Home » Texas First Lady Honors Cancer Patients at Fund Raising Event
Anita Perry honors cancer patients and reflects on proposed legislation to help find a cure for cancer
September 18, 2007 – The Monitor
By Jennifer L. Berghom
Texas first lady Anita Perry said her experiences as a nurse and as the wife of the state’s governor have led her to meet incredible people of all ages across the state.
But it was a 10-year-old Rio Grande City girl who touched her heart.
Perry met Daniela Villarreal in May and presented her with a $10,000 check at the Vannie E. Cook Children’s Cancer Center and Hematology Clinic in McAllen to help her raise money for a machine, called a VeinViewer, that helps medical staff find veins using infrared light.
Daniela raised $25,000 for the children’s cancer center to purchase the machine. She died in August.
“The day we met she wasn’t feeling very well, but you would never know it because she was smiling the entire time. She touched my heart. She was a young Texan of unwavering spirit,” Perry said. “She not only touched my heart but the hearts of many.”
Perry addressed a crowded room during a luncheon Tuesday at the McAllen Country Club recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The event featured speeches from doctors and a survivor of childhood cancer and raised about $65,000, said Laura Martinez-Ilgun, the Vannie Cook Cancer Center’s executive director and director of development and public relations.
Perry praised the doctors and staff at the center and updated the crowd of supporters about Proposition 15, a $3 billion bond resolution that if passed would be spent on finding a cure for cancer.
“Help us continue to give hope to our children of South Texas,” she said.
Cancer is the most common disease-related cause of death for people ages 1 to 20, but death rates have declined significantly over the past 30 years, according to CureSearch.
CureSearch is a joint effort of the world’s largest childhood cancer research organization, The Children’s Oncology Group, and the National Childhood Cancer Foundation to find a cure for the disease.
According to CureSearch, the overall childhood cancer mortality rate in the United States declined by 40 percent from 1975 to 1995.
Joseph Nichols, a Harlingen native, is one of the survivors.
Nichols, who is now in his first year at Baylor Medical College and plans to become a pediatric oncologist, talked about his experience with cancer and how it inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.
He was diagnosed with the disease when he was 2 years old.
“A diagnosis of cancer is not something that affects an individual. It’s really a diagnosis for the entire family,” he said.
Nichols said he can’t pay back everyone who helped him beat the disease but he could “pay it forward” by becoming a doctor and treating children with cancer, children like he was.
After the luncheon, Dolly Villarreal, Daniela’s mother, described the event as “emotional” and said she is proud of her daughter for raising the money for the vein-finding machine.
“I know she’s looking down from heaven,” she said of Daniela.
Her daughter’s desire to help others has led her to continue raising money for the children’s cancer center, Villarreal said. She plans to run a fund-raising marathon in November in Houston.