The benefit for 6-year-old Alissa Gomez who has been diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor that starts in the region of the brain, kicked off Saturday at 304 E. 29th St.
Although the fundraiser was supposed to begin at noon, people started coming in already at 11:30 a.m., and by 12:30 p.m. more than 100 $10 barbecue plates had been sold at the benefit.
Most of those who came stayed and chatted with the family for a little bit, before they bought plates to-go. Some visitors bought more than five plates to bring back to their families.
Alissa’s third cousin Maristella Duron was the one who started the fundraiser, which is currently taking place in her backyard.
Her husband wanted to donate his first unemployment check to help cover Alissa’s medical expenses, when Duron thought of the idea of using that money on food items and organize a barbecue fundraiser for her instead.
According to Duron it was Alissa’s grandmother Brooke Gomez who first realized that something was wrong with her in the middle of April.
“She was falling a lot, she was walking like she had vertigo and she was experiencing a lot of headaches,” Duron said.
The grandmother took her to a pediatrician, where he found a reason to send Alissa to Cooks Children’s Medical Center in Dallas/Fort Worth. In less than a week after her visit at the pediatrician’s office an MRI was conducted and a tumor was discovered.
Alissa’s mother, Cynthia Corona said, “at first we thought it was the flu, then an MRI found a tumor. I am still trying to take it all in. My children’s father passed away last year, so our family has been through a lot.”
“I feel very blessed to have such a great support system around me and that so many are willing to help Alissa. She is such a fighter and in good spirits. My mother-in-law is with her at the hospital right now while she is going through radiation, and hopefully she will be back in San Angelo in the next two to three weeks,” she said.
Alissa’s uncle (in the red shirt) Eli Gomez said the whole thing has been very overwhelming for him and the rest of the family. He admitted he was a little worried and overwhelmed before the benefit Saturday, but after seeing how many people came out to support Alissa, he is certain everything will turn out fine.
“Alissa is such a brave girl. She wanted to pull her stitches out as soon as she got out of surgery,” he said. “I know she will pull through.”
Eli Gomez said the surgery Alissa just underwent removed the whole tumor, but because the tumor was so extensive she needs to go through several treatments to make sure the tumor has not gone into her DNA. Right now she is doing a Proton therapy treatment and later she will have to do a chemotherapy treatment.
Cleta Reina, one of the many friends of the family that stopped by Saturday said she knows them through church and that she just want to be a part of the family and help out as much as she can. Beth Luker and her husband were also there to help the family with their expenses.
“Julia Rodriquez, a good friend of mine and one of Alissa’s family members told us about the benefit and we came to help,” Luker said.
Maristella Duron said all the garage sale items were donated by friends and family members to support Alissa, and that although her husband had planned to spend his first unemployment check on food items for the barbecue sale, he did not need to spend it all, because friends of the family donated food items as well.
“People in San Angelo are so wonderful,” she said. “We are so grateful for the support.”
Duron further said “you can’t put a number on somebody’s life, so when someone asked me yesterday how much money we were hoping to raise at the fundraiser, I couldn’t give them an answer. Whatever we are blessed to get will go to her. We are happy with anything.”
The event will continue throughout the day Saturday, until plates are sold out.
For more information on how to donate, contact David Duron at 325-716-8368.