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Community raises money for Victoria cancer victim (video)

By Sarah Ganzhorn
June 30, 2013 at 1:30 a.m.

Veronica Zapata, right, Julia Ortega, center, and 3-year-old Emma Ortega count up ticket sales during a barbecue fundraiser to benefit Martin Henry Villarreal, Jr., who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Tickets for chicken plates were available for purchase beforehand, but two and a half hours into the fundraiser, Zapata said she and Ortega had sold an additional 286 tickets from walk-in buyers alone. The fundraiser also featured a live auction. "He's worth every penny we bring in," Zapata said of Villarreal.

The parking lot at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Ben Wilson Street was as busy as a supermarket lot during peak hours.

Albert Orosco had been directing traffic and helping visitors park for hours. He wasn't tired of it, though.

"I'll do anything for my brother-in-law," he said.

Orosco's brother-in-law is Martin Henry Villarreal Jr., who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and is hoping to receive a bone marrow transplant. The dozens of cars Orosco was wrangling were filled with people coming to see Villarreal, to buy plates of barbecued chicken and sausage donated by his friends and to participate in a live auction, with all proceeds going to the support of Villarreal and his family.

"He's just an amazing, amazing man," said Villarreal's wife, Josie Villarreal. Even during his medical treatment, she said, "He would still put someone else before him."

"He's helped many, many people, countless people, in his life," said Deacon Edward Molina of Our Lady of Sorrows Church and Holy Trinity Chapel. "This was our way to help him."

Molina said that the organizers' goal was to sell 2,000 plates of chicken at $7 apiece, but that after a few hours, they had sold almost 3,000. Orosco said the auction also was going better than expected.

Villarreal expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from his family and friends and said he dislikes putting himself in the spotlight because he has known several cancer victims whose experiences were much more difficult than his own.

"I cannot say I've had a tough time," he said.

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