Families gather for picnic fun
Heber resident Eddie Veliz, 10, jumps a rope during one of the many games available at the first Family, Friends and Fun Picnic hosted by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego and held at Eager Park on Saturday. (ALEJANDRO DÁVILA PHOTO / April 14, 2013)
“It was scary,” said the now 16-year-old Heber resident with a shy smile.
Jairel, a cancer survivor for four years now, said these last few years have been challenging times.
She’s endured radiation, chemotherapy and at one point she lost mobility on her left side. Her brain cancer came back twice.
But Jairel is getting better and said, “I feel more confident,” although, “I still have bad days every now and then.”
She advised anyone who may be going through a similar situation “to never give up and to not lose hope and faith … and be positive.”
Jairel is one of nearly 150 people who visited Eager Park in Imperial for the first Family, Friends and Fun Picnic hosted by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego.
This charity offers lodging and support to families caring for critically ill or injured children like Jairel, who have to be treated far from home.
Jan Hester, Imperial Valley liaison for the charity, said this new event is a way to get Imperial Valley beneficiaries together so they can meet and learn that they have a bond, and maybe even share resources.
“Families supporting families: that’s what this picnic is about,” said Hester. She said she also hopes that this event stimulates volunteering for this charity.
And help is always necessary, said Francia Morales.
The El Centro resident became involved with the charity first as a beneficiary, when his 4-year-old daughter, Tatiana, had to be treated in San Diego as the result of a respiratory infection that couldn’t be treated in the Valley.
“The charity is wonderful. They offer a space and hot food … it’s a big help,” Morales said in Spanish, as she became emotional.
“My daughter passed in Nov. 2 of 2011,” she then said, “a day before her birthday.”
Since then, Morales has taken gifts to the Ronald McDonald House with the help of her family.
The idea is to take the gifts on the day of her daughter’s birthday, said Morales, adding this is a way to celebrate her daughter.
And although the stories of many of those in attendance were moving, the day itself was filled with joy.
There were gifts, drinks and a barbecue, arts and crafts and games thanks to local agencies.
Children like Julio Lopez, 6, met new friends and won toys and other goodies in a raffle that included bicycles and books — to name a few.
“It’s good,” Imperial resident Brian Payne said about the event. “I hope they keep doing it.”
If interested in helping the charity or to learn more about the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, call Hester at 760-554-05-34.
Staff Writer Alejandro Dávila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org