dress-up. Bianca helped her so she wouldn't be excluded from the game.
That wasn't all. Bianca fed Joselyn, changed her, carried her, helped her write the alphabet, prepared meals for her family, helped with laundry and told her mother to worry about her younger siblings, Brandon, 6, and Johanna, 16 months.
Joselyn's passing wasn't the only tragedy to strike the Huerta family.
Johanna, who was born just three weeks before Joselyn died, was diagnosed with the same chronic disorder that took her sister's life. One form of the disease takes hold during the second year of life.
"I still have faith and I'm trusting the Lord and I'm asking him not to let this happen," said their mother, Brandy. "He has the last word, so we'll see."
Today, though, Bianca Huerta gets to think about herself, at least for a few hours. Her mother entered and won two Facebook contests on her behalf as well as several raffles that give her the means to put on a big quinceañera for Bianca -- for only $37.
"Her whole childhood was just, 'OK, Mommy, OK, Mommy.' It was never 'Why?'" Brandy said through tears. "She was always there for Josie, and I want her to have one day just for her."
Quinceañeras are coming-of-age celebrations for Latinas who are turning 15, similar to a Sweet 16 party.
Money is already tight in the Huerta household, and without Brandy's efforts, they may not have had a party, period.
Brandy Huerta, 33, was laid off from her retail job in 2012 and used the setback to look after Johanna. José, 36, works 60 hours a week as a manager for Portillo's in Vernon Hills.
The couple spent thousands of dollars buying supplies to help Joselyn. And an elaborate quinceañera "just didn't seem like it was going to happen at all," said José Huerta, Brandy's husband.
Brandy planned on financing the quinceañera by selling off baby items and household supplies, but in October, someone told her about an online contest for a free quinceañera dress through Selebrations in Chicago. All she had to do was tell her daughter's story on the company's Facebook page and get enough people to "like" it.
She won that contest and the winner was announced at the Expo 15 and Sweet 16 event, a one-stop shop for quinceañera and Sweet 16 needs at McCormick Place.
In another unexpected spell of good luck, Brandy won various raffles at the expo for a free birthday cake, a free photo shoot session and a $37 candy buffet that feeds 50 guests.
"We were just so completely blessed," she said.
The good luck continued.
Earlier this month, Brandy Huerta found out Club Premier Banquets in East Dundee was holding a Facebook giveaway contest that offered a prize package of free hall rental, meals for 110 guests, four hours of beverages, table linens and settings, a DJ and a choreographer to help Bianca plan a dance routine for her quinceañera.
Again, Brandy told her daughter's story on Facebook; she won again, as people voted for it in droves.
Bianca, an incoming sophomore at Dundee-Crown High School, has kept a busy pace.
She plays viola in the school orchestra and for the McHenry County Youth Orchestra, is a member of the high school's swim team, and volunteers as an altar server at St. Monica Catholic Church in Carpentersville.
True to her selfless nature, Bianca told her family she didn't even want a quinceañera, saying it was too expensive, unnecessary and a lot of work.
But now that her mother is making it happen for next to nothing, Bianca can't wait to shine bright before friends and family in her purple gown.
And she wants to share her joy with her mom.
"It's like crazy, but like amazing crazy," Bianca said. "She's done so much, like she's the bestest mother I've ever known.
"I couldn't have done everything without her."