A talented choreographer with his sights set on New York University, 15-year-old Kevin Zambrano has been blocking out dance numbers since the sixth grade.
But the Burbank High School sophomore’s work took on a new level of intensity this spring as he set about choreographing a piece in honor of longtime family friend Megan Labus, 12, who is living with an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor.
“I would work on it on every day, and I also cut the music,” Kevin said. “It was weeks.”
The final product was featured as part of the annual Muir Middle School Pop Show in March when 95 student performers took to the stage to bring the dance to life. Megan, who is being home schooled while keeping up with classmates and teachers at Muir, was introduced before each of the performances staged on three consecutive nights.
“I was really surprised,” Megan said. “The end of the dance was really inspiring. It would make anyone — it didn’t even have to be someone like my mom — cry.”
Kevin also organized a T-shirt sale during the pop show, selling more than 300 shirts bearing the message, “Give them strength.” Shirt sales generated $4,100.
“[It] was for Megan because she has been so strong,” Kevin said.
The pair will deliver the money on June 6 to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where Megan is being treated. It will go toward brain tumor research.
It will mark the latest turn in a years-old friendship between the Labus and Zambrano families that has only deepened amid crisis.
Kevin and Megan, along with their younger siblings, have grown up together, sharing family meals and days at the pool. And Kevin’s parents, Penny and Michael Zambrano, were among the first to extend their support to Ron and Jen Labus when their then-8-year-old daughter was first hospitalized.
“The first six weeks, between Penny and our friends and our church, we had a meal every night,” Jen Labus said. “Penny coordinated it. It was amazing.”
Support has also come from families and staff at Jefferson Elementary School, where Megan attended, and Muir, where she visits regularly. One teacher recently set up a Relay for Life team and dubbed it “Megan’s Muir Mustangs.”
“It’s everything,” Jen Labus said of the encouragement the family has received from the community. “She is 12. She is not living the life of a normal 12-year-old.”
Megan is undergoing an intensive round of chemotherapy treatment — expected to last at least until December — which is shrinking the tumor, said Ron Labus. Doctors cannot operate because the growth is adjacent to the part of the brain that controls motor skills.
The long-term prognosis is unknown, Ron Labus said.
“It can be there; we just don’t want it to move,” he added. “They are throwing everything at it, and we have to take it a day at a time.”
For now, Megan is looking forward to a family trip to Disney World, provided by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The seventh-grader is already talking about a career as a teacher or a hospital chaplain.
But she isn’t too busy to acknowledge the kindness, and the talents, of a friend.
“Kevin has such a big impact,” Megan said. “He is going to be so big one day. Who is the one who did ‘High School Musical’? He is going to be like Kenny Ortega.”