Community rallies to help young cancer patient
McCalmon, a single father, said both he and his daughter also were grateful to the community for its support at the spaghetti fundraiser dinner, auction and raffle. More than 50 local businesses donated items for the auction and raffle, including three in Chester.
“This is pretty overwhelming for both of us,” McCalmon said as he and his daughter watched more than 1,000 community members file through the Diamond Willow Room to enjoy a complete spaghetti dinner. “We want to say thank you to everyone for your support.”
At the fundraiser’s busiest peak about 6:30 p.m., the parking lot at the casino was completely full as cars cruised up and down the aisles seeking an empty stall.
At one point a long, single-file line to get into the Diamond Willow Room wound past the slot machines in the gaming area all the way to the bar on the other side of the building. At another time, the line extended outside of the building.
“We raised more than $17,000,” Baxley said, “but that’s not the final count. Some people deposited money directly into the family’s bank account, and some people donated checks at the high school. We don’t know what the final total will be yet.”
Baxley said this was the biggest fundraiser she’s ever done for a local child suffering with cancer. One previous fundraiser collected about $13,000.
She said helping local children with cancer became her passion after her son, Dusty Longabaugh, 12, succumbed to T-cell lymphoma in 2000.
But Baxley’s not the only local parent who’s lost a child to cancer to lend support to these kinds of fundraising efforts.
She said Teresa Dixon, Michael Cochran’s mother, and Monique and Roland Jareda, Zara Jareda’s parents, are among the biggest supporters of such events.
“I know it really hurts them to see other families going through this,” Baxley said, “but they’re always the first ones here when we do an event like this.”
Baxley also recalled one of the evening’s most heartwarming moments. When two ladies from a Bible class stopped by and offered to help, Baxley said she immediately put them to work setting up tables and chairs and hauling big pans of food from the kitchen to the serving area.
“They were like little angels,” Baxley said, “and they worked really hard for about three hours. I’m sorry I don’t know who they are, but I think they were pretty tired when the left.”
She estimated about 1,300 people attended the fundraiser, but the workers quit counting after they served about 1,000 plates. And some people who came to the event dropped off a donation and left without eating because they didn’t want to wait so long in line.
So many people came to the event that Baxley said, “After about an hour and a half, we ran out of food,” Baxley said. She said Susanville Supermarket came to the rescue and rushed more food up to the casino.
Staff from High Desert State Prison stayed after the event to help put the tables and chairs away and help with the cleanup, Baxley said.
Baxley said many casino employees worked many hours to help make the event a success. The Susanville Indian Rancheria Tribal Council and the Diamond Mountain Casino Gaming Commission also lent support for the event, Baxley said.
Naomi Turner donated $650 and the Susanville Indian Rancheria Tribal Council contributed $500, Baxley said. Staff at HDSP, the FCI at Herlong and the California Correctional Center donated $5,000. Other groups and businesses donated auction items, raffle prizes and/or desserts.
She also said the Lassen County Times and the Radio Network did a great job publicizing the event.
The Lassen Youth Varsity Cheerleading Team, the Lassen County 4-H, Susanville Supermarket and Susanville Rotary also made important contributions.
“I can’t say enough about what they did,” Baxley said of the event’s supporters. “I want to thank all of you so much.”
The McCalmon family has struggled with the travel and medical expenses over the past few months, and they have lost both their home and their vehicle.
The money raised at the spaghetti dinner will help Jack stay at home and spend more time with his daughter over the next few months.
Brittany suffers from medulloblastoma, a very aggressive form of childhood cancer. She’s undergone multiple surgeries to remove a nectarine-sized brain tumor and has received radiation and chemotherapy at a St. Jude’s affiliated hospital. Doctors are concerned now because the tumor has begun to grow back. It’s currently about the size of a large jellybean.
According to the Children’s Hospital Boston Web site, “Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant central nervous system tumor of childhood. It accounts for 15-20 percent of pediatric brain tumors. These tumors are located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions.”
The Grant A Wish Foundation is arranging a trip to Orlando, Fla. for Brittany.
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