By William K. Alcorn
Chris Gonzalez, husband, father and grandfather, needs a bone-marrow transplant to live.
Gonzalez, 66, of Campbell, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in January.
The retired General Motors Lordstown Complex employee’s cancer has been kept at bay with harsh chemotherapy, but now doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have determined a bone-marrow transplant is his best chance for a cure, said his wife, Leticia.
Unfortunately, she said, of the 10 million potential donors on the Be The Match Registry, not one is a match for her husband, and the likelihood of getting a donor is slim because he is Hispanic.
He is most likely to match someone of his own race and ethnicity. So, to potentially save Chris and others, his family and friends, whom Leticia calls “our village,” organized the Chris Gonzalez Marrow Drive.
The event is from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana banquet hall, 3660 Shirley Road, to give visitors a chance to join Team Be The Match and add their names to the bone marrow donor registry.
The event will feature activities and events, Spanish food sales, an auction, music and games.
According to its website, Team Be The Match is a nationwide community committed to helping patients in need of a marrow transplant by raising funds to add more potential marrow donors to the Be The Match Registry.
Since Chris and other Hispanics are most likely to match someone of their own race and ethnicity, the Gonzalezes are reaching out to everyone, but particularly to the Hispanic community, and encouraging them to join the Be The Match Registry.
It is easy. It only takes a cheek swab and about 10 minutes of time, Leticia said.
About 75 percent of marrow donations are done through a painless process similar to donating blood, she added.
Leticia said some people are confused or misinformed about the purpose of the Chris Gonzalez Marrow Drive.
“While we are doing the fundraiser on our own, and it is our idea and our efforts, it is not a benefit directly for my husband,” Leticia said. “All proceeds will go to Be The Match Registry to pay for recruiting donors and paying for the tests to register people and to raise awareness, specifically in the Hispanic community, about the need for people to join the registry and become potential donors.”
She said their “village” has sustained her husband and got him through with hope and support.
“Every time we got bad news, the village would respond with financial help, prayers and visits and volunteering to help with Sunday’s event. It’s been an amazing experience,” Leticia said.
The Gonzalezes personally witnessed their son donate bone marrow before Chris was diagnosed. “It was humbling,” she said.
Chris, 66, is a 1965 graduate of Youngstown East High School and worked four decades at GM Lords-town. He was six months shy of graduating from Youngstown State University when he quit and went to GM.
He and his wife, Leticia Esparra-Gonzalez, a 1975 graduate of Ursuline High School, have, from previous marriages and together, eight children: Benjamin Esparra in California; Army National Guard Lt. David Esparra of Campbell; Marcos M. Gonzalez of Alliance; Lucas R. Gonzalez of Campbell; Lydia M. Gonzalez of Alliance; Christopher Gonzalez in Delaware; Leslie Delgado and Teresa Gonzalez, both in Michigan; and five grandchildren, which Leticia said are “his reason for living.”
To join, give or volunteer with Be The Match Registry, contact Tonya Davis at 216-447-0880. To make a tax-deductible donation online, go to http://www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/ChrisGonzalez.