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Community Comes to Aid of a Girl Stricken with Cancer

More than a hundred people join walk-a-thon effort at Taft Elementary for student with cancer.

Having a child with cancer is an unthinkable nightmare for any family.

But knowing there is a community that not only cares, but is willing to pull resources together and offer its support in troubled times is a true comfort.

Irene Reyna, a student at , was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancer that occurs in the bone or soft tissue, in December.

For the family of Irene Reyna, the show of support from Saturday’s walk-a-thon at the sent the message that the community not only heard about the family’s plight, but wanted to do something about it.

“Every single last dime of the proceeds goes to the Irene Reyna Aguirre Fund with Wells Fargo,” said Connie Alonzo-Frisz a psychiatric social worker with the San Mateo County Human Services Agency and one of the organizers of the walk-a-thon.

Irene’s mother has taken time off from work to ensure Irene is able to keep all her doctor’s and chemotherapy appointments and receive the care she needs at home, Alonzo-Frisz said.

The loss of Irene’s mother’s income combined with medical bills not covered by insurance has put a financial strain on the family. 

Irene’s cancer and the family’s need were only recently discovered. One of Irene’s young sisters confided in her teacher that she was worried about her older sister who was spending a lot of time in the hospital and had lost her hair.

When the teacher told Alonzo-Frisz about the little girl’s concern for her older sister, the entire Taft Elementary Family Resource Center Support Team and school officials wondered if and how they could help. 

“We called an emergency community task force and the entire team responded,” said Alonzo-Frisz. “This little girl was made a priority.”

Saturday’s walk-a-thon was one of the actions that came out of the meeting. The goal of the walk-a-thon was to raise funds to help with some of the basic living expenses for the family, Alonzo-Frisz said.

Not only was helping Irene’s Reyna’s family made a priority, Alonzo-Frisz said it was a true collaboration from the many partners on the Taft Elementary campus.

, Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, Redwood City Police Activities League, Taft’s administration, and the all worked together, with each reaching out to their partners for assistance.

But those willing to help, Alonzo-Frisz said, went beyond just those in the Family Resource Center, as several school families took part in the planning efforts and other local families made food such as tamales and pozole to sell at the walk-a-thon.

Amy Bucher, the School Site Unit Director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the Boys and Girls Club has a relationship with the Stanford Graduate School of Business and that relationship led to 30 men and women from the business school volunteering at the walk-a-thon.

The Stanford business school students worked as face painters, staffed the registration table, supervised the bouncy castle, and assisted in the running of snack and food stations.

Ezra Fishman, a second-year student in the business school, said that one of the principles the Stanford Graduate School of Business believes in is going out into the community to help those in need. He said that he and his fellow students were glad they could volunteer their time.

“We’re happy to be involved and help out in any way we can,” Fishman said.

Alonzo-Frisz said the object of a community school is to meet more than just the academic needs of the families in the community. So when a family has a need, those in the community can band together to help.

“This is exactly what a community school model looks like,” Alonzo-Frisz said.

In addition to raising funds on Saturday, Alonzo-Frisz hopes the walk-a-thon serves as a catalyst for awareness of a community family in need.

“The hope is that people will realize there is a need and donate to the Wells Fargo fund,” Alonzo-Frisz said.

For those interested in making a donation to the Irene Reyna Aguirre Fund with Wells Fargo, please visit a local Wells Fargo branch.

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