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Supporting Willie Beavers: ‘It's a gift of life'
Hundreds of community members came to Jensen Park on Saturday to offer their support for Willie Beavers, a Willows resident battling acute myeloid leukemia.
Dozens more offered to be his bone marrow match or possibly match some other person in need of a transplant.
"It's a gift of life," said Natalie Pacheco, one of 43 people who registered for Be the Match through BloodSource. "I love Willie and would love to donate, but I'm willing to help anyone who needs it."
About 70 percent of bone matches don't come from family members, said Liz Ustick of BloodSource, so when people have to depend on the kindness of strangers, it makes marrow drives like Saturday's Strength For Willie event even more amazing.
"This was a great turnout for this community," Ustick said.
Ustick said the best thing about Saturday's outpouring of support is that those joining the national bone marrow registry came to the event well informed about what happens if they are ever called to donate.
About 76 percent of the time, the donor will be asked for blood stem cells from a non surgical, outpatient procedure similar to donating platelets or plasma.
About 24 percent of the time, the donor will be asked for bone marrow from a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital under general anesthesia.
"The worst thing that can happen is calling someone five years later when they are a match for someone, and have them say they didn't understand what they were signing," Ustick said. "I don't think that will be the case in Willows. Everyone that registered seemed very committed."
Beavers, who was diagnosed on May 16, is on his third round of chemotherapy at Stanford University.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Beavers said. "It would be nice to get a transplant. That's is the plan, at least, because that is considered the best chance at a cure."
Beavers, and wife, Missy, said they were touched and grateful for the support of the community and by the number of people who registered Saturday to save someone's life.
"I can't say enough about the people who want to go through this process," Willie Beavers said. "It's wonderful."
Although not everyone at the event was physically eligible to donate stem cells or bone marrow, hundreds of others donated to the fundraising efforts to help with Beavers' medical and transportation expenses.
Diana Tucker, who has lived in Willows most of her life and grew up friends with Beavers' parents, said she is not surprised about the way this community pulls together in times of need.
"It's like an old-fashioned barn raising," she said. "When someone needs help, everyone comes together to lend a hand. This is what Willows is all about. It's a good thing."
In addition to Be the Match, Northern Valley Indian Health, Health Habit and Willows' Relay for Life were at the park Saturday to provide the public with information about health, nutrition and cancer.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.