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Helping a Friend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 30 August 2012 05:05

San Fernando Residents Gather Funds for Breast Cancer Survivor


Frank Garcia shows off the donations given to help his friend, Mercedes Elizondo, participate in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Santa Barbara in September. Elizondo -- born in Pacoima, now living in Colorado and a breast cancer survivor -- needs to raise $1,850 to take part in the event. Garcia has been collecting donations in his San Fernando barber shop.

Carrillo's Barber Shop in San Fernando is a gathering place for male camaraderie.

But for the past three weeks, the conversation has revolved around women's health, since this has become a central point for a fundraising effort to help a woman affected by breast cancer.

"So far, we've only been getting donations through customers," said Frank Garcia, who is leading the endeavor on behalf of his 'comadre' Mercedes Elizondo, a Pacoima native who now lives in Colorado, and who signed up to take part in this year's Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Santa Barbara at the end of September.

To take part in the walk, each participant must raise a minimum of $1,850 that in turn is donated to a breast cancer patient with no health insurance to make sure she gets treatment.

"People have been very generous," Garcia said. "They see what we're doing and they pull out a dollar or two, others 10, 20, whatever they can.

"Every time we hit a hundred, we ring the bell," he added pointing to a bell by the counter." They have rung the bell eight times already.

In three weeks of fundraising, Garcia has collected $855 of the $1,850 minimum Elizondo needs. A timeline is posted on the wall of the barbershop, marking each accomplishment.

Part of those funds came from three businesses that rose to the challenge. Carrillo's Tortillas, The Shop (a body shop business) and the Christian group Blue Line – all in San Fernando – donated $100 each to the cause.

According to Garcia, this is a worthy cause for a worthy woman.

"She's really good people," he said of his friend, who's struggled with her health the past two years.

In February 2010, Elizondo, known to her friends and family as "Mercy," was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. It was devastating news for the 52-year-old mother of three.

"I know firsthand of how your heart stops beating when they hit you with the news. Your palms become tight, your feet want to run, your ears become numb from trying to process everything they're saying, yet you really haven't heard [anything] but Stage III CANCER," she recalled.

Since the diagnosis, Elizondo had two mammograms and underwent radiation therapy that lasted the better part of two years. Apart from putting herself "in God's hands," Elizondo said she did everything to counter the illness.

"I went holistic for a year," she said, speaking of a health-conscious regimen and diet that she partially credits for her survival.

In addition, Elizondo entered a clinical trial for a new drug, all of which also helped her overcome the deadly disease.

Garcia, Elizondo, and her husband, Elias, have been friends since their years at San Fernando High School. Last month, Garcia went to visit them in Colorado and during one of their conversations, Elizondo mentioned to him that she had entered the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Santa Barbara, taking place Sept. 22- 23. She will do the walk accompanied by a niece, and others who live in the San Fernando Valley.

Elizondo said she's participating to celebrate her survival, and help others like she's been helped.

"When the phone rang and they said I was chosen to get on an intense clinical trial, I fell to the floor and cried," Elizondo said. "Because someone else gave something, I was able to receive treatment.

"I have beat this ugliness for now. I will continue to share,reach out and be there for the next one who is hit with the news."

For Garcia, his friend's desire to help others was a revelation and a motivation for him to help her as well. Upon returning to San Fernando, he quickly told his friends at the barbershop, printed some posters and began the fundraising.

Elizondo said she is deeply touched by the support. "It's just amazing. All you hear about Pacoima and San Fernando is they're known for gang members. But I'm seeing the heart that they have," she said.

"It's a blessing. They have come together for a cause. Every time they reach a goal, they call me," Elizondo added. "It turned into a passion for them. He (Garcia) didn't know until now how much people have been affected."

For Garcia, it was a way to help a friend in need. "She's a survivor, she's one strong and a very good woman," he said of Elizondo, whom he described as a person who is always ready to help those in need.

He went on to describe how Elizondo cares for the kids of her late sister, in addition to the three children she and her husband have. "They (Elizondo and her husband) take care of a person with a disability in their home. She's a good-hearted person."

Garcia is confident they will raise the $1,850 for his friend to participate in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. "A lot of people have come through already. I know we can make it," he said.

To continue the fundraising, Garcia and others are holding a car wash on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Fernando's Moose Lodge located at 12178 San Fernando Road, near the corner with Hubbard Avenue at the San Fernando/Sylmar border. All donations will go to Elizondo's cause.


Mercedes Elizondo, with husband Elias (left).

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 August 2012 05:13

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