Join Riverfront Times Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

St. Louis Bosnians Unite to Help 2-Year-Old Battling Rare Cancer 

Dzevad Dizdarevic sat outside the hospital with his head in his hands. Inside, his two-year-old daughter Ariana lay in the hospital with a very rare cancer. With no insurance, three more kids at home and a pregnant wife, Dizdarevic was at his wits' end.

Ariana is receiving chemotherapy for clear-cell sarcoma of the kidney, a very rare cancer that affects fewer than 500 children each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"When they said 'tumor,' oh my God, my whole world crashed," says Sajra Dizdarevic, his wife's sister. "We were just in total shock. They did the emergency surgery right away."

Ariana will need six months of chemotherapy and has been repeatedly re-hospitalized for fevers and blood transfusions. Another family member, Irma Dizdarevic, posted on Facebook that Ariana needed $8,000 in shots on top of the costs for treatment and surgery.

"I told [Ariana's father] we need to do something," says Sajra. "Somebody will help us. We have to get funding for this little girl."

In Bosnia, where Dizdarevic's family is originally from, neighbors drop everything to help a family in need, making meals, babysitting siblings — anything that could help. But in America, things are a lot different, and walking into a stranger's home and offering to make dinner would be a little weird. So St. Louis' Bosnian community is continuing their tradition of support in times of crisis with a distinctly American twist.

The Dizdarevics began fundraising for Ariana's healthcare costs, holding an event at south city's Lucky Duck bar Saturday, planning another at Grbic Restaurant next month and placing donation boxes around town. But they also launched a crowdfunding website on GoFundMe.

"In Bosnia, people don't have money lying around to give financial assistance," says Erna Grbic, whose family was one of the first to settle in St. Louis from Bosnia and now runs Grbic Restaurant. "In America, we all have jobs and fancy websites like GoFundMe to assist these families."

After only two days of sharing the crowdfunding site online, Ariana's family raised $25,000 in donations from both the local and national Bosnian community, as well as from those who have no ethnic ties whatsoever.

"It's just amazing to see how many people have reached out; we're shocked," says Ariana's aunt, Sajra. "Americans are donating, too. Nobody is treating her any differently. Everybody has come together."

As of this writing, the total amount raised for Ariana has leaped to $70,735 (find the campaign at

The Dizdarevic family moved to St. Louis because of its large Bosnian population — the largest per capita of anywhere outside of Bosnia. As the medical bills pile up, Sajra says, she's happy to be surrounded by such a supportive community.

"St. Louis just feels like home," she says.

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 28, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation